June 11, 2001


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Fresh doubts over Dawaram's choice

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

Fresh doubts have been raised over the choice of W I Dawaram, a retired Director General of Police, to head the Special Task Force, to nab forest brigand Veerappan.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha, after speaking to her Karnataka counterpart S M Krishna, on reviving the twin-state bid to nab Veerappan, had decided on a high-level administrative meeting in Madras.

Jayalalitha's declared on Monday that Dawaram would head the joint STF of police forces from the two states.

"No one questions the competence of Dawaram, after his dare-devil escapades against Naxalites in Dharmapuri district in the early eighties," said a source.

"If anything, his heading the STF could be used to revive anti-Naxalite operations simultaneously in the district, where Veerappan wanders occasionally, and where militants too have resumed visits in the last few years. But it is about the morale of other senior officials in the state police, who wonder if they are incompetent to handle the job, as a retired official had to be called in to head the anti-Veerappan operations."

Inspector-General of Police K Vijayakumar has also been recalled to head the anti-Veerappan operations under Dawaram.

"Both are known to be close to the chief minister, even when she was out of power. Both also issued public statements, offering their services to nab Veerappan at the height of the Rajakumar abduction, thus embarrassing the DMK government.

''Their appointments have assumed political tones, rather than displaying professionalism. This does no good to their own competence as professionals."

According to the source, the sidelining of Additional Director-General of Police A X Alexander, who informally headed negotiations for Rajakumar's release up to a point, and public statements about the STF possibly questioning the negotiators and intermediaries do not augur well, at this stage.

A competent and sincere officer who had served both the DMK and the first Jayalalitha government as state intelligence chief, Alexander has been shunted out of Madras, to head operations at a Sri Lankan refugee camp at Mandapam, where he will be assisted by a sub-inspector.

While this has demoralised other sincere officers, any interrogation of the intermediaries would only help politicise the Rajakumar release, without providing tips for nabbing Veerappan, it was argued.

The association of Dawaram and Vijayakumar to earlier attempts of the first Jayalalitha government to nab Veerappan are cited as a good cause for their reinduction. "That way, every other official in the state police seems to have been inducted into the failed operations of the past two decades," said the source.

"However, it should be said to Dawaram's credit that the strength of the Veerappan gang was drastically reduced, under his stewardship of the STF."

Simultaneously, though, questions are being raised about the public support that the Dawaram leadership could garner in 'Veerappan country'. "Intelligence is the key to the success of any mission of the type, and locals haven't forgotten what they term the harassment of Dawaram's boys," said the source.

As he pointed out, "Even the committee appointed by the National Human Rights Commission found validity in complaints in this regard."

The sources also referred to the public statement of Tamil Nationalist Movement leader Pazha Nedumaran, the key player in the Rajakumar release, after middle-of-the-road journalist-negotiator and Nakkeeran editor R Gopal had hit a dead end after an initial breakthrough.

Nedumaran had referred to the two state governments' promise to earmark Rs 10 crore for the rehabilitation of victims of STF excesses, as demanded by the brigand. "The first Dawaram-led STF was charged with excesses," said Nedumaran, referring to the promise of the state governments to rehabilitate victims, as identified by Justice Sadashiva, who was appointed by the NHRC."

Some bureaucrats are also said to be anxious about the possibility of Veerappan `striking in his own way', in a way responding to Dawaram's appointment.

As intermediaries in the Rajakumar release reported, Veerappan had developed a hatred for Dawaram, "which could now take the shape of yet another VVIP abduction, where the brigand chooses not only the target, but also the venue and timing".

As the source pointed out, "Through the Rajakumar abduction, Veerappan displayed not only his willingness and willpower to wait out the negotiation period dragging up to 100 days, but also showed no signs of weakness. There were just no chinks in his armour, and the two state governments, with the blessings of the Centre, could do precious little to alter the course of events. They played out the script that Veerappan and his new-found Tamil militants had written, whatever that ultimately be."

All this, the source pointed out, "does not mean that anyone is condoning Veerappan's activities, or his association with Tamil militants, who could be more dangerous than the brigand himself, given the long-term national interests. But handling him requires not just determination and courage, but political maturity of the highest kind. A political veteran like M Karunanidhi found it out to his own peril after the Rajakumar abduction, and so did Jayalalitha during her first innings as chief minister, when Veerappan first resorted to abductions-and-freedom, on his terms."

"While Dawaram can claim with pride his efforts in reducing Veerappan's strength, the brigand hit back by giving a militant-political angle to his activities. This needs to be borne in mind while handling the Veerappan issue."

You may also want to see
The Complete Coverage: The Rajakumar Abduction

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