Monday, October 4, 2010

VEERAPPAN: KING OF THE JUNGLE








I came across the story of VEERAPPAN, THE FOREST BRIGAND, THE BANDIT KING, the outlaw bandit who for decades roamed the jungles of remote India poaching elephants and competing with the government for the harvest of Sandlewood. Along the way dispatching hundreds, many government workers and law enforcement, to an early grave.
And I came across this story by another blogger when looking for pictures here http://iaminsearchoflight.blogspot.com/2010/01/great-indian-robin-hood.html who lives in that region and to him VEERAPPAN is more of a hero Robin Hood type. The bloggers name is Stephen Sunny Sheesen and he lives in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, which is one of the states where VEERAPPAN was really King of the Jungle for decades. And I give full credit to Mr. Sheesen for that great title idea.

I like history, and don't think I'm glorifying anyone who would kill a lawman. But his life, and the circumstances of his life, and those who pursued him and those he pursued, are a lot fuzzier in the light of the locale where his life and times took place. Nonetheless, hero or villain, his is a highly interesting story in these days of nothing interesting. You wouldn't think anyone would be able to live the rogue life like this guy did for so long, but it goes to show the standard American Joe like me not thinking about the truly wild and somewhat lawless parts of the world that still exist.

This story comes from a place where the tiger and elephant roam the jungles. The places in India where these exploits took place, in a broad swath of land covering 6,000 km² in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, are hardly the kind of places we hear about everyday, unlike Afghanistan or many obscure places in Africa with strife, suffering, poverty and rampant warfare and violence. I figured places like this existed but frankly, despite being the spouse of a rampant world traveler and somewhat knowledgeable about current international events and different parts of the world.

Killed in 2004, the web has lots of disjointed information without attribution, and of course this is exactly the stuff of legends. But even the most diligent effort by the New York Times leaves a lot of questions about this guy unanswered. For instance, if you live in abject poverty and the government and it's workers do not, is it not unlike the American immigration and Revolution to rebel against a government not of the people? If things get wildly brutal as they go along because there is no uncorrupted justice systems, and the ever present politics, are you as bad morally as a man who is in a so-called "civilized" country doing the same things?
Let me present it this way perhaps, as if I were his defense lawyer. Regardless of what kind of outlaw he became, he never did get justice before a jury of his peers.
We have a jungle area that covers three administrative States, probably set up by some British bureaucrat in India two hundred years ago or so, not taking into account various tribes and local politics. In doing so, as per the caste system of India, those who have get and those who don't have don't get much. So here you have a fellow raised in the traditions of his people, stemming back hundreds if not thousands of years.
And like many parts of the world, the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Living in the jungle, I suspect there were few if any benefits of any sort coming from the national government of India, and I'm pretty sure there are millions of starving folks in India and well as numerous political, terrorist and Kashmir conflicts that make this tiny corner of India look pretty insignificant to those ruling India, and indeed, to the rest of the world.
I would submit that two circumstances of VEERAPPAN's life bear close examination. First, The apparent spark of VEERAPPAN vs. GOLIATH, the death of his sister, and later his brother, which he attributed to police torture and both setting forth bloodbaths of violence, with the police and government employees mostly on the receiving end of all that. It would be enlightening to have some different perspectives on these events, particularly from the point of view of VEERAPPAN.
Secondly, the circumstances of his death are interesting. On the site above, there is a picture of VEERAPPAN's corpse. Single bullet hole to the forehead, and his lifelong trademark HUGE moustache down to a mere shadow of it's former self. I didn't post that picture here, but if he was killed in a Bonnie and Clyde style ambush, riding in the back of an ambulance as claimed by authorities, why wasn't he riddled with automatic fire? From what I've read about VEERAPPAN life and times, if fired upon, he'd fire back, and he didn't seem the sort to go around without a firearm or two.
His exploits are far more detailed in the available English language news media of that part of the world. He's like a Bonnie and Clyde that got caught once but quickly escaped and then unleashed a brutal homicidal attack on police and some citizens that lasted for decades. And couldn't be caught for the longest time.


One thing is for sure. Whatever Veerappan set out to be, by the mid-eighties had become a homicidal maniac killer, and quickly lost the Robin Hood ingenue he created for himself in the beginning. The New York Times Obit features some wider range on his age, from 50 and 60 at the time of his death, while most Indian media outlets put his age at 53 or so. Likewise, many of the obituary accounts I read in Indian media said he killed his first elephant at 10, whislt the Times say it was age 14. Wiki says he would have been 52.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/26/magazine/26VEERAPPAN.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

No doubt he did some good for the villagers in his broad territory, hopefully more good than bad. Probably more than the government.

