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August 25, 2000
Bandit wants cases dropped against 70 more
In a new twist to the hostage crisis, forest brigand Veerappan Friday demanded that cases against 70 more of his supporters be dropped. Veerappan, who has held Kannada filmstar Dr Rajakumar and three others hostage for over 20 days now, has already demanded the release of 51 detenus.
Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka met in Madras for the fourth time since the crisis began on July 30 and discussed Veerappan's fresh demands on Friday. They decided to send journalist-emissary R R Gopal again to the jungles to continue the negotiations with the bandit.
Immediately after the meeting, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi said steps were being taken to release 121 Tamil prisoners detained in Karnataka for allegedly assisting Veerappan. The bail petitions of 51 of them would be heard on August 28 and they were expected to get bail, he said.
Karunanidhi, however, did not explain how the number of criminals Veerappan wants freed has swelled from 51 to 121. Senior officials said 70 new names Veerappan has given are of criminals against whom proceedings have already been dropped, but their movements are restricted to Mysore.
Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna speaking to reporters in Bangalore later in the day did not mention Veerappan's fresh demands.
Gopal, who was present at the press conference in Madras, said he would leave for the forests on his third mission on August 28 only after receiving governments' response on the new demands. He said Veerappan has asked him to return before August 29.
Karunanidhi said the clarifications sought by Veerappan in a video cassette brought by Gopal Thursday pertain to the delay in release of prisoners and the matter of paying compensation to the victims of atrocities committed by the Special Task Force during their operations in 1992-93.
Karunanidhi said Karanataka and TN together have set up a corpus fund of Rs 100 million to compensate the victims of STF excesses as directed by the Justice Sadashiva Commission and the National Human Rights Commission.
On the directions of the NHRC on June 18 last year, the Karnataka government had constituted a two-member panel comprising Justice Sadashiva and ex-CBI director C V Narasimhan to inquire into the alleged STF atrocities. However, the setting up of the panel was contested in the Karnataka High Court by the STF, and its proceedings were stayed subsequently.
In the aftermath of Dr Rajakumar's abduction, the Karnataka government, however, moved the high court and got the stay on the panel's hearings vacated a fortnight ago.
Karunanidhi said as far as the five Tamil extremists in Tamil Nadu were concerned, the state government had already decided to drop all charges against them and had taken the requisite clearance from the Centre to do so.
The Tamil Nadu government has revoked the detention of four ultras under the National Security Act and dropped TADA charges against a fifth. These five, belonging to the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army and the Tamil National Retrieval Troops, have refused to seek bail forcing the government to agree to their demand for withdrawal of cases against them.
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