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September 4, 2000
'Catching Veerappan is difficult, not impossible'
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Catching Veerappan, the sandalwood smuggler, might be difficult but definitely not an impossible task. This is how a 1975 batch Tamil Nadu cadre police officer Vijay Kumar, presently posted as Inspector General (Operations) in the Border Security Force, sums up the controversy surrounding the kidnapping of noted Kannada film actor Dr Rajakumar by the bandit.
Till recently, Vijay Kumar served as IG (Kashmir Valley) in the Border Security Force. He was posted out after serving for more then two years in Jammu and Kashmir. "Yes, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Indian Express Shekhar Gupta offering my services to nab Veerappan. It is now up to the Union home ministry to decide on the offer," Vijay Kumar told rediff.com on Monday afternoon at his residence in Chanakyapuri.
He complimented the Supreme Court for ticking off those handling the Veerappan issue. "I agree with the apex court that a brigand like Veerappan should be caught. The mission might be difficult but definitely not impossible and it can be achieved without endangering the lives of the hostages and causing any embarrassment to Tamil Nadu or Karnataka," Kumar said.
He recalled how a special task force, of which he was a part, was set up under the leadership of former Tamil Nadu director general of police Walter Davaram in 1993, when Kumar was an inspector general. "The STF had dedicated men of proven calibre. It was because of a sustained drive against Veerappan that the size of his gang was brought down from over 150 to just under 10. By 1996, Veerappan had become very weak. But complacency on the part of the police led to him acquiring new arms and ammunition. Even the size of his gang has gone up," he elaborated.
"Today, Veerappan might be physically weak but is perfectly capable of laying mines to prevent any police action against him. But this should not deter us. I would like to take up the challenge and lead a team of dedicated BSF officers along with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police personnel to catch the brigand. Despite a two-year gap since my last posting in the STF, I have some idea of the inhospitable terrain where Veerappan is hiding. The jungles are spread over an area of over 6,000 square kilometers," he explained.
He pointed out that merely conducting a few raids here and there would not yield any result. "Raids and searches at his hide-outs in the village clusters on the outskirts of the dense forest would not prove effective. Once inside the jungle, in the inhospitable terrain, we have to survive without getting assistance from outside and carry out intensive operations against Veerappan. We need an intelligence system that could give us reliable feedback on the movements of the brigand and his henchmen. We should put him on the defensive," Kumar says.
"There should be some kind of incentive for those ready to stick their necks out for the job. It is sad to note that those killed by the STF are being paid compensation while those who died while trying to establish the rule of law are still waiting for the money that is rightly theirs," says Kumar.
When asked if a lookalike of Veerappan could be of any help, Vijay Kumar said he never thought about it. "It never crossed my mind. Now that you have mentioned it, I would think about it. It might just help," he said with a smile.
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