|Koose Muniswamy Veerappan|
18 January 1952|
|Died||18 October 2004
Papparapatti, Tamil Nadu
|Moolakadu, Tamil Nadu.|
Koose Muniswamy Veerappan (18 January 1952 – 18 October 2004), commonly known as Veerappan or Sandalwood Veerappan, was an Indian bandit (also called a dacoit in India) who was active for years in scrub and forest lands covering about 6,000 km² in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
For over a decade, Veerappan defied the state governments of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Indian Border security paramilitary forces, and even maintained a small army, which at one point numbered hundreds. He was wanted for killing approximately 184 people, about half of whom were police officers, including senior police and forest officials. He was also wanted for poaching about 200 elephants and smuggling ivory worth US$2,600,000 and about 10,000 tonnes of sandalwood worth approximately US$22,000,000.
A reward of 50 million (US$800,000) was offered for Veerappan's capture, yet he evaded arrest for 20 years until he was killed by police in 2004.
Veerappan was born on 18 January 1952, in the Karnataka village of Gopinatham to a Tamil-speaking Vanniyar family of cattle-grazers. He was known as "Molakai" as a child, and suffered from asthma. Veerappan was inspired by Maleyur Mammattiyan, a notorious bandit from Mecheri, Salem district, who was active during the 1950s and 1960s. Mammattiyan was killed in an inter-gang fight and Veerappan's first murder was of Mammattiyan's killer's brother.
Veerappan married Muthulakshmi and is said to have strangled one of their children soon after birth because she was their third successive girl. His wife reportedly appreciated his "notoriety and mustache" and married him because of that. As of 2004, his two other daughters were studying in Tamil Nadu.
Veerappan started as an assistant to his relative Sevi Gounder, a notorious poacher and sandalwood smuggler. His father and relatives, whose village lay in the forest area, were also known to be poachers and smugglers. Veerappan began his career in crime in 1970 and was first arrested in 1972.
Veerappan initially developed as a sandalwood and ivory smuggler, killing elephants for the latter. He later started killing those who resisted his activities. He committed his first murder at the age of 17 and his victims tended to be police officers, forest officials, and informers.
In 1987, Veerappan kidnapped and murdered a forest officer named Chidambaram from Tamil Nadu. This first brought him the Indian Government's attention. Among his well-known killings are a senior IFS officer named Pandillapalli Srinivas in November 1991, and an ambush of a police party including a senior IPS officer, Harikrishna, among others, in August 1992.
Veerappan was not averse to killing civilians, and killed a man from his native village for having once travelled in a police jeep. He regularly killed anyone suspected of being a police informer. Because of political instability, Veerappan could easily escape from one state to another.
In Govindapadi, Mettur, Veerappan killed a Bandari suspected of being a police informer, and a 41-member team of police and forestry officials was called in. On 9 April 1993, a landmine was detonated against the two vehicles this team was travelling in. The blast occurred at Palar, near Malai Mahadeswara Hills, Karnataka, and killed 22 members of the team. Known as the Palar blast, this was his single largest mass killing.
Special Task Force
In 1990, the Karnataka and the Tamil Nadu Governments formed a Special Task Force to catch Veerappan. In February 1992, his lieutenant Gurunathan was killed by the Karnataka task force, with SI Shakeel Ahmed single-handedly responsible for the capture. Three months later, Veerappan attacked the Ramapura police station in the Chamarajanagar district, killing several policemen and capturing arms and ammunition. In August 1992, Veerappan laid a trap for SI Shakeel Ahmed, killing him along with five others. The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Special Task Forces then began intensified combing operations along the two states' border areas and also around Gopinatham village, Veerappan's birthplace.
Through these operations, the combined Special Task Force discovered that Veerappan's gang was down to only five members. Meetings with Gopinatham villagers were held, and the 5-crore bounty was announced.
In 1993, the task force arrested Veerappan's wife, Muthulakshmi, and charged her with aiding, but she was acquitted of all charges.
