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Karnataka, Tamil Nadu accept Veerappan's offer of surrender

On Tuesday, the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka decided to accept sandalwood smuggler Veerappan's offer to surrender.

And with this, the bloodstained soap opera surrounding the mustachioed brigand promises to come to a tame denouement.

The time, date and place of the final act -- Veerappan's actual surrender to the authorities -- will be decided once R R Gopal, editor of the Tamil weekly Nakkeeran and, in recent weeks, the emissary at large between the state governments and the smuggler, meets with Veerappan later this week.

On Tuesday morning, Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel, Law Minister M C Nanaiah, Minister of State for Home R Roshan Baig and Forests Minister Gurupdadappa Nagmarpalli arrived in Madras for talks with TN Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi and his ministerial colleagues.

Subsequent to the meeting, Patel and Karunanidhi told the media at a joint briefing that their governments had decided to accept Veerappan's conditions, as prelude to the surrender of the brigand who has, for years now, made mock of the efforts by both governments to subdue him and end his depredations.

Veerappan, for his part, is understood to have agreed to the release of the ten Karnataka forest department personnel he had abducted and held hostage. As a gesture of good faith, he has also forsaken his earlier demand for a sum of Rs 50 million to be paid up front to secure his surrender.

The brigand informed the state governments that he was now prepared to repose full faith in Karunanidhi and trusting the TN chief minister to protect his gang members and next of kin.

For their part, Karunanidhi and Patel told the media that their governments would stand guarantee for the lives of Veerappan and his associates. The brigand and his gang will be kept in a special camp in TN, under guard by the police and jail authorities, for the minimum period provided by the law. They will then be released on bail -- provided, of course, that there are no capital charges frameable against any of their number.

Interestingly, Veerappan's faith in the Karnataka government appears less than optimum. Thus, one of his demands -- now acceded to by the Karunanidhi-Patel combine -- is that all cases registered against him in Karnataka be transferred to Tamil Nadu. Patel informed the media that his government would not, subsequent to the surrender, demand Veerappan's presence in any court or other authority in Karnataka under any pretext whatsoever.

The two state governments also promised to "review sympathetically" a rehabilitation package for Veerappan's relatives.

Neither head of government was prepared to disclose, at this present, the reason for Veerappan's turnaround. The bandit, while taking his hostages, had indicated that he would not surrender except under condition of general amnesty and for payment of the Rs 50 million ransom.

Veerappan had set August 15 as the deadline, and threatened to kill all hostages on that date if his demands were not met. The two state governments for their part rejected outright the demand for amnesty, and also indicated that no ransom would be paid.

Asked why the brigand had now gone back on his stated position, Patel said, rather factitiously, that he supposed Veerappan had become bored of forest life. "We will know the real reason only when Veerappan reveals it," he added, in more serious vein, while his TN counterpart, whose literary credentials have earned him the title Kalaignar, promised to "write an essay" on the subject.

Interestingly, in an audio cassette sent via Nakkeeran editor Gopal, Veerappan had indicated that Gopal's plea to spare the lives of the innocent had sparked an introspective mood in him. After due discussion with his 'associates', the alleged killer said he had decided to go back on his hardline stance. "I have left to Mr Gopal and Mr Karunanidhi, who are elders whom I respect, all details of arranging my surrender and enabling me to live free and with dignity".

Meanwhile, in Karnataka, the issue gained political overtones with Opposition parties blasting the Patel government for not informing the state assembly about the details of his negotiations with Karunanidhi on the Veerappan issue.

By way of reply, Transport Minister P G R Sindhia informed the assembly that the government had no indication of keeping the legislators in the dark, and that Patel would make an official statement about his discussions on his return from Madras.

EARLIER FEATURES AND REPORTS: 'If the police kills two of his men, Veerappan kills four policemen'
'They want to kill me. What is wrong in me killing someone who is trying to kill me?'
Veerappan's ransom demand turned down

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