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Court okays dropping of terrorism cases

Rajkumar: now Veerappan's hostage A court allowed Karnataka to withdraw cases against 51 people, alleged to be Veerappan's supporters.

Abdul Kareem, retired superintendent of police, whose son Shakeel Ahmed was killed by Veerappan in 1992, filed objections against the government's decision. Kareem says in his petition that dropping these terrorism cases renders meaningless the sacrifices of brave policemen. Veerappan killed Shakeel Ahmed, a police sub-inspector, in an ambush in 1992.

The 51 charged with helping Veerappan can now seek bail, which the Karnataka government will not oppose.

With this major demand met, the Karnataka government hopes Veerappan will release Dr Rajkumar. The film star was kidnapped on July 30.

Nakkeeran editor R Gopal is back in the forests, carrying the government's response to Veerappan's demands. Word is expected through him this weekend, or Monday.

Earlier this week, Defence Minister George Fernandes dismissed the idea of sending the army to catch Veerappan, saying it was the duty of the police to find him. The army's duty is to guard the nation's frontiers, he told reporters in Delhi.

One of the kidnapper's demands is that the Cauvery dispute be taken out of the Supreme Court and referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Holland. Krishna has compiled papers to prove that the government is serious about Veerappan's other demands, but replied that the international court could be approached only for disputes between nations, and not between states within a nation.

Rajkumar says in a cassette received last week that he is being given food in time, and that he is all right.

One photograph, printed in many eveningers, shows Gopal chatting with the kidnapped star and the three other hostages. On his return, Gopal said Veerappan had tersely dismissed the idea that Rajkumar be released. Some TV channels also showed footage of Rajkumar and three others with Veerappan's men.

The Karnataka government has withdrawn policemen and guards from its checkposts.

An increasingly nervous Krishna held a meeting with writers and activists last Tuesday to discuss many issues, including the star's anticipated return.

Veerappan had demanded that cases against his men be withdrawn, the Cauvery tribunal's interim award implemented, compensation paid to victims of the 1992 Cauvery riots, Tamil made the second official language in Karnataka, and a statue of Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar installed prominently in Bangalore.

Veerappan has sought nothing for himself, but his 10 demands indicate that he is fashioning a political future for himself.

He seeks 'adequate compensation' for victims of the 1991 Cauvery riots in Bangalore and urges Karnataka to let the Justice Sadashiva Commission, instituted to look into allegations of atrocities on villagers by the anti-Veerappan special task forces, complete its inquiry. The government had brought a stay on the commission's work, and Krishna has now agreed to get it vacated.

Veerappan also wants tea procurement price increased to solve the crisis in the industry.

The Karnataka government has accepted the main demands, and said it was examining 10,000 compensation claims for Cauvery riot victims. A Tiruvalluvar statue will be installed in Bangalore, and a statue of Sarvajna, the Kannada poet who wrote aphorisms, will be installed in Chennai.

Rajkumar's wife Parvathamma, and sons Raghavendra, Shivaraj and Puneeth had recorded appeals in Tamil, which were broadcast from All India Radio stations in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

They had sought Rajkumar's safe return, and urged the actor in Kannada to take his medicines in time. Rajkumar has knee ache and high blood pressure, and was coughing at the time of his kidnapping.

Gopal: editor with a mission R Gopal, who has been acting as an emissary of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments, is also the publisher of Veerappan's autobiography, and had earlier established links with him and negotiated on behalf of the Tamil Nadu government.

Karnataka has announced that all police operations against Veerappan have been called off. The Kannada film industry had organised a non-stop bhajan session to pray for Rajkumar's release. Music composer Hamsalekha led the choral singing. But heckling fans put an end to it and urged the stars to take out a procession.

Rajkumar practises yoga, and is in reasonably good health. Veerappan is rumoured to walk up to 25 k.m. a day to ensure that his whereabouts are not known. "That's not true. He didn't walk us around too much," says wildlife photographer Krupakar, who was kidnapped and released by Veerappan five years ago. Pustaka Prakashana, run by the Kannada writer Poornachandra Tejasvi, has published an account of Krupakar's encounter with Veerappan.

Tamil superstar Rajnikanth and Kannada actor Ambarish declared their willingness to negotiate Rajkumar's release, but the government hasn't heeded their offer.

A newspaper reported that a man who refused to stop his vehicle when flagged down by protesters was stabbed to death on Monday in Bangalore.

Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan kidnapped Rajkumar late Sunday night. Monday was a tense day in Bangalore, with fans stoning buses, and traffic coming to a standstill in most areas. They also set up road blocks, smashed windshields of vehicles, deflated tyres, and burnt effigies of Veerappan.

S M Krishna, Karnataka chief minister, airdashed to Chennai and discussed strategy with his Tamil Nadu counterpart, M Karunanidhi. They announced later that R Gopal, who edits the Tamil magazine Nakkeeran, would be sent as an emissary to Veerappan. Gopal had earlier managed to get exclusive footage of Veerappan, and published interviews with him in his magazine.

Veerappan and a dozen armed men raided the farm house of the charismatic actor in Gajanur, on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. Rajkumar had just finished dinner and was watching television when the gang, armed with guns, barged in and asked him to go with them. "I asked them why they wanted to take him away, what wrong he had done. But my husband said he would go with them," Parvathamma Rajkumar told reporters on Monday.

Veerappan reportedly told Parvathamma that he would look after Rajkumar well. "He was respectful," she said. Veerappan operates in the dense forests around Kollegal, and has eluded the police for over a decade.

Veerappan has sent an audio cassette with a list of demands. The government has not disclosed the demands.

People took out huge processions in Bangalore, shouting slogans in support of the singing star. Rajkumar, who has acted in over 200 films and won Indian cinema's highest award, recently returned to acting after a gap of six years. His latest film, Shabdavedi, is now running in theatres across Karnataka.

Veerappan is known to have murdered over a hundred people, including prominent policemen and forest officers. A task force -- set up in 1992 and camping in the Male Madeshwara Hill forest region -- has had no success in trapping him, or in ending his reign of terror.

The kidnap was discussed in Parliament also, and the national media interviewed people known to the star, like actress Jayaprada, and director Dasari Narayana Rao, both of whom are also MPs. Kamala Hasan spoke on yet another channel, praising Rajkumar's dedication. "For him, work is puja... I salute his simplicity," Kamala Hasan said.

"For all his popularity, he is a very simple man," Jayaprada told a Hindi channel. She blamed the State government for not giving him protection.

Quick links:

Rajkumar's rich musicscape: The Music Magazine's review of the Legends collection

The Music Magazine's review of the music of Jungle, Ram Gopal Verma's film inspired by the Veerappan saga

Dr Rajkumar filmography created by A Dhareshwar

Dr Rajkumar official home page in English and Kannada

Hobby fansite created by Aravind

Profiles and photo gallery at Chitraloka, a new Kannada film site launched by photo-journalist K M Veeresh

Economic and Political Weekly review of Veerappan's autobiography

The Veerappan mythology: a rejoinder to the EPW review

India Today 1997 article on the Veerappan hunt

Rediff interview with R Gopal, editor of Nakkeeran

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