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'If not for Maaran, Veerappan could not have kidnapped Rajakumar'
Maaran alias Senguttuvan, the most prominent extremist operating in Tamil Nadu today, has built a dedicated following of articulate Tamil youths fed on a compelling set of political demands.
His mission: the liberation of Tamil Nadu through an armed struggle.
Police records show Maaran as a left radical, a hardcore Naxalite, a smuggler and a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam follower.
"It may be because of his association and training under the LTTE that Maaran is trying to espouse the cause of Tamil nationalism. He wants to do in India what the LTTE is doing in Sri Lanka," says a senior police official.
Maaran took over the leadership of Tamil Nadu Liberation Army in 1987 after its founder Tamilarasan was killed. Officials say he merged the TNLA and Tamil Nadu Retrieval Troops.
While the TNLA is the armed wing of the outfit, TNRT serves as its political counterpart. The latter is currently recruiting jobless, middle-class Tamil youth all over the state.
According to Salem Assistant Commissioner of Police S K Mani, Maaran and his gang are armed with sophisticated weapons, including AK-47s.
"Like the LTTE, Maaran wants to operate from the jungles. So Veerappan was the ideal man for them to team up with," Mani says.
The Tamil Nadu police say Maaran was a bright student, who had "extreme leftist ideologies". After a degree in English literature, he worked as an apprentice in a private company in Tiruchi. He applied for a number of government jobs, but in vain.
In the late 1980s, Maaran came in touch with Radio Venkatesan and Lenin, two TNLA-TNRT extremists, who encouraged him to join the militant movement.
Maaran struck a chord with TNLA founder Tamilarasan and his revolutionary Marxist-Leninist ideology. He joined the gang. His parents were against the move.
Maaran, for his part, told his parents and neighbours that he was working for an independent Tamil nation and urged them to join him.
Soon after Maaran joined up, Tamilarasan and Lenin were killed. Maaran stepped into their shoes. The events that followed, especially the hide-and-seek with the police, convinced him that the Satyamangalam forest, brigand Veerappan's base, was where he should operate from.
INTELLIGENCE reports say that Maaran came in contact with Veerappan while working among the hill tribes.
Initially the brigand is said to have showed no interest in an alliance with Maaran. But after the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rejected his demand for amnesty in 1997, Maaran succeeded to convince him that only a joint fight could fetch rewards.
The first of such fights was in 1998. The extremists attacked the Vellithirupur police station in Erode and Kullanchavadi police station in Cuddalore.
This resulted in a police crackdown on ultras across the state. Five of Maaran's close associates -- Muthukumar, Ponnivalam, Sathyamoorthy, Radio Venkatesan and Manikandan alias Gopal -- were arrested.
One of Veerappan's demands following the Rajakumar kidnapping is that these militants, lodged in jails under the National Security Act, be released.
Today, Maaran's group has 14 hardcore extremists in the Sathyamangalam forest. Across Tamil Nadu, there are hordes of Tamil youngsters who support his political demand for an independent Tamil nation.
The supporters and cadres of the TNLA are mostly from the backward Vanniyar community, predominant in the districts of south Arcot, north Arcot, Cuddalore, Villupuram and Dharmapuri. Akin to this community is the Padiyachi Gounders, to which Veerappan belongs. It is largely concentrated in the districts of Salem, Coimbatore and Villupuram.
A TNRT pamphlet that the police seized from Erode last month read: 'Sacrifice your life for the creation of a Greater Tamil Nadu.'
ACCORDING to human rights activist and senior advocate P V Bhakthavachalam, Maaran's success lies in the fact he was able to win over Veerappan.
"If not for Veerappan, Maaran would already have fallen into the hands of the police. If not for Maaran, Veerappan could not have kidnapped Rajakumar. It is a relationship that has helped both," he says.
Bhakthavachalam, who has studied the extremist movements in Tamil Nadu, says Maaran's gang has received arms and ammunition from the LTTE.
"Maaran has supplied arms to Veerappan in return for familiarising him with the forests," he says. "The tragedy is that the intelligence agencies and the Tamil Nadu police have been unable to check their anti-national activities."
Activists like Bhakthavachalam claim that extremism to create a separate homeland has grown because of political patronage.
"It is very easy to espouse a cause in Tamil Nadu especially if you have money and political power," says K M Venkataswamy, another human right activist.
The police say the extremists operating out of the forests have been receiving explosives from the Naxalite groups in Andhra Pradesh.
"Explosives are also coming in from Kerala through Coimbatore and Samrajnagar," reveals a senior official in Erode.
Maaran has great influence over Veerappan. He cherishes a grand idea: to forge alliances with all the militants groups in India. Thus, he wants the insurgents of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and the North-East to unite in a war against India.
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