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September 8, 2000
Shakeel Ahmed was a Rajakumar fan
M D Riti in Bangalore
As a young man growing up in Mysore, police sub-inspector Shakeel Ahmed was an avid fan of Dr Rajakumar. Today, his death at the hands of Veerappan in August 1992 is delaying the release of the Kannada superstar.
Some of his old friends in Mysore insist that it was Dr Rajakumar's protrayal of a dedicated forest officer fighting poachers and sandalwood smugglers in the superhit Gandhada Gudi that first interested him in taking on Veerappan. They say that Shakeel would often discuss Rajakumar's films, especially those in which he acted as a patriot or a policeman, and say that he thought of him as a role model.
Although Shakeel's father Abdul Karim, the lone ranger who is now fighting the release of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act detainees in Mysore in the Supreme Court, was a retired police officer, only Shakeel from among his four sons dreamt of being a police officer. Karim wanted him to be an Indian Police Service officer, but Shakeel could only make it to the Karnataka Police Service.
Stories about just who, if anyone, goofed up in that fatal encounter are still the subject of hot debate in Karnataka. One version, partly borne out by what Shakeel said to some friends four days before his death, indicate a disagreement between him and his superior officer, the then superintendent of police T Harikrishna, who was also killed in the ambush.
The story has it that Shakeel befriended a wine shop owner who was known to be a conduit for Veerappan in Gopinatham village. He pretended to want to sell Veerappan some arms and explosives, and succeeded in getting Veerappan to send one of his close aides, Gurunathan, to meet him.
This is where differences with Harikrishna arose. Shakeel wanted to keep up the pretence of being a corrupt arms dealer and send Gurunathan back to the forest, and use him to get to Veerappan. But Harikrishna insisted on taking him into custody.
"If only we had let Gurunathan go, we would have reached Veerappan by now," Shakeel said to some friends including some journalists in the last week of his life. An enraged Veerappan apparently laid a trap with equal cunning through a police informer Kamala Nayak, who suggested that Harikrishna and his men come to a spot in the forest posing as buyers of poached ivory. They did, and the rest is history.
'They went like a marriage procession instead of using stealth," wrote P Lankesh, editor of popular Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike at that time, referring to how the posse went in an unmarked car followed by a truckload of policemen disguised as coolies.
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