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August 6, 2000
Krishna confident of Rajakumar's early release
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
Chief Minister S M Krishna was upbeat on Sunday about the release of Kannada superstar Rajakumar by forest brigand Veerappan as both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have responded favourably to his 10 demands to free his hostages.
Returning from Madras after a three-hour meeting with Chief Minister M Karunanidhi earlier in the day, a relieved Krishna disclosed that the response to the demands was being broadcast by All India Radio regularly in Kannada [in Krishna's voice] and Tamil [in Karunanidhi's voice] so Veerappan could hear of it.
"We have received information that Veerappan has heard the AIR broadcasts. The response is now from both sides. This should facilitate the early release of Dr Rajakumar, who is said to be healthy and doing well along with the three other hostages."
The Tamil Nadu government is also making an earnest attempt to secure the release of the hostages at the earliest, Krishna said. "Karunanidhi has appealed to Veerappan to set Rajakumar free, keeping in view his age, stature and health."
Krishna clarified that contrary to reports published in a section of the press, Rajakumar and other hostages were being sheltered in a house in the forest.
"As per the latest information received from the jungle through the messengers of emissary R Raja Gopal, Rajakumar, Govindaraju and Nagesh are staying in a house with Veerappan and his accomplices, and they are being looked after well," he added.
The chief minister said Gopal had reached the place where Veerappan had housed the hostages on Saturday night, and negotiations were progressing.
Asked whether he expected more demands to be raised by Veerappan, the chief minister said: "I don't think so. I have no such information."
Asked how soon he expects Rajakumar to be freed, Krishna said, "Now the ball is in his court. I have already appealed to Veerappan to free the hostages immediately since we have responded positively to his demands."
The chief minister said that since Veerappan's demands had been met within a day of their receipt, the government hoped he would reciprocate swiftly. "I appeal to him to rise to the occasion and resolve the crisis soon," he said.
Asked if Veerappan's demands were genuine or political, Krishna said his government had not gone into such details. "We will look into all those angles once Rajakumar and the others come back."
At one point, annoyed at being asked repeatedly whether amnesty would be granted to the criminal, Krishna retorted: "Why are you people harping on the amnesty issue again and again when Veerappan himself did not ask for it? He might have asked the last time, but not this time. Maybe he is getting older, mellowed and wiser to know what to ask and when," he remarked.
Asked whether he suspected the hand of any political party in Tamil Nadu in the incident in view of the assembly election in the state, which is due by the yearend, Krishna again said he had no information. "If there is any truth in it, it will come out on its own in due course," he remarked.
Asked about his first reaction on hearing Veerappan's audiocassette listing the demands in Tamil, Krishna quipped: "I was relieved and bemused as I did not expect Veerappan to put forward such demands. I was expecting much harsher ones."
Asked why he had not made the demands public or even shared them with Rajakumar's family, Krishna said he had been advised by Karunanidhi to hold back till the two chief ministers had discussed them.
As for Veerappan's modus operandi for recording and sending the tapes, Krishna said he had no knowledge of it. "But Karunanidhi and those who have been dealing with Veerappan during abductions in the past have confirmed that the voice on the tape is that of the fugitive," he said.
Krishna also announced that as a precautionary measure, schools and colleges would remain closed for two more days in the five districts of Mysore region of the state.
"For the safety and security of our children, schools and colleges will be closed on Monday and Tuesday also. They can make up for this unforeseen closure during the vacation periods this year," he said.
The Bangalore police have also extended the ban on the opening of bars, liquor shops and arrack outlets. Even prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code will remain in force for another week.
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