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|November 6, 1997||
Monsoon emboldens VeerappanN Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
The Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments have renewed their efforts to nab forest brigand Veerappan. But the ongoing monsoon may hamper the combing operations and any commando action that may be underway.
But for Veerappan, the severe monsoon seems to be a blessing in disguise. It seems to have emboldened him to come up with unacceptable conditions for surrender, a source said.
''Veerappan is trying to buy time as he is finding it difficult to negotiate the slippery hills in the rainy season,'' said the source. ''That being the case, he would be well aware of the predicament that his prospective searchers may face. He would not like to surrender, if he could help it, nor would he invite a commando action. Hence, he has laid down unacceptable conditions -- like the release of his brother now in prison, and a promise to jail him only for two years.''
What is more, Veerappan seems to be getting full information about the governments's moves. ''Lately, he also seems to be getting a clearer picture of the governments's intention,'' said the source.
In this context, the source referred to the release of Veerappan's most recent crop of six hostages unconditionally, and overnight. ''He was obviously privy to the changing mood of the rulers in both states, and also to the possibility of a commando action, where his own chances of evasion would have been slim.''
Sources said this was one of the reasons which made the two state governments harden their stand subsequently. ''By releasing the hostages unconditionally, Veerappan has obviously exposed his chinks in the armour. It is natural for the two state governments to drive home their psychological advantage.''
No wonder, Veerappan's recent demands were instantly shot down. ''As Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi pointed out, only bureaucrats will sign any offer or contract on behalf of the government. The political masters, least of all the chief minister, never enters the picture in any formal capacity.''
By arguing this point, however, the sources said that Karunanidhi has side-stepped the substantive issue. ''Even if the chief ministers were to sign the offer, they could not guarantee a lenient two-year jail term. It is for the courts to decide. Veerappan has confessed -- which has been video-taped and well-documented -- that he has killed men more than once. Then come the various offences under the Forest Act and the Arms Act, not to mention any other offence that might have gone unnoticed until now.''
By sending out an audio-cassette message now, Veerappan has only kept the talks with the two state governments going, said the source. ''He has thus given a lie to those who argue that he has not responded to the 'surrender offer' that expired on October 31. Both sides know that nothing much can be attained by way of combing operations, or a commando action, at the height of the monsoon. And for the time being, the two governments are possibly playing along with Veerappan, in his attempts to buy time.''
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