But here's a clip of his story from Wiki. It makes you wonder what the real story is, as there are always two sides to every story, and sometimes more than that.

Veerappan
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veerappan


Koose Muniswamy Veerappan

Born
January 18, 1952(1952-01-18)

Died
October 18, 2004

Alias(es)
Veerappan

Occupation
Elephant poacherSandalwood smuggler

Spouse
Muthulakshmi

Children
3

Koose Muniswamy Veerappan (
Tamil: கூஸ் முனிசாமி வீரப்பன், Kannada: ಕೂಸ್ ಮುನಿಸ್ವಾಮೀ ವೀರಪ್ಪನ್ ಗೌಂದೆರ್,

January 18, 1952 – October 18, 2004) commonly known as Veerappan, was a notorious dacoit, or robber bandit, of India. He was active for a period of years in a broad swath of land covering 6,000 km² in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He long defied three state governments and Indian Border security paramilitary forces, maintaining at one point a small army numbering in the hundreds.


He was wanted for killing approximately 184 people,[1] including senior police and forest officials, poaching about 200 elephants, and smuggling ivory worth US$2,600,000 and sandalwood of about 10,000 tonnes worth US$22,000,000. He had a price of Rs. 50 million (Rs. 5 crore or US$1.1 million) on his head, but evaded arrest for 20 years until he was killed by police in 2004.[2]

Early years
Koose Muniswamy Veerappan, alias Veerappan, was born at 08:17 hrs (IST) on January 18, 1952 in
Gopinatham village in Karnataka to a family of cattle-grazers. He was commonly known as "Molakai" in his childhood days by the locals.


His gang of forty members indulged in killing and kidnapping, taking revenge[citation needed] for what government officials had done to the local people who lived near the forest. Most of his victims were police, forest officials, informers and movie stars. He felt the police were responsible for the suicides of his sister Mala and brother Arjunan. He was also known for his kidnapping of prominent people for ransoming, starting with a forest official in 1987. He trapped and brutally killed senior Indian Forest Service [IFS] officer Pandillapalli Srinivas on November 10, 1991 in the Namadalli forests of Kollegal taluk in Chamarajanagr district. He also killed Harikrishna IPS, senior police officer, Shakeel Ahmed, along with others on August 14, 1992 near Meenyam of Kollegal taluk by ambushing the police party in a raid.


He married Muthulakshmi, in 1991. He had three daughters Yuvarani,Prabha and another.

Robin Hood image
Veerappan had a
Robin Hood-like image as a social bandit among some villagers adjoining his native village Gopinatham.[3] Sympathetic villagers are said to have covered for him and kept him informed of police activity. They also provided food and clothing to the gang. However, the villagers said they helped him out of fear of reprisal, and that Veerappan helped the villagers with money only to protect himself from being captured. Veerappan is known for being ruthless to villagers who provided the police with information.


Special task force
In 1990, the Karnataka government formed a Special Task Force to capture him and put an end to the menace. Soon after, the task force captured several of Veerappan's men. In February 1992, the special task force killed his lieutenant
Gurunathan. SI Shakeel Ahmed was single-handedly responsible for Gurunathan's capture. Three months later, Veerappan attacked the Ramapura police station of Kollegal taluk in the Chamarajanagar district, killing several policemen and capturing arms and ammunition. In August 1992, Veerappan laid a trap for SP Harikrishna and SI Shakeel Ahmed and killed them along with four others. In 1993, the task force arrested his wife Muthulakshmi.

Indian actor Dr. Rajkumar was kidnapped by Veerappan in 2000. He was held for more than 100 days before his eventual release.

On February 17, 1996, he ambushed a team of Tamil Nadu STF personnel from a high ground while they were on their patrol vehicle. The police were able to counter attack and called for backup. The ambush which took place in the evening claimed the life of a Police Constable named Selvaraj from Madurai and seriously injured other police officers including Police officer Tamilselvan. By the time the Karnataka police arrived the bandit and his crew had fled.
A little over a year later, on July 12, 1997, he kidnapped nine forest officials at a place called Marapala in the Burude forests of Kollegala taluk,
Chamarajanagara district. He made demands for releasing them, including amnesty, but none were met. The hostages were released without being harmed in the last week of August the same year.

