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August 7, 2000
Veerappan's demands are difficult to meet
George Iype in Gajanur
Police officials, who have tracked Veerappan in the last one-decade, admit that the sandalwood smuggler's 10-point charter of demands for the release of Kannada matinee idol Dr Rajakumar smack of extreme Tamil nationalism.
"The demands have certainly not been drafted by Veerappan. Veerappan is acting as a conduit for some Tamil militant outfits," says Chidambara Nathan, former vigilance and anti-corruption superintendent of police of Tamil Nadu.
In December 1994, Nathan and his family members were held hostage by Veerappan for 27 days. "I had the opportunity to learn more about Veerappan's psyche. He is a smuggler and killer. It is stupid even to think that he has kidnapped Dr Rajakumar to solve the problems of Tamils," Nathan, who now practices as a lawyer in Coimbatore, told rediff.com.
Officials like Nathan, who have extensively studied the Veerappan phenomenon, point out that the outlaw has been actively aided by extremist groups like the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army, which in turn gets support from the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam.
"In all the kidnappings that Veerappan carried out in the past - including mine -Veerappan's major demands have been money and amnesty. I do not think overnight he has turned into a Tamil activist, who talks about the intricacies of Cauvery water dispute and the Tamil language issue," Nathan said.
In the last three years, the Special Task Force, that has been carrying out combing operations in the forests to nab Veerappan, submitted at least three reports to the Tamil Nadu government stating that a number of militant groups are aiding the outlaw.
"We know for certain that some Tamil extremist groups are helping Veerappan. He could not have survived in the forests for so long without outside help," says STF Inspector General Balachandran.
Balachandran and his 500-strong police team are now stationed in the Bannari camp, some 100 kilometers from Coimbatore. "Veerappan did not make the demands on his own," he told rediff.com.
Police and intelligence agencies suspect that the TNLA, a small time Tamil extremist group, is behind the abduction drama and some of its members even accompanied Veerappan on the night of July 30 to Dr Rajakumar's Gajanur farmhouse.
The extremist group has reportedly tied up with Veerappan to force the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka governments to accede to some of its major demands. In return, the militant outfit may have promised amnesty to Veerappan.
It is interesting that only two out of the 10 demands - the release of detenus in Karnataka jails and five persons in Tamil Nadu prisons - actually concern Veerappan.
The remaining are issues that various Tamil organisations and nationalist groups have been raising over the years.
For instance, the TNLA has been threatening "militant action" to ensure a permanent solution to the Cauvery water dispute.
Despite their positive response to the demands, it will not be easy for the Tamil Nadu and Karnakata Chief Ministers M Karunanidhi and S M Krishna, respectively, to execute the issues raised by the forest brigand.
Some of the demands are emotional issues with the people in the two states and some are entangled in legal problems. They will be difficult to solve overnight.
For example, the Cauvery River Authority has been set up with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its chairman to implement the interim order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. While both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are waiting the tribunal's final verdict, it is certain that one of them will be forced to approach the Supreme Court, considering the politics behind the water row.
Similar is the case with Veerappan's second demand for adequate and justifiable compensation to Tamil victims of the 1991 Cauvery riots. For the past one year, the Karnataka government's Cauvery Riots Relief Authority has done nothing concrete. The authority's deadline is May 31, 2001 to complete work on compensation claims. It will be an impossible task to complete the compensation claims in Veerappan's time frame.
Karnataka cannot also easily accede to Veerappan's third demand that Tamil be declared an additional administrative language. Tamilians are the second largest community in Karnataka. But Karnataka has so far resisted making Tamil as an administrative language thanks to pressure from Kannadiga language groups. What the government has done so far is to make Tamil an additional language only in those areas where the Tamil population exceeds 15 per cent.
Probably, the only demand that Karunanidhi and Krishna will find easy to fulfill is Veerappan's demand for the installation of a Thiruvalluvar statue in Bangalore. It should also be easy for Krishna to execute Veerappan's seventh demand for adequate compensation for the nine scheduled caste and tribe families killed in Karnataka.
But Veerappan's fifth demand that Karnataka immediately vacate a stay order of the Karnataka High Court on the Sadashiva Commission set up to probe alleged STF atrocities will be a real headache for Krishna. In the next few days, Krishna will have to sit with legal experts and National Human Rights Commission officials to accomplish this demand.
Veerappan's sixth and ninth demands are said to be his own. The forest brigand has been demanding the release of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act detainees, some of whom are his gang members. But simply releasing them will set a bad precedent.
It will be nearly impossible for the chief ministers to implement Veerappan's eighth and tenth demands - the minimum procurement price for green leaves and minimum wage for estate workers in Tamil Nadu.
Already wages in Tamil Nadu estates are higher that the national average. Therefore, the Tamil Nadu government cannot easily decide on a wage rate as it has to engage in a series of consultations with estate owners and agricultural unions.
Tamil nationalism may be at work through Veerappan's agenda. But Kannadiga pride will be hurt if the governments begin implementing his demands.
Therefore, the drama that began will the kidnapping still has a long way to run.
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