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July 31, 2000
I will not harm Dr Rajakumar: Veerappan
M D Riti in Bangalore
A city transport bus was burnt in Byatarayanapura on the outskirts of Bangalore on Monday morning as the Garden City gave way to panic following the abduction of Kannada movie superstar and Dadasaheb Phalke award winner Dr Rajakumar by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. Heavy crowds have gathered outside Rajakumar's home in the city, and outside the state assembly, the Vidhana Soudha.
Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna has announced the closure of schools and colleges in the state on Monday.
Dr Rajakumar commands great influence in Karnataka and any incident affecting him can bring the state to a standstill. Some time ago, a rumour that he had suffered a stroke shut down Bangalore almost instantly.
The actor had gone to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh along with producer Rockline Venkatesh, Kannada star Jaggesh, son-in-law S A Govindraj, his son's father-in-law Nagesh and others. While he left behind his personal bodyguard, the group was accompanied by Govindraj's security guard.
On the way back, Rajakumar stopped over at Gajanur on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border where the superstar owns two houses. He had performed grihapravesh (house warming ceremony) at his new bungalow a month ago, and went there to inspect its furnishing. His companions here were his wife Parvathamma, Govindraj, Nagesh, and Nagraj, an aspiring director. All the men were also abducted by the brigand.
On Sunday night all had dinner together, after which a barefoot Rajakumar, in his usual attire, an old dhoti and shirt, and Parvathamma, were watching television when Veerappan and his men pulled up outside. The family estimates that some 13 men walked into the house, and that barring Veerappan all of them were heavily armed.
When Veerappan, who hails from the same Mysore taluk as the matinee idol, asked him to come outside, the actor quietly walked out of his home and asked his bodyguards not to intervene. He also told his family not to do anything. Family members say Veerappan and his men were most deferential towards the superstar, and assured them that no harm will come to him.
Outside, Rajakumar realised that he had forgotten his spectacles in the house and wanted to go back inside to get them, but Veerappan offered to get them himself. Inside, he handed over a cassette to Parvathamma and asked her to hand it over to Chief Minister Krishna.
"Please do not worry, we assure you we will never harm Dr Rajakumar but we have some serious demands from both the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments . We are compelled to use these means to make ourselves heard," Veerappan told Parvathamma. Dr Rajakumar seemed unruffled at all this and they left the house. Parvathamma left for Bangalore at once.
On the way, she stopped in Mysore at around 0030 hours and went to the Yoga Narasimha temple run by astrologer-mystic Bashyam Swamy. She is reported to have asked him about her husband's fate. The Swami reportedly replied that "no danger is indicated," although he was unable to specifically state when Dr Rajakumar would be released.
Sources say Veerappan has demanded Rs 2.5 crores (Rs 25 million) as ransom and amnesty in all the cases registered against him, but there is no confirmation of this. While no one is willing to reveal the demands, it is learnt that the sandalwood smuggler wants the Karnataka government to meet with him.
By evening it is expected that Krishna, Parvathamma, and Rajakumar's second son Raghavendra will leave for Madras to pursue the matter further.
The superstar's family reveals that for a year now they have encountered repeated threats from Veerappan, after which he went around with heavy security for a while, but when nothing happened he gave it up.
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