On July 30, 2000, Veerappan kidnapped the famed southern Indian film star Rajkumar.[4] This placed the Karnataka government in a political dilemma of whether or not to call in the army. The decision was that to do so would set a poor precedent. Thus, Rajkumar was held for 109 days and was finally released without harm on November 15, 2000. There were allegations by several people that about 500,000,000 rupees were paid to Veerappan for the safe release.[5] A police official later suggested that 300,000,000 rupees ($6.5m) had been paid for his release.[4]

On August 25, 2002, Veerappan abducted H. Nagappa, a former state minister. Nagappa was found dead in the forest three months later. The reward offered by the Karnataka state government was increased to 50,000,000 rupees (US $1.25 million at that time.

Religion
Veerappan attended the
Bannari Amman Kovil temple regularly and was known to be a strong devotee to Kali, a Goddess in Hinduism. It is also said that he built a Kali temple. Veerappan belonged to the Vanniar caste. Some people of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which is based on that Vanniar caste, hoisted a half-mast flag of their party on the death of Veerappan.

Death
On October 18, 2004, following a tip-off, Veerappan and his two associates were allegedly killed after being arrested by the
Tamil Nadu State Special Task Force, near the village of Papparapatti in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu.[6] Veerappan's wife claimed that he had been arrested a few days earlier, interrogated and killed by the police (Veerappan had repeatedly threatened, if ever brought to trial, to point a finger at every policeman and politician he had bribed to ensure his three-decade long run from justice).


According to media reports, postmortem photos of Veerappan with a bullet hole above his left eye seemed to contradict the official story that the STF, lying in ambush, stopped the ambulance Veerappan and his gang was traveling in, offered them surrender and gunned them down when someone from inside the van opened fire.


Veerappan was buried in the village of Moolakadu, Tamil Nadu. The police said they did not let the burial take place in his home village in Karnataka, fearing the large crowds that had gathered there. Although the police had planned for a cremation, this was objected to by the relatives of Veerappan suggesting that exhumation would be required if there was ever a subsequent investigation into his death. Thousands of people turned out for the funeral, while others were kept away from the burial ground by heavy security.[7]

Rumors persist that Veerappan may have stashed vast sums of money and treasure, in secret forest caves, which remain undiscovered.[4]

Timeline
Timeline of Veerappan's activities:
[8]
1970
Joined a gang of poachers.
1986
Arrested and lodged at
Boodipada forest guest house but escaped under mysterious circumstances (reportedly bribed a police officer).
1987
Kidnapped and hacked forest officer Chidambaram. Kidnapped and killed 5 members of a rival gang.
1989
Killed 3 forest personnel of
Begur forest range.
1990
Killed 2 police personnel as revenge for killing of 2 members of his gang.
Killed another 13 police officials of Karnataka. The Karnataka government constitutes
Special Task Force (STF) to catch Veerappan.
Shot and beheaded Karnataka deputy conservator of forests,
Srinivas as revenge for Veerappan's sister Mala's suicide (the victim's head was traced 3 years later)
1992
Attacked a police station in Ramapura, killing thirteen policemen and stealing arms and ammunition. STF killed 2 gang members in retaliation
Trapped STF police official Harikrishna, SI Shakeel Ahmed and 25 constables through a false informant. Killed 29 of the party using
hand grenades and bombs.
1993
Blew up a bus of 43 passengers including police and civilians, using a landmine.
Killed 17 policemen of Karnataka special SP Gopal Hosur's party.
Tamil Nadu government deploys
Border Security Force (BSF)
Joint operations of BSF and STF arrested 9 gang members and killed 6. Three policemen were killed.
Veerappan requested
amnesty. Victim's relatives opposed any government negotiations
1996
Killed a police informer.
Killed another 19 police personnel.
Assassinated police official Tamilselvan and killed a constable as revenge for the suicide of Veerappan's brother
Arjunan in police custody.
1997
The gang kidnapped wildlife
photographers Senani & Krupakar.
Apparently killed heir apparent 'Baby' Veerappan.
Kidnapped and released another photographer Krupakar.
Kidnapped and executed 9 Karnataka Forest officials from Burude forests.
2000
Kidnapped
Kannada film actor Dr. Rajkumar. Released him after 109 days (ransomed).
2002
Kidnapped and allegedly killed former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa. There are other sources, including police of Karnataka who claim that the bullet in the body of the former minister was from a rifle used by the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force (possibly the rifle used was stolen from Tamil Nadu task force).
2004
Killed, presumably by Tamil Nadu State Special Task Force members

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