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August 3, 2000
Uncertainty continues to prevail in Karnataka
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
Uncertainty continues to grip the Karnataka government even four days after the sensational kidnapping of Kannada thespian Dr Rajakumar and his three associates by Veerappan from the matinee idol's native place Gajannur in the Iggalur forest range of Tamil Nadu's Erode district.
The topography of the terrain and inclement weather are playing havoc with the state government's efforts to end the crisis at the earliest.
"Our emissary, R Raja Gopal, established contact with Veerappan's accomplices in the Satyamangalam forest range on Thursday afternoon," is all that Karnataka Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge had to disclose to the press in Bangalore after a state cabinet meeting in the evening.
The fury of the south-west monsoon in the Western Ghats, spanning both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, is said to be hampering Gopal's journey into the dense and deciduous forests. "He should be reaching Veerappan's hideout anytime tonight," Kharge claimed.
According to information reaching Bangalore, Gopal had left Madras by car on Wednesday night. He was accompanied by three of his colleagues, including a videographer and two of his bi-weekly Nakkeeran's reporters Subbu and Sivasubramanian.
It is not known whether the three associates were also trekking into the deep jungle along with their mentor, or will follow him later after getting a nod from the forest brigand.
Kharge, however, revealed that they were carrying medicines and other essential items for Dr Rajakumar and his three associates. The 72-year-old Kannada super star has ostio arthritis resulting in pain in his right knee.
Even co-hostages - son-in-law S A Govindraj, relative Nagesh and assistant director Nagappa - are said to be suffering from some or the other ailment, besides fatigue and shock.
Karnataka's Inspector General of Police K R Srinivas, who has been deputed to Madras to coordinate the rescue operations, missed Gopal by a few minutes. Srinivas was to hand over clothes for the hostages.
Kharge refused to divulge details of the rescue efforts. "I would not like to join issue with what others say; I can only reveal what the state government had received from its sources, he added.
"The state government has an open mind on Veerappan's demands. We will consider them when they reach us through Gopal," Kharge clarified.
He was referring to reports appearing in sections of the media, particularly the vernacular one, about Veerappan's demands, which were apparently spelt out in an audio cassette he had handed over to Dr Rajakumar's wife Parvathamma.
The tape is believed to contain Veerappan's demands such as release of his accomplices who are still in detention under the Terrorism And Disruptive Activities Act at Mysore jail, transfer of the umpteen cases against him and general amnesty for him and his dozen accomplices.
The state government has not revealed the contents of the audio cassette, barring the first sentence in which the brigand asks Krishna to send an emissary for negotiations.
Interestingly, unlike on the first three days, Chief Minister S M Krishna did not address the media on Thursday though he presided over the cabinet meeting held just before.
On Thursday, Krishna flew by helicopter to Chamrajnagar to visit a famous Shiva temple in the Male Mahadeshwara Hills and offered prayers for the early release of Dr Rajakumar and three others. The matinee idol's youngest son, Puneet, and top police officials accompanied him.
MM Hills is the base camp of the Special Task Force that was formed by the state government to capture Veerappan over a decade ago. The brigand is known to frequent the temple often to pray.
Krishna and his wife, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, former state chief minister Veerappa Moily, and many other dignitaries had visited Dr Rajakumar's mansion in Bangalore to console the family and extend all support in their hour of distress.
Meanwhile, Bangalore continued to remain peaceful for the second consecutive day. Though no untoward incidents were reported, an undercurrent of tension was palpable across the city. As a result of reduced vehicular movement, there were no traffic snarls and pollution levels were low.
Schools and colleges remaining closed for the fourth day in a row. An uneasy calm continues to prevail across the state and heavy police deployment continues.
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