Dreaded forest brigand Veerappan remains elusive, one year after his sensational abduction of south Indian matinee icon Dr Rajakumar.
But police say their tireless hunt has kept the notorious sandalwood smuggler on his toes in his hideout in the Sathyamangalam forests, bordering the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
"We have been very effective. He is under considerable pressure," Karnataka's Director General of Police, K Sreenivasan, says.
Sreenivasan denies reports that Veerappan has added nine members to his gang. "The maximum strength of his gang is not more than four. Veerappan has not been able to recruit anybody in the last six months."
The police chief's confidence is based on what he calls the re-grouping of intelligence gathering after the appointment of new commanders for the Special Task Force organised to track down Veerappan.
"The commander of the STF in Karnataka, Kempaiah, has had perfect co-ordination with his Tamil Nadu counterpart, Walter Davaram," Sreenivasan says
That Davaram was the man who almost single-handedly wiped away most of the Veerappan gang between 1991-96 and missed the bandit only by a whisker is also responsible for the police chief's optimism.
But monsoons are hampering current operations. Visibility is extremely poor in the dense forests where Veerappan hides, and which he knows like the back of his hand.
The police say it is the worst possible time to try and capture him.
The closest the police came to nabbing the brigand was in the early 1990s when Veerappan kidnapped the son of a granite owner. After his release, the boy told the police that on one occasion they were just 25 metres away from the gang.
In his long criminal career, Veerappan has murdered scores of people and killed an estimated 2,000 elephants.
Indo-Asian News Service
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