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August 9, 2000
The TADA detenus who Veerappan has in mind
M D Riti in Bangalore
Some of them supplied him rice, dal and matchboxes. Others gave shelter to him and members of his group. The rest either kept him informed about police movements or helped him escape from their clutches. These, and some others, are the grounds on which the Karnataka Special Task Force has jailed 146 men and women in Mysore under the Terrorist And Disruptive Activities Act.
Very often, entire families in the areas Veerappan patronises have been subjected to one kind of police action or another. Some TADA detainees, like Muniyammal of Nelloor village in Kollegal taluk, insist they are being hounded needlessly.
Muniyammal says she knows nothing of Veerappan or his gang. The only connection being that she belongs to the Gounder community, which Veerappan belongs to. She claims that after the killing of policemen in Ramapura, the Mysore police descended on Nelloor, known to be frequented by Veerappan, and arrested most of its residents.
Muniyammal's husband Ponnuswamy was allegedly killed in a police encounter over a year later, as were her two teenaged sons. Fellow inmates claim that it is fear of reprisals against her three other sons that makes Muniyammal wait patiently for her cases to be heard without staging any kind of protest. A similar fate awaits some others.
For many, speedy hearing of their cases would be a much-hoped-for reprieve. Many are so poor they can never hope to avail of legal assistance.
Some among them assisted Veerappan build detonating devices. For example, there is Simon, who the police say is an explosive expert. Granite quarries can be found all over the terrain frequented by Veerappan. He knows many quarry owners, including illegal miners. So, it is not hard for the jungle bandit to obtain explosive material.
People like Simon have helped him make landmines out of pieces of gelatin and detonators, estimate exactly where the devices should be placed to have the greatest impact on vehicles passing over them and so on.
Then, there is Balavendran, son of Murugesh Gounder of Mamballi, who used to stitch uniforms for Veerappan and his men, and sometimes helped them procure foodstuff. Ayyavu, son of Govindappa of Ballipalyam, acted as an informer and a procurer of essential commodities.
Doreswamy Chettiar from Kollegal was booked under TADA in 1992, in connection with the attack on the Ramapura police station in which five policemen were killed. He has also been implicated in the killing of two police officers - Harikrishna and Shakeel Ahmed - in the same year.
It was after these attacks that TADA was first invoked in cases involving Veerappan. Another inmate, Meesekara Madiah, was booked for his alleged involvement in the blast at Palar in which `Rambo' Gopalakrishnan was injured and 22 others killed.
If Krishna delivers on his promises, Madiah too will be a free man soon. However, Madiah says that he has nothing to look forward to once he leaves jail as his wife and son are dead.
The same goes for Lakshmi, the widow of Ayyandurai, who was a close associate of Veerappan's brother Arjunan. She too was implicated in the murder of Shakeel Ahmed and Harikrishna. She too has no husband or home to return to.
Palaniswamy, who has been implicated in all the above three cases, insists that he has been victimised for political reasons and that he is innocent.
Of the 146 people booked under TADA by the STF, about 95 have secured bail. Over 75 of them had little problem securing bail (in December 1996) because the police failed to file complete chargesheets against them.
Several of the big names arrested for allegedly assisting Veerappan, like granite quarry owners Obala Chetty and Ramaswamy Mudaliar, managed to secure bail. Chetty got a retired attorney general to fight his case.
Interestingly, the names of legislator Raju Gowda and ex-minister H Nagappa, whom former STF officer Arakesh had placed high on his list of potential kidnap victims, were once bandied about as being Veerappan's friends.
Before every election, there are reports that Veerappan was spotted campaigning for certain candidates (on both sides of the border).
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