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August 1, 2000
Bangalore tense, but peaceful
M D Riti in Bangalore
"He's got a bad knee, poor man," said popular film comedian Jaggesh, who was with Rajakumar a few days ago in Tirupati and returned to Bangalore while the star moved on to Gajanur. "He's an innocent man, not at all involved in political and other shenanigans. Anyone who kidnaps him will never prosper or live well..."
Life in Bangalore remained at a standstill on Tuesday too, but there was no violence in the absence of further news about Rajakumar, who was kidnapped by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan about 36 hours earlier from his farmhouse in Gajanur.
Very few vehicles were plying on the streets as most private and public transport stayed off the road. Attendance in offices was thin. Schools and colleges remained closed for the second day running.
A huge crowd continued to throng outside Rajakumar's family home in Sadashivanagar and several police vehicles remained on guard.
The tension in the city was palpable with some fans of the actor issuing an ultimatum, saying they would keep quiet only until Tuesday. "After that, we will retaliate," threatened the head of the Rajakumar Fans' Association of Ulsoor.
Some circles interpret these statements as threats of an anti-Tamil backlash. As a rumour spread on Monday, following a statement by Tamil Nadu Additional Director General of Police (law & order and crime) S Kumarasamy, that Veerappan had kidnapped Rajakumar because of the 'ill-treatment' of Tamils in Karnataka, Tamil centres all over Bangalore became the target of mob fury. Nataraj cinema, which screens Tamil movies and is situated in the heart of the Tamil pocket of Sheshadripuram, was burnt. So were the offices of Tamil dailies.
Veerappan is certainly a bad word in Karnataka today. If he wanted to earn the everlasting hatred of Kannadigas, he couldn't have done better. More effigies of Veerappa, as the Kannadigas call him, were burnt in Bangalore on Monday than had ever been burnt in his life. Everywhere you could see smoking, burning straw and paper dolls, dressed in black pants and shirt, some even sporting wooden guns, while young men danced devilishly all around them.
Meanwhile, S R Govindu, head of the All-Karnataka Rajakumar Fans' Association for over a decade now and himself a film producer, said: "I will certainly not encourage or permit the association and its branches to turn violent. I am making all efforts to ensure that they stay peaceful, wait and watch for developments."
The head of a big mosque in Ulsoor said sadly, "Rajakumar was a true hero for everyone. He has acted as a Muslim in so many films, and my community adores him."
"I don't think we need to fear that Veerappa will harm Dr Rajakumar," said Hamsalekha quite calmly. "It would be completely counter-productive for him to do so. He's just trying to grab attention and push through whatever demands he has, that's all."
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