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August 10, 2000
Veerapan's absence on tape is curious
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
With a third audio cassette and a few photographs arriving in Madras Thursday, the Dr Rajakumar kidnap drama is becoming curiouser by the day.
While the cassette has the voices of Dr Rajakumar and government emissary, Nakkeeran editor R R Gopal, the photographs have both with the three other hostages. But there is no sign of Veerappan in either.
"Maybe he was not around when the photographs were taken," said Tamil Nadu Director General of Police F C Sharma, who released the cassette and photographs to the media this morning. "You cannot explain such things logically," he said.
However, what is heartening is the message from Dr Rajakumar that he was well. His voice, and also the photographs of the other hostages, have been identified by Dr Rajakumar's son, who was also present at Sharma's press conference.
Dr Rajakumar says he is happy and was being fed properly, and that Veerappan was not ill-treating him. Gopal's voice comes as an attestation, with the emissary saying he would return to Madras in a day or two.
But what has not gone unnoticed is his request for the two state governments to concede Veerappan's demands. Does it mean that he is in the dark about the two chief ministers' response? Or, does even Veerappan also not know of it, despite his known bias for listening to the Tamil news on All India Radio? Or, does it mean that the cassette was recorded before the response on Friday - and thus dated?
There are no answers.
Sharma also evaded questions about Veerappan's Tamil Nadu Liberation Army connections. "We are investigating the matter. But there are instances that individuals have operated independent of organisations," he added.
That also raises questions about the safety of the emissary himself. Gopal had criticised Veerappan in the media after his last meeting with the forest brigand in 1997. Nakkeeran also came down heavily on the TNLA, which it has since been accusing of influencing Veerappan. That the TNLA chose another Tamil magazine to leak the first 'Rajakumar cassette' should be a pointer.
Sources in Nakkeeran deny any suggestion that Gopal may not have met Veerappan. "We are convinced that Gopal has met Veerappan," says associate editor A Kamaraj. "How is it possible for Gopal to have been photographed with Dr Rajakumar, if he has not met Veerappan and obtained his concurrence?"
"There was an instance when Veerappan freed a hostage after 26 days of captivity," DGP Sharma said while answering a question. Was it a veiled caution that the release of the Kannada matinee idol may be delayed?
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