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Veerappan decides he won't surrender

Veerappan has decided he won't surrender after all. The sandalwood smuggler says he will give himself up only if he is assured he will not have to stand judicial trial and that he will not be imprisoned for more than two years.

Veerappan, who had offered to surrender earlier, set out the above conditions in a video-recorded interview to Tamil Nadu government emissary and Nakkeeran editor R R Gopal while releasing eight Karnataka forest personnel held hostage by him on Sunday.

"I am willing to surrender if the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, home secretaries of both states and the Union home minister give a written undertaking, conceding my demands in a month's time," the bandit said.

Sticking to his conditions during a 40-hour long marathon discussion with Gopal in the jungles during the latter's third mission, a stubborn Veerappan said: "If the governments do not concede to my demands, I'd rather live in the forest and face death."

The elephant poacher warned that he would be forced to retaliate if the special task forces of the two states launched fresh operations.

Meanwhile, the nine Karnataka forest personnel, set free from captivity in the jungles, were flown to Bangalore from Madras by a special flight on Wednesday morning.

The 55-year-old brigand rejected all attempts by Gopal to convince him that the demands were impractical.

"If the judge asks me whether I had committed the crimes, I will readily confess, as lying is not my way of life. The judge will award me decades of imprisonment and I am not for it," he argued.

Veerappan said he was insisting that the period of his imprisonment should not exceed two years as the offer of the two governments had only specified a minimum period of detention as per law, which could run to several decades.

Reading out from newspaper clippings in his possession, he said Phoolan Devi had to endure 11 years in jail though the Madhya Pradesh government had lured her to surrender promising only three years of detention.

"When the Union government is offering general amnesty and rehabilitation packages for terrorists belonging to separatist groups, why can't I be given amnesty?" he asked.

He said the two governments should respond favourably to his gesture of releasing the hostages unharmed in deference to the wishes of the people.The brigand said he had changed his mind about surrender as he felt the terms of surrender the two governments offered could endanger his life. "I will continue to live in the forests. The people and god will save me," he said.

Veerappan said the death of police personnel and his associates in gun battles were a matter of destiny. No amount of mourning would bring them back to life, he lamented. Recalling some of his ''encounters'' with wild elephants and police personnel, Veerappan said he resorted to killing only when his life was in danger.

Gopal said he had handed over the video cassette to Karunanidhi on Tuesday. "My main objective was to secure the release of the hostages and my job is over now," he said. Ruling out any more mission into the jungles, Gopal said it was up to the two governments to respond to Veerappan's fresh demands.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel said his state would call off the manhunt for Veerappan.

"We will not chase him," he said, but warned that the authorities would not keep quiet if the brigand resumed his activities in the Karnataka forests.

"Even god cannot fulfil the demands of the brigand," Patel said, reacting to Veerappan's fresh demands. "The state was washing its hands off (the case) and would not look for him (Veerappan)," he said, adding that the state would transfer cases registered against Veerappan to Tamil Nadu.

Police, not Veerappan, sought money, says Gopal

Veerappan releases hostages

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