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Gopal elated with success; hostages recount saga

"My third mission was a 100 per cent success with the release of the eight Karnataka forest personnel," R R Gopal, an elated Nakkeeran editor and the Tamil Nadu government's emissary, said on Monday.

Presenting the released forest personnel before the media in Madras, he said right from the beginning, his objective was to save the lives of the hostages and he had succeeded in his mission.

Parrying questions regarding Veerappan's surrender, he said he had undertaken the mission not to facilitate his surrender.

It was for the two governments and the police to make him surrender, he said.

"Why should I go?" he replied when asked whether he would undertake yet another mission to work out the modalities of the surrender if the bandit chooses to do so.

"I went to the forest risking my life mainly to secure the release of the hostages and I am happy it is a 100 per cent success," he said.

When newsmen persisted with the question of the much-awaited surrender, he said he would disclose the details of the talks he had with Veerappan on August 27, after handing over to Karunanidhi and his Karnataka counterpart J H Patel on Tuesday the video cassette the brigand had sent.

"I will answer that day after tomorrow," Gopal said referring to the charge by former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram that he had received a reward from the government for his efforts to secure the release of the hostages.

"It is unbecoming of a former police officer officer to talk like that," was Gopal response to former Tamil Nadu director general of police W I Dawaram's remark that he would shoot Veerappan after the outlaw surrenders and the government produces him in public.

Meanwhile, the eight hostages, who narrated their ordeal at Veerappan's hands ever since he kidnapped them in the Karnataka forests on July 12, said that but for Gopal, they would not have been alive today.

They said Veerappan had been threatening to kill them if his demands were not met; however, he did not harm them physically.

The hostages said they were kidnapped by Veerappan and his gang when they were entering the Marapalam forest area on July 12. They were taken to a guest house at gunpoint, 8 kilometres away from the point where they were taken hostage, they said.

They took guns and some bedsheets from the guest house, and trekked into the forest. They were often shifted to different hideouts and provided one or two meals a day.

When All India Radio reported the two governments's rejection of his demand for amnesty and ransom, the hostages said Veerappan handcuffed them and threatened them constantly. He had even selected two of the hostages for execution, they said.

Only after Veerappan's lieutenant, Sethukuzhi Govindan, intervened, were their lives saved. Only after Gopal pleaded with Veerappan were the handcuffs removed.

Only two of the hostages spoke to the media; the others did not utter a word.

Even though he was given an assurance in writing by the home secretaries of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu that there would not be any interference by the police, Gopal said the police had been on his trail.

Veerappan releases hostages

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