Kidnap of Rajkumar
On 30 July 2000, Veerappan kidnapped a famous Kannada actor, Rajkumar, and three others from Dodda Gajanur, a village near the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border where the film star was attending a housewarming ceremony. Public outcry and violence ensued in Bangalore as well as other parts of Karnataka. A bandh, or strike, also occurred on 22 September in Bangalore. Karnataka's Chief Minister and police personnel sought the help of Tamil Nadu Government and visited Chennai seeking help. Negotiations were conducted and R. Gopal, an editor of the Tamil magazine Nakkeeran, was involved in several rounds of talks with Veerappan. Gopal had earlier visited Veerappan for similar negotiations, and visited the forest several times for videotaped discussions. Veerappan demanded justice for Tamil Nadu in the Cauvery Water dispute, as well as making Tamil the second official language of Karnataka and the release of certain Tamil extremists jailed in Tamil Nadu. Rajkumar was held for 109 days and finally released without harm in November 2000. A police official later suggested that 300,000,000 rupees ($6.5m) had been paid for his release.
On 25 August 2002, Veerappan abducted H. Nagappa, a former minister of Karnataka, from his village house in Chamarajanagara District. Nagappa was a minister for Agricultural Marketing from 1996 to 1999. The Joint Special task forces of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu worked with the Kerala police to help release Nagappa. An encounter to release him failed, and Nagappa was found dead three months later in a Karnataka forest. The reward offered by the Karnataka state government was then increased to 50,000,000 rupees (US$1.25 million).
For several years during the 1990s, Veerappan kidnapped police officials and other personalities and demanded ransom money. It is believed that ransoms were often unofficially paid. In July 1997, he kidnapped nine forest officials in the Burude forests in Chamarajanagara district. In that case, the hostages were released unharmed a few weeks later even though his ransom demand was not met. It is also believed that Veerappan buried large amounts of money in various parts of the forest, and in 2002 police recovered Rs. 3.3 million from his gang members.
During his later years, Veerappan got political support from Tamil Nationalist Organisations like Pattali Makkal Katchi, a party predominantly of the Venniar caste to which Veerappan belonged. Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi of DMK was a known sympathiser of Veerappan and his aides and demanded the removal of the death penalty for four of Veerappan's aides as soon the sentence was given to them in 2013. Karunanidhi also extended the 31 October 1997 deadline for Veerappan's surrender and postponed STF police action by few days saying, "it is not far too late for Veerappan to surrender". Banned organisations like The Tamil National Retrieval Troups (TNRT) and Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA, a front in Tamil Nadu for LTTE) helped Veerappan to secure a Robin Hood image and to draft terms of negotiations when he kidnapped prominent people. Kolathur Mani, president of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, formerly the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam party, supported Veerappan and was booked by police as an accomplice in several of Veerappan's crimes, including the Palar blast case.
On 18 October 2004, Veerappan and two of his associates were killed by the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force headed by K. Vijay Kumar. The killing happened near the village of Papparapatti in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu. Veerappan and his men were lured into an ambulance by an undercover policeman under the pretext of taking them to Dharmapuri for medical treatment. The Tamil Nadu Special Task Force, which had been observing his movements for several months, surrounded the ambulance, and the gangsters were killed in the ensuing gun battle. The entire operation was named Operation Cocoon and Veerappan's associates Sethukuli Govinda, Chandre Gowda and Sethumani were also killed in the operation. His death was described as the "death of a demon" by The Guardian. The villagers of Gopinatham celebrated with firecrackers on hearing the news. Since Veerappan's death, the village has been promoted as a destination for ecotourism by the Karnataka State Department of Forest and Tourism.
Veerappan was buried at a village named Moolakadu, Tamil Nadu, as his family members were more attached to it and most of his relatives in Gopinatham had left. The police had planned a cremation but decided on a burial after objections from Veerappan's relatives. Thousands of people turned out for the burial, while others were kept away by heavy security.
Timeline of Veerappan's activities:
- 1962: Veerappan’s first crime. He is just 10 when he guns down a tusker with the help of his Guru Sevi Gounder at Gopinatham. Nabs three forest officials and kills them.
- 1970: Joined a gang of poachers.
- 27 August 1983 : Killed K.M.Prithvi, (25) forest guard near Mavukal, Ponnampet, Kodagu, Karnataka when the guard tried to prevent elephant poaching by the gang and he was the first forest official killed by Veerappan.
- 1986: Arrested and lodged at Boodipada forest guest house but escaped under mysterious circumstances (reportedly bribed a police officer).
- 26 August 1986 : Killed Siddarama Naik, a forest watcher at Alegowdana Katte, Gundlupet, Karntaka.
- 1987: Kidnapped and hacked Tamil Nadu forest officer Chidambaram. Kidnapped and killed 5 members of a rival gang.
