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|August 26, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/H T Sangliana
'This was expected," says Bangalore Police Commissioner H T Sangliana, leaning back in his chair. "This drama will simply repeat itself again and again until Veerappan is killed."
The drama being sandalwood smuggler and jungle brigand Veerappan's latest escapade. Two years after the abduction of Kannada film star Rajakumar, Veerappan kidnapped Karnataka ex-minister H Nagappa on August 25.
Sangliana was put in charge of the Karnataka wing of the Special Task Force soon after Veerappan released Rajakumar, at the end of 2000. Three months after he took charge, he confided in this correspondent his personal conviction that combing the jungles in search of Veerappan was an exercise in futility. After spending months surveying the forest by land and air, without even finding a trace of Veerappan, Sangliana had said at that time, that only a very good intelligence network would be of any use in tracing the bandit.
The officer, who intensely studied Veerappan's territory during the time he headed the STF, shared his thoughts on strategies to capture Veerappan and resolve this present hostage crisis, in an exclusive interview with M D Riti in Bangalore.
What is your assessment of this present hostage crisis where Veerappan has kidnapped yet another wellknown person?
This is a continuation of the same drama again, only with different people in it. I hope it ends peacefully this time without any loss of life.
However, if the loss of life is unavoidable, ultimately, in a situation like the storming of Veerappan's den, we must bear it as it comes. This is a time when we must be very tough with Veerappan and say, NO NEGOTIATION! We must storm his castle, wherever he is building it. Unless a strong stand is taken by the police now, we will not be taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the situation.
The need is for an encounter of a serious kind. It is the most pressing and urgent need.
Do you regard this kidnapping as a failure of the police intelligence network in that area?
I would not like to comment on this at the moment as other police officers are at the helm of affairs just now. They might mistake anything I say. However, I reiterate that the need now is for strong action. Even if a very dear member of society is a hostage, soft peddling should not be done. Veerappan too should realise that what he is doing will not work every time.
He seems to be picking off people one by one from a list of endangered celebrities prepared by police officer Arakesh some years ago. Yet, he seems to be able to pull it off every time. Is it not time the police changed track to hunt him down?
It is difficult to change strategy every time. Speaking is always easier than doing in the Veerappan hunt. Lectures, theories and strategies abound. But now, it is like a war situation. We know the enemy very well, we know his location, so we can plan our attack in such a way that sooner or later, we can get our enemy.
But still, in this situation we cannot catch him because he keeps running and hiding. If he were to hole himself up for a few hours at a time even, and if we could get the information, it would not be necessary to take a platoon or batallion to catch him. Two or three of us could simply go and finish him.
The intelligence information about where he is going to be when is simply not available. We have spent a lot of money on buying information. He too has been spending an equal amount of money. But he has the intelligence network to know where someone is going to be at a particular time, we simply do not.
How did this whole thing happen?
I really don't know. Veerappan seems to have a list of people whom he wants to pick up, and Nagappa seems to have been one of them. Veerappan seems to have a good intelligence network: he knew that Nagappa was going to that region to celebrate his grandson's birthday, and he simply used that opportunity to pick him up. His intelligence network on the movements of the men he has on his wanted list is excellent!
The Government has upped its reward from Rs five lakhs in 1992 to Rs 40 lakhs now for information leading to the capture of Veerappan. Did anyone ever come forward to offer information about him?
Not a soul! Absolutely nobody. Either the amount was too meagre to take such a big risk, or they simply had no information to offer.
I think now that if anyone at all comes forward, willing to hunt for Veerappan on their own confidence and resources, we should not come in their way. We should give the public a field day to go and hunt for him. So many times people have come to me in the past saying, could I permit them to go hunt him down. If anyone is brave enough, we should allow him to go and hunt down a criminal like that.
Will the police now enlist the help of Rajakumar, his son-in-law Govindaraj and his retainer Nagappa, to try and track Veerappan down, since they spent so many months travelling the jungle with him?
Yes, I think they now will do that.
It seems shocking that Veerappan simply comes in every time and kidnaps people so easily.
That is all perfectly expected. Unless and until he is caught or killed, this drama will repeat itself again and again. It's a tailor-made drama that is so repetitive.
Design: Dominic Xavier
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