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July 31, 2000
When the news spread...
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
After a quiet week-end, the last morning of July began like any other working day in Bangalore.
The techies of our native Silicon Valley were on way to their workplace when the dramatic news of 56-year-old Veerappan kidnapping Kannada icon Dr Rajakumar (72) from the latter's home town of Gajannur on Sunday night caught everybody unawares.
With radio and television networks flashing the news by the minute, mobile phones and land lines got jammed for over two hours as everyone was calling someone to either confirm the news or get more details.
To ensure the safety of children and prevent any untoward incident, the state government swiftly decided to order closure of schools and colleges for two days even before the first bell was rung in any of them.
The city turned into a ghost town by noon with main roads and other arteries deserted. Many were seen heading towards the posh Sadashivnagar, where the actor's mansion is located, to know the latest on the kidnapping front, even as some of his frenzied fans swore to rush to the forests where their idol is being held captive. The popularity of Dr Rajakumar dates back to the sixties and the seventies.
As the news spread across the garden city, shops, hotels, kiosks, offices, business establishments, markets and even banks downed their shutters to be on the safer side.
The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation ordered its buses back to the depots as hoodlums went on a rampage torching some of them in the congested commercial areas of the city while many others were stoned and damaged badly. Private vehicles and mini buses too went off the roads.
"Who will take the risk, saar? Who will bear the loss if our goods and properties are damaged, or looted, or even torched," said an agitated Mohanram, a sales engineer, who was caught in the midst of a crowd waiting for an elusive state transport bus.
While the suburbs and residential areas remained peaceful by and large, the commercial areas of the city - M G Road, Brigade Road and Majestic witnessed tension as crowds became restive in the absence of public transport. Petrol outlets across the city shut shop fearing violence and looting.
The police was conspicuous by its absence with forces being rushed to the troubled spots where buses were burning and other vehicles were being stoned.
The situation turned for the worse by late afternoon when rampaging mobs attacked a couple of Tamil newspaper offices, including Dina Thanthi, Dina Sudal, Dina Maar and Kalai Kathir leading to their closure.
Even the papers at news stands were not spared. Veerappan is a Tamil Gounder and is believed to have accused the state government of ill-treating Tamils living in Karnataka.
Rumour mills worked overtime. There were reports that a couple of Rajakumar fans committed suicide by slitting their throats in public, while another three were said to have attempted self-immolation.
Majority of the people were glued to their television sets. People coming from outside the city were stuck at airports, railway stations, and bus stands for hours. An exasperated lot even started trekking all the way to their homes as public transport was completely thrown out of gear.
The incidents reminded one of Mumbai, which recently came to a standstill for many hours when Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackarey was arrested.
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