- 1989: Killed three forest personnel after 15 days of abducting them from Begur forest range.
- 9 April 1990: Killed three police SI Dinesh, Jagannath, Ramalingu and police constable Shankara Rao near Hogenakal. The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments constitute 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 three years later).
- 1991: Abducted son of a granite quary owner and demanded ransom of Rs. 10 million; released him for a ransom of Rs. 1.5 million.
- 1992: Attacked a police station in Ramapura, killing five policemen, injuring two and stealing arms and ammunition. STF killed two gang members in retaliation.
- 14 August 1992: Trapped and killed Mysore District SP, T.Harikrishna, SI Shakeel Ahmed and four constables named Benegonda, C.M.Kalappa, Sundara and M.P.Appachu, through a false informant near Meenyam in Karnataka.
- 25 January 1993: Veerappan and his gang had a close encounter and missed by whisker the police team headed by "Rambo" Gopalakrishnan, Police officer from Tamil Nadu; one of his gang members and close associate Antony Raj was gunned down.
- 1993: Border Security force (BSF) was deployed to hunt Veerappan but it felt that language was main barrier to carry out successful operation. Deployment of Border Security Force (of Central Government) was disliked by Tamil Nadu Government. Veerappan killed about 20 combatants of BSF.
- 1993: April : Trapped and blew a Tamil Nadu bus carrying police, forest officials and civilians, using a landmine, which killed 22 civilians and police and this incident is known as Palar blast.
- 24 May 1993: Killed 6 policemen K.M.Uthappa, Prabhakara, Poovaiah, Machaiah, Swamy and Narasappa of STF commander Gopal Hosur's party and injured the police commander near Rangaswamy vaddu, M.M.Hills, Karnataka. 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 type of government negotiations.
- 1994: Abducted Chidambaranathan, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Coimbatore and two others.
- 1995: In November, kidnapped three forest department officials of Tamil Nadu.
- 1996: Killed a police informer. Killed another 19 police personnel. Wounded 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 and Krupakar. Veerappan apparently killed 'Baby Veerappan', a gang member, who had visions to succeed Veerappan. Kidnapped and released another photographers Senani and Krupakar. Kidnapped and executed nine Karnataka forest officials from Burude forests.
- 1998: Kidnapped Prof.Krishnasamy, A.S.Mani - editor "Netikan", Payumpuli — reporter and Richard Mohan — photographer. Special Task Force released them after combing operation.
- 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 or cross fire could have caused his death).
- 2004: Killed by Tamil Nadu Special Task Force members at a checkpost, when the bandit was travelling in an ambulance driven by disguised policeman as driver.
More than 119 killings, including civilians, forest officials, police personnel and foreign research student are officially recorded.
Film and television
- Jungle: a Ram Gopal Varma film on slain bandit Veerappan
- There were scores of regional films in Tamil and Kannada with Veerappan as its antagonist like the Tamil movie Captain Prabhakaran and Kannada movie Veerappan, all of which were super hits.
- Makkal TV aired a TV serial based on Veerappan's life called Sandhanakaadu (means sandalwood forest in Tamil). Karate Raja played Veerappan and Goutham directed the serial. The serial shed some light on the other side of Veerapan as well as their own version of how Veerapan was killed by poisoning.
- The Malayalam actor Mamukkoya did the title role in the comedy film Korappan, The Great (2001). This film was just a satire and has no connection with the original person
- The character of Veeraiya (played by Vikram) in the Tamil film Raavanan (2010) (Raavan in Hindi) resembles strongly the life of Veerappan.
- The 2012 dual-language film - Attahasa in Kannada and as Vana Yuddham in Tamil is based on the life of Veerappan whose character is played by Kishore.
- Veerappan: India's Most Wanted Man by Sunaad Raghuram. The film Let's Kill Veerappan is based on a chapter in this book.
- Birds, Beasts and Bandits: 14 days with Veerappan is a book written by Krupakar and Senani, who were kidnapped by Veerappan in 1998.
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- News archives of Dr.Rajkumar kidnap incident
- . 26 August 2002 http://expressindia.indianexpress.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=14148. Retrieved 22 February 2013. Missing or empty
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- TNN (19 August 2012). "Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) splits into two parties". The Times of India. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
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- Reporter, Staff (29 April 2009). ""Nakeeran" Gopal acquitted". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
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