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August 4, 2000
Rajakumar sends tape, calls for peace
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
Forest brigand Veerappan has sent an audio-cassette, with the voice of kidnapped Kannada matinee idol Dr Rajakumar on it. The voice is that of Dr Rajakumar, his son, who is camping in Madras, has since confirmed. The septuagenarian star promises he is safe and sound, and wants peace maintained.
There is also said to be Veerappan's voice on the same tape, reportedly sent through a Tamil radical, who in turn has used the good offices of a journalist based in Pondicherry. The cassette was reportedly recorded at Veerappan's instance, a day after the Sunday abduction, or thereabouts.
The transmission, reportedly from the Sathyamangalam forests, to Jayamkondan on the other side, to Pondicherrry and then Madras, has taken time. The cassette reached Madras only on Thursday night.
However, no one in the Tamil Nadu government wants to go official, as yet, on the tape. "It contains Rajakumar's voice, and that of Veerappan, the former seeks peace and promises that he is sound and safe. The latter has repeated some of his earlier statements, mentioned in his first tape sent through Rajakumar's wife soon after the kidnapping," says a senior police officer associated with the operation. "But Veerappan has not said anything substantial, or spelt out his conditions for freeing Rajakumar. Peace in Karnataka is the main point."
Indications, meanwhile, are that Nakkeeran editor R Gopal has made only slow progress in approaching the forests, to try meet Veerappan. The intermittent rains in the area has delayed their trek into the jungle.
Veerappan and his victims are said to have moved uphill, away from any possible police action, and from where they can overlook the lower reaches and watch out for activity.
"Gopal is halfway into the forests, and halted somewhere midway late last evening, because of the rain. He may have proceeded further since, but there is no confirmation," says an informed source. "But even if he gets to meet Veerappan, it will not be before Friday afternoon. Which means, he may not be out of the woods before early Saturday. A lot will depend on in which part of the woods Veerappan is now, and how far that spot is from where Gopal and his three associates are."
Meanwhile, demands have been made from various political parties, seeking an amnesty for Veerappan. Both PMK founder Dr S Ramadoss, who prides in Veerappan's Vannyiar caste identity, and Dalit-strong Puthiya Thamizhagam leader Dr K Krishnaswamy have demanded an amnesty for the brigand. Their arguments have been strengthened by reports from Bangalore, suggesting that the Karnataka government is considering the withdrawal of all criminal cases against Veerappan.
Combined with the known Tamil Nadu government stand in the past, that the main cases against Veerappan are pending before Karnataka courts, the amnesty issue assumes significance. A lot will depend on some of Veerappan's victims, who may move the courts, independent of the two governments, seeking justice for the brutal killing of their loved ones.
The father of one victim, and the wife of another, slain Karnataka police officer Harikrishna, have in the past threatened to move the courts, if the state government yielded to 'pressure tactics' from Veerappan.
Official sources in Madras are cautious about Veerappan's brand of pan-Tamil culture, and this they take it more seriously than claimed to be. "He now has the company of some pan-Tamil militant groups, and it is one of their upcoming leaders that he has used to send the Rajakumar tape. He has always hated the Karnataka police, and in the cassette sent immediately after the kidnapping, he has even said why he kidnapped Rajakumar."
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