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Introducing Mr Veerappan, the could-be provision merchant!

Rice, pulses and masala packets; match boxes, candles and kerosene -- lots of these.

Tomorrow, if the authorities allow him, forest brigand Veerappan can turn provision merchant without batting an eyelid -- for, the would-be-reformed smuggler has enough of these stocked to gobsmack any average, godfearing storekeeper.

Enough, in fact, for him and 20 of his comrades-in-crime to live the jungle-life in style for another five years!

The provisions, all covered in seven sacks to protect it from termites, are buried in specific godowns all over the forests, the locations known only to his gang-members.

"We have 60 such godowns," Veerappan boasted to Tamil Nadu emissary and Nakeeran editor R R Gopal in their last interview, "In case of a police operation, we will split and meet at these spots. We can survive for six months on the provisions in one particular spot!"

The interview, recorded on video, also has the smuggler enthralling his associates and Gopal with stories of successful encounters with Special Task Force personnel and his providential escapades from marauding elephants.

The brigand denied reports that the Karnataka government had paid him a huge ransom. However, he confirmed that the previous All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam regime paid him Rs 300,000 in 1993 to secure the release of Deputy Superintendent of Police R Chidambaranathan and two policemen.

Earlier, just before he released the hostages, Veerappan told them he was forced into the action as they were part of a government which had ignored his demand for general amnesty for the last one and a half years.

"You should go back and highlight the problems we face in the jungles," he advised them.

Veerappan decides he won't surrender

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