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Veerappan as `Robin Hood'

By Suresh Nambath



P. Nedumaran, `Nakkheeran' Gopal, Rajkumar, Kalyani, Sukumaran, Veerappan and Sethukuzhi Govindan (partially seen) at the brigand's hideout during a failed mission to seek the release of the Kannada actor.

CHENNAI, OCT. 19. Although he started off as a petty criminal, in later years, under the limelight, Veerappan saw himself as Robin Hood. In this he was helped along by two organisations: the Tamil National Retrieval Troops (TNRT) and the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA). Both of them are now banned.

The TNRT was but a front for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Tamil Nadu. The TNLA was a naxalite outfit with links to People's War. Leaders of both were on the run, and they found the jungle, in the company of Veerappan, a safe hideout. While kidnapping for ransom was the brigand's only motive, the links with the TNRT and the TNLA provided him with an ideological camouflage.

Political demands

Thus it was that after kidnapping the Kannada film star, Rajkumar, Veerappan, along with the TNRT and the TNLA, raised a host of political demands. These included justice for Tamil Nadu in the Cauvery issue, making Tamil the medium of instruction and measures to uplift the poor. Another demand was the freeing of Tamil extremists in prison.

In contrast to the demands aimed at self-aggrandisement that marked his early phase, Veerappan was now talking of Che Guevara and of changing the world. But, charges of money changing hands hung over the negotiations.

One of the people responsible for allying Veerappan with the Tamil extremists was T.S. Mani, an LTTE supporter, who, like the brigand, hails from Kolathur in Tamil Nadu. Mr. Mani, who was sympathetic to the TNRT cause, and who knew Veerappan from his days as a small-time poacher, was instrumental in the appointment of another pro-LTTE leader, P. Nedumaran of the Tamil Nationalist Movement, as the emissary to negotiate the release of Rajkumar. Other pro-LTTE elements in Karnataka also visited Veerappan during this period.

However, after the release of Rajkumar, when the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka revived the Special Task Force operations against Veerappan, the Tamil extremists moved out of the forest. The police later apprehended many of them.

Once he came under pressure from the STF, Veerappan preferred to move in a small group.

Monetary help

The Robin Hood image that some of the villagers had of Veerappan was largely on account of the monetary help he gave them in return for food stuff. As his contacts with the outside world increased, so did his interaction with the villagers. The atrocities committed by some of the STF personnel, seeking to extract information from the villagers, cast Veerappan in a good light by default.

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