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August 23, 2000
TN police nab TNLA cadre
Our Correspondent in Madurai
With the Dr Rajakumar kidnap episode dragging on and a crackdown on brigand Veerappan becoming a necessity after the Kannada super star is freed, the Tamil Nadu police has begun working out the logistics.
For starters, they have nabbed a militant cadre of the Tamil Nationalist Liberation Army who had worked with Veerappan and are trying to get a clearer picture of the lifestyle in the forests.
According to reports, the Sivaganga police have arrested Utthirapathi, alias Pasupathi, a 22-year-old TNLA cadre. He is a resident of Sethiathope locality in Cuddalore district. He has been remanded to judicial custody.
However, in the absence of proper security in the local prison, he has since been shifted to the high-security ward in the central prison at Tiruchi where some Islamic fundamentalists, and also Pasupathi's comrades whose freedom Veerappan has demanded, are housed.
Informed sources question the wisdom of letting the local police handle the Utthirapathi affair arguing that the specially trained Q branch should have been given the responsibility.
"The involvement of the local police has given room for avoidable publicity, which could have an adverse effect on the ongoing negotiations to end the Dr Rajakumar kidnap episode. Now, Veerappan and his TNLA handlers may demand even Utthirapathi's release." Also, it is difficult to predict their reaction to his arrest and interrogation.
With the information provided by him, the police recovered a new-generation wireless set, robbed by the militants while raiding the Andimadam police station in 1998.
They have also seized three pistols, two grenades and ammunition, all buried in a village near the lignite-town, Neyveli, which is in the heartland of pan-Tamil militancy.
Confusion had reigned for a while about whether the police had arrested one or more militants. Utthirapathi was questioned when he was found moving under suspicious circumstances near a bus station in Sivaganga. As it turned out later, the police were talking about the same person, who was going under various aliases.
To Veerappan, Utthirapathi was known as Venkat. "He says, he could not acclimatise himself to life in the forests, the open air, insect-bites and half-cooked food beyond a point. The rains and shine did not suit his fragile health and he returned to civilisation. However, he continues to be active in the TNLA," the police say.
"For the TNLA to take him to Veerappan and the latter to accept him without fear or suspicion, Utthirapathi should have been someone high up in the militant group."
After his interrogation, the police have got pen-portraits of Veerappan and TNLA leader Maran. While his description of Veerappan's life-style confirmed what is already known, on Maran, he may have a wealth of information, they claim.
According to Utthirapathi, Maran is frugal about spending and would advise his cadres not to give in to materialistic urges. He has hidden all the money robbed from banks. "He would give enough money to see us through the mission on hand," he said.
The police are also learnt to have identified a few spots which Maran, whose latest photograph they do not possess, frequents. However, they have drawn a blank on Veerappan's whereabouts.
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