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July 31, 2000
Karnataka braces for long haul with Veerappan
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
The Karnataka government on Monday night geared up for a long-drawn battle of nerves with forest brigand Veerappan. Negotiating the safe release of 72-year-old Kannada matinee idol Dr Rajakumar, who is held captive by the outlaw in the forests of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, is going to be no easy task. Dr Rajakumar was kidnapped from his farmhouse in Gajannur, his native village, on the border of both the states.
Day-long consultations included Chief Minister S M Krishna's air dash to Madras for an emergency meeting with his Tamil Nadu counterpart M Karunanidhi, an all-party meeting in Bangalore followed by a cabinet meeting. The state government is counting on Nakkeekaran editor R Gopal's visit to Veerappan's hideout on Monday night as an emissary of both the states for a breakthrough.
An exhausted Krishna told mediapersons in Bangalore that all-out efforts were being made to secure the safe release of Dr Rajakumar from the clutches of the 56-year-old Veerappan. "We are yet to know what his demands are."
Krishna disclosed that the Special Task Force, set up years ago to catch the bandit, had been directed to halt its combing operations in the MM Hills on both sides of the border to enable the emissary to negotiate with the outlaw.
Meanwhile, the family of Dr Rajakumar, which includes three of his sons who are film actors on their own merit, have appealed to the people of the state to remain calm and maintain peace. The popular cine idol's fans have called for a state-wide bandh on Tuesday in protest against the kidnapping and the failure of the state police to prevent it.
Dr Rajakumar's wife, Parvathamma, who was with her husband when Veerappan sneaked into their farmhouse on Sunday night to take him hostage along with three others, has also urged the people of Karnataka to avoid precipitating the situation and playing into the hands of anti-social elements.
Parvathamma gave a blow-by-blow account of the shocking incident at the all-party meeting convened by the chief minister, but did not disclose the contents of the audio tape that Veerappan gave her to be delivered to the state authorities. The cassette is learnt to have directed the state government to rush an emissary for negotiating Dr Rajakumar's release.
In a related development, the state police has pressed into service 28 companies of the State Reserve Police, 24 companies of the city armed constabulary and one company of the Rapid Action Force across the state as well as in Bangalore to counter any disturbances on Tuesday.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Ajay Kumar Singh said the state remained, by and large, peaceful though a spontaneous bandh was observed in many cities and towns.
One incident of stabbing was reported from the city. Thought the police said it was unrelated to the violence in protest against the kidnapping of Dr Rajakumar people in the locality claimed that the victim was stabbed by lumpen elements who took to the streets as news of the actor's kidnapping spread.
Kannada filmdom has also called for a ban on screening of films across the state till the state government secured the release of the super star.
Dr Rajakumar's fans are spearheading the protests. Schools and colleges have been ordered to remain closed on Tuesday. Home ministry officials said a decision on extending the closure would be taken after watching the situation during the bandh.
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