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August 17, 2000
TN works out alternatives for Rajakumar's release
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
With journalist-emissary R R Gopal leaving for the forests to meet brigand Veerappan and secure freedom for kidnapped Kannada matinee icon Dr Rajakumar, the Tamil Nadu and Karnakata state governments are said to be considering fall-back plans, should the peace mission fail.
The TN government called in officials associated with the Special Task Force (STF) of the state police, for discussions in Madras, over the weekend, it is learnt.
Gopal left late on Wednesday, carrying with him a compliance report from the governments, on demands made by Veerappan, for freeing Rajakumar. He is also believed to have taken an audio-cassette from Rajakumar's family members, and one, reportedly from chief ministers of the two states, addressed to Veerappan.
The compliance report is short on the crucial demands of the Cauvery waters dispute, which issue he wants to be taken up by the International Court of Justice, and Tamil being made the medium of instruction up to standard X in Tamil Nadu, and the second official language in Karnataka.
While Gopal is expected to explain to Veerappan the impropriety involved in the first two demands, he will detail the impracticality of the last one.
He may have problems explaining the delay in the release of 51 Terrorist And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act detainees from a Mysore prison, caused mainly by a pending petition from the father of one of Veerappan's victims.
A public interest petition has also been filed in the Madras high court, on the Tamil Nadu government's decision to withdraw National Security Act and TADA detention orders operative against four of five detainees in the state, whose release has also been sought by Veerappan.
While the Mysore trial court is expected to take up the restraint petition, the Madras high court is likely to hear the PIL, on Thursday. A lot will depend on how the courts proceed. They can either dismiss the petitions, in limine, or order notices; the latter process delaying proceedings, and also putting a question mark on the early release of the detainees.
According to legal experts, the high court will either accept the PIL submissions in whole or dismiss them. The Mysore petition, even if admitted, will cover only TADA detainees against whom specific cases relating to the petitioner lay.
The petitioner is the father of a slain sub-inspector who had named some TADA detainees as accused in the case, apart from Veerappan.
The question remains on how the state governments will handle the original criminal cases filed against the TADA detainees. The governments will have to move the trial courts separately and obtain release orders. If the state governments are going slow on this, it's only to hear the response of Veerappan, to what has been done in this respect. "We do not want the birds to fly the coop and then look stupid at the end," said an official.
Gopal is expected to stay back at the periphery of Veerappan territory till Thursday evening, before proceeding into the forests. If relevant court orders are made available by then, he may carry them with him. Or else, he will proceed and explain the legal hassles to the brigand.
Karnakata Chief Minister S M Krishna has already declared that Gopal would not wait for the court orders, "and this is mainly to keep the public mood cool, without giving the impression that the two governments are lax in obtaining Rajakumar's freedom''.
The state governments are, however, not putting all eggs in one basket. Or, so it seems.
While Krishna has denied reports that the government was planning an offensive against Veerappan, the Tamil Nadu police is known to have called in serving and former STF officials to Madras for talks.
They reportedly pored over maps of Veerappan territory in the director general of police's office and discussed strategies.
"Such options are easy to discuss but hard to implement," said a senior police official.
"Even without a prized hostage, we could not penetrate Veerappan's hideout, which keeps shifting from day to day, hour to hour. With Rajakumar in his custody, we can hardly attempt any rescue mission, without provoking the unpredictable brigand, who at the very least could call off negotiations," he said, detailing impediments involved in a rescue mission.
The police official also dismissed as routine the firing practice being given to 50-odd STF commandos at the Police Recruits School shooting-range in Coimbatore. Neither did he attach importance to rumours of Rajakumar fans wanting to launch a rescue mission.
"That's easier said than done, when they just do not know which part of the forest they have to penetrate, or how that could ensure Rajakumar's safety in Veerappan's custody. The Rajakumar Fans Association president has already denied it, though we cannot do anything if fans take chances in groups."
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