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September 6, 2000
Gopal warns against police action
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
Karnataka-Tamil Nadu emissary R Raja Gopal Wednesday ruled out the police storming the hideout of forest brigand Veerappan to rescue Kannada matinee idol Rajakumar and three others as Veerappan had threatened to shoot his hostages even at the sight of a policeman in his territory.
At a press conference after meeting chief minister S M Krishna, Gopal asserted that Rajakumar's life was not in danger.
"Veerappan has assured me that Rajakumar is safe and that there is no threat to his life provided both states keep the police away from his lair," Gopal claimed.
Gopal stated that Veerappan's main demand now in exchange for the hostages was the release of 121 associates from Karnataka and five Tamil extremists from Tamil Nadu, which have been stalled by the Supreme Court's intervention last Friday.
"Get them here and take back Rajakumar and his three relatives; these were Veerappan's last words on Monday evening."
Giving a blow-by-blow account of his encounter with the fugitive during his third mission, Gopal said he almost clinched the deal last Thursday as Veerappan accepted the response of both governments on his two main demands -- release of 121 Terrorist And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act detainees, including 51 of them who are in the Mysore jail, and five extremists, in Erode and Tiruchi jails in Tamil Nadu.
"Veerappan was convinced about the response and was waiting for them (detainees and extremists) to join him in the jungle so that he could send back Rajakumar and three others with me in return."
In fact, he was working out modalities of swapping his associates last Friday when he heard All India Radio announce that the Supreme Court had indefinitely stayed their release, Gopal said, and termed the outcome as "bad luck for all of us".
At the outset, Gopal expressed confidence that he would be able to get back Rajakumar alive once the SC disposes of the special leave petition pending before its three-judge bench, and both states drop cases against the accused to set them free in the jungle.
"Veerappan too wants this tragic drama to end, but on his terms, typically in cowboy style. He has not asked either for ransom or amnesty. Now, he just wants his associates back. I am confident that he will not make fresh demands."
Gopal said he had brought a video-cassette this time too, containing messages from Rajakumar to his family in Bangalore, including a couple of holy verses from Lord Bashweshwaraya and saint poet Sarvayna.
On whether he had convinced Veerappan on the complexity of getting early justice from the Supreme Court and protracted delays even in the highest court of the land, Gopal said the former was quite familiar with the legal hassles but refused to see reason.
After the apex court's ruling on September 1, Gopal said Veerappan's only refrain to both governments was "fulfill my demand in action at any cost as both of you have promised me to do keep it for securing the safe release of Rajakumar and three others. I cannot be betrayed for I have not betrayed you or harmed your Annavaru (elder brother)."
Gopal lamented that the SC's intervention had ruined prospects of getting Rajakumar back. "Had it not been the case, I should have been here with the Kannada icon. What could I do? It is my bad luck," Gopal asserted.
Even the stay by a division bench of the Karnataka high court on Tuesday on resumption of the Sadashiva Commission's hearing on atrocities by the Special Task Force (FTS) against tribals of the forest during anti-Veerappan operations in the mid-nineties was the last straw in dashing efforts for securing Rajakumar's release as Veerappan was upset, and pointed out the failure of the governments in meeting his main demands.
Even the refusal of the Chief Justice of India on the state's plea for early hearing of the SLP on Monday and admission of two public interest litigations by Delhi advocates against the release of Tamil extremists last week dampened spirits of Veerappan in agreeing to the deal.
Gopal also disclosed that Rajakumar was healthy and has maintained a high morale. "He has asked me to convey to the people of Karnataka, including the media and his family, that there is nothing to worry about him, nor about his life as Veerappan is taking care of him very well."
"Rajakumar gets up around 05:30 hours IST daily, does yoga for around two hours and eats what ever is offered. He bathes in a pond and drinks water from streams. His breakfast consists of biscuits and snacks. He refused mineral water and skips medicines as he does not feel any need for them."
Rajakumar also assured the people that he would be back with soon and that they should maintain peace and be calm till then. He told the film industry to resume work and that no one should stop normal activity.
Gopal did not consider his third mission a failure, as he had mediated on behalf of both governments and convinced the brigand of meeting his demands. He did not want to comment on the SC's intervention, and said he would wait for the case's outcome.
"I am confident that both states will get justice from the apex court in the interest of securing Rajakumar back," Gopal added.
He also announced that Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi would come to Bangalore on September 8 for talks with Krishna, to chalk out the course of action to resolve the impasse.
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