November 25, 2002


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The Rediff Interview/C Dinakar

'It was wrong of the Karnataka government to pay so much money to Veerappan'

The board outside his house in Bangalore simply reads: C Dinakar, Advocate. A blue police van is parked just outside the gate. Sitting inside are a few constables.

The house is actually about 20 blocks or so away from the home of Bhanumathy, the mysterious granite quarry businesswoman who Kannada superstar Rajakumar once described as the goddess who helped rescue him from jungle bandit Veerappan.

Rajakumar was abducted by Veerappan two years ago when C Dinakar was Karnataka's director general of police. The incident occurred shortly before Dinakar retired from service. Dinakar had then promised to tell the true story of Rajakumar's release and the amount of ransom paid after his retirement. Now, when Veerappan already has his next victim, H Nagappa, in captivity, Dinakar has released his book titled -- Veerappan's Prize Catch: Rajkumar.

The scene inside Dinakar's house is chaotic, with passers-by walking in and demanding copies of his book, which is yet to hit the bookshops. Dinakar's overworked secretary sits with books piled high on her table, issuing books and receipts. "We didn't want to get into selling this book, but we have so many visitors asking for copies and feeling very upset that we did not have them on offer," she explains, looking harried.

Television crews and other journalists wait patiently for Dinakar to emerge. He soon does, dressed neatly in a blue suit and red tie, smelling faintly of an aftershave. Excerpts from his interview with M D Riti:

What inspired you to write this book just now?

People at the helm of affairs seldom speak the truth. If you go to any government office, you will find our national motto, Satyameva Jayate, written there. But people sitting in those offices hardly ever follow that principle. I believe India is a great country and Indian democracy has come so far because of the culture of our people. So they deserve to know the truth. Apart from that, my inspiration for everything I do comes from God!

Why did you time it for release just now, when there is so much concern over Nagappa's captivity with Veerappan?

I finished this book on July 27, and also signed the agreement with the publisher on that day in Delhi. On that day, Nagappa was comfortably at home. He was abducted in August.

Why did Veerappan abduct Rajakumar?

For the money, that's all. He also had some other demands, of course.

And Nagappa now? Is that for money too?

No, he kidnapped Nagappa because he had some old score to settle with him and the demands he had made of the Karnataka government when he kidnapped Rajakumar have still not been fulfilled. They only paid Veerappan the ransom at that time.

Veerappan seems to have a lot of angst about the Karnataka police. He considers them responsible for the death of both his brother Arjunan and his sister Mari. What is your take on the truth behind those allegations? (Arjunan was found dead by cyanide poisoning inside a police van, which was bringing him to court in Mysore. The Karnataka police labelled it a suicide.)

I will not say that Arjunan was killed or murdered. But I do say that there was absolutely no reason why he should have committed suicide with a cyanide pill at that precise juncture. Likewise, Mari was a nursing aid in Karnataka. She became pregnant and committed suicide. Veerappan holds a senior police officer in Karnataka at that time responsible for her pregnancy.

Why have the police and government not succeeded in tracking down Veerappan and arresting him after trying to do so for over a decade now?

Simply because the government has not appointed the right police officers for this job. If they had done so, we could have caught him long back. Secondly, the forest terrain he is in makes this very difficult. There are so many elevations. Still, if we try sincerely, we can catch him even now. Many times, good officers who volunteered to hunt him down were not taken for that task. I did too, once, and was turned down. I am a bold person, I might have been able to do it.

Many good police officers have tried to hunt him down. Why have they not been successful?

After a police officer has served for about 30 years, he might not be able to hunt a bandit through the thick jungles. You need to be young and strong to attempt this kind of task. Besides, our police constables are so badly outfitted and equipped to attempt this kind of hunt. The first time I went on the Veerappan hunt, more than a decade ago, I saw constables there who did not even have shoes to walk through those forests. How do you expect them to hunt someone down in a forest, barefoot?

In your opinion, have police officers hunted Veerappan with zeal and commitment?

Yes, of course they have, at great personal risk. Shankar Bidri, for example, who headed the Special Task Force for a while, was attacked and almost killed by Veerappan once. His bodyguard was actually killed at that time. He escaped by sheer luck. This is bound to affect a man psychologically.

I asked Bidri to rejoin the STF when Rajakumar was kidnapped. But he turned around and asked me -- when I worked so hard and arrested Veerappan's associates and almost caught him too, the government wants to withdraw the TADA [Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act] cases and accuses me of atrocities. How would I feel like going back into this hunt again?

There was nothing I could say to him!

Could Rajakumar have been saved without paying the ransom?

That is now a hypothetical question. But I have always held that it was wrong for the government to pay so much money. It was the taxpayer's money that was paid, after all.

You must have handled many controversial cases in your career as a police officer. Why did you pick this one out to write a book about? Because it was the only one that was so saleable?

This was a unique case. Veerappan is not an ordinary criminal. You know all the crimes he has committed. I had made a commitment to the people of Karnataka through the media that I would write a book telling them the truth of what had happened in this case.

Do you stand by all that you have said in your book, about the ransom paid, the people involved in the negotiations, and the whole murky process?

Even in the days before tape recorders came into existence, I always stood by my statements. I absolutely stand by every statement I have made in my book.

If you felt at that time that it was wrong for the government to pay so much money [Dinakar alleges that Rs 20 crore was paid] for the release of one victim of Veerappan, why did you not say so? Or resign and make your stand public?

I think it would have been defeatist for me to have resigned at that juncture. If a leader is arrested, should a fan of his commit suicide, or stay alive to fight for his principles? I always believe in staying on and fighting for whatever I believe in. Yes, I was never a party to the ransom paid. I objected on every occasion.

Even when there was a demand that the TADA section should be deleted from the cases filed against Veerappan and his associates, I filed a report in which I said that it should not be deleted. Why should I have resigned at that time? I did my duty and made my opinion known. If the leadership does not agree with my advice, why should I quit my job for that? I chose to face the problem this way, rather than run away from it.

Did Krishna actually speak to Veerappan twice on the cell phone?

Yes, he did. I have even given the dates in my book.

Why was it that you only heard about the abduction from Chief Minister S M Krishna in the early hours of the morning, as you say in your book? Should you not have learnt about it from your own police intelligence before that?

Well, for one thing, the kidnap occurred in Tamil Nadu, not in Karnataka, where I was the director general of police. Secondly, Parvathamma [wife of Rajakumar] called her son Raghavendra from a telephone on the way to Bangalore from Doddagajanur, and he rushed to the chief minister's residence to inform him. Then, I was called. It often happens that the chief minister, as the democratically elected leader of the people, comes to know many things that have happened before the police do.

Are you now afraid because you have taken on a lot of powerful people? Politicians, film stars, even crooks.

I am not afraid. Fear is unknown to me.

Why have you sought police protection from the governor then?

If an elephant comes charging at you, you do not simply stand still and wait for it to mow you down, right? You take precautions. Don't we get into a net even to avoid mosquitoes? Krishna had withdrawn protection given to me earlier, but I was not perturbed. After all, the life expectancy in our country is only 60 years, and I do not mind now how I die, whether peacefully or violently.

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