August 30, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/Abdul Kareem

'I believe in divine justice too'

Why only talk about justice for a superstar, asks septuagenarian Abdul Kareem tiredly. "What about the super martyrs like my son who were killed trying to catch forest brigand Veerappan? Do they not deserve justice too?"

Kareem's house in Mysore is besieged by callers and telephone calls, most offering support, some making veiled threats and insisting that he stop his one-man battle. The former police officer father of Shakeel Ahmed, who was killed fighting Veerappan in August 1992, is worn out with his daily rounds of courts and lawyers' offices. However, he is ready to undertake a long journey to New Delhi, if necessary, to oppose the release of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act detainees in Mysore, at the Supreme Court.

His petition opposing the release of detainees is to be heard in Delhi on September 1. "That need not hinder or delay the release of Kannada film icon Dr Rajakumar," said Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna. "Veerappan just needed to be sure of Karnataka's intentions, and we have made that more than clear."

M D Riti spoke to Kareem in Mysore, on the SC verdict vindicating his stand. Excerpts from the interview, which was shared by his son Jameel Ahmed, a professor at Manasa Gangotri University in Mysore, and is now working on an academic dissertation on the criminal-politician-bureaucracy nexus in the Veerappan saga...

Now that the SC has granted a stay and acknowledged that you may have a case, do you feel vindicated in your lone battle against the Karnataka government giving in to Veerappan's demands?

Yes, it is great morale booster for us and all victims of Veerappan's banditry. The Karnataka government was making every attempt to sabotage legal and judicial processes. The very cause of justice was at stake. We had actually informed the special court in Mysore that we had got a facsimile message from our counsel in Delhi on Monday that our case was coming up for hearing on Tuesday, but it hastily ordered the release of the detainees on bail on Monday.

On Tuesday, the SC stayed their release till September 1. It also criticised the chief minister and law minister for their hasty actions.

Are you under pressure from the Karnataka government or anyone else to withdraw your case from the SC?

Yes, I am under pressure from some lobbies. I have received anonymous calls and veiled threats. But I will not withdraw my case at any cost. I was once a no-nonsense police officer and am quite used to withstanding all kinds of pressure in the pursuit of my convictions. I have been given two policemen as security by the Mysore police chief and Garuda police vehicles patrol our area continuously.

Has anybody tried to bribe you to withdraw the case?

Certainly not! They know that if they try anything like that they will find themselves behind bars immediately.

Has this battle cost you a lot financially?

Of course. I have taken loans of thousands of rupees over the past few months, as I am not wealthy. But the cause of justice is invaluable, and spending any amount of money on it is not wrong.

Even after this episode in the Veerappan saga ends, if he is not caught, will you pursue your battle against him?

Yes, certainly, right till the very end. I have taken a vow. I am convinced that there is a lot of material evidence on record to get those people guilty for the death of my son Shakeel and superintendent of police Harikrishna convicted. We feel that much evidence seized at that time has been hushed up, because the TADA trials were being conducted in-camera. This turn of events is most helpful as the SC may call for all records, and then it will be difficult for investigating officers in Mysore or anyone else to hush up relevant evidence.

Do you want Veerappan caught? Or do you want justice for your son's death?

Veerappan, the worst criminal of the century, should not continue with his reign of terror for years on end. Also, justice should be administered to all victims of Veerappan other than my son Shakeel. These are my twin aims. Veerappan's blackmail, abduction and guerrilla-type warfare will replace the law of the land.

You have been petitioning the Karnataka government for a job for your younger son. You cannot obviously oppose the government and simultaneously ask for favours?

If there is a choice between justice for Shakeel and a career for my younger son, I will certainly opt for justice for Shakeel and other Veerappan victims. Karnataka owes my younger son a job as part of a compensation package.

The package given to Harikrishna's family was generous: cash, a free bungalow, jobs for his two younger brothers, a gas agency licence for his wife, a site for his father at Hubli. We don't grudge this; we are glad about it. But why should our small request for a job on compassionate grounds be a major issue?

When I made a representation to chief minister S M Krishna some months back, he replied that it was "the duty of the State to safeguard the interests of families who sacrificed their lives for the State." Then, the government said that the rules did not permit providing a job to a victim's brother, but only to a spouse or child. Should Shakeel's family be penalised because Shakeel vowed to remain a bachelor until he caught Veerappan?

And what about Harikrishna's brothers?

Are you facing social opprobrium in Mysore because you seem to be delaying Rajakumar's release by Veerappan?

No, I am getting many calls and visitors are expressing appreciation for my courage in taking this stand all alone. The two issues are entirely independent. The release of Rajakumar from Veerappan's clutches is an issue independent of the cause of justice to his victims.

Besides, the government that makes official promises to victims' families and then breaks them so easily, need not feel compelled to keep its promises to a brigand.

What if your battle is in vain?

I am prepared for that eventuality. I believe firmly that there is divine justice above everyone in this world. If legal justice cannot bring Veerappan and his henchmen to book, divine justice will punish not only Veerappan and his gang but all his political, business and police patrons.

The Rediff Interviews

The Rajakumar Abduction: complete coverage
The saga of Veerappan

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