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This article is about the sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. For Kannada film, see Killing Veerappan. For Bollywood film, see Veerappan (film).
Veerappan the poacher.jpg
Born (1952-01-18)18 January 1952[1]
Gopinatham, Karnataka[2]
Died 18 October 2004(2004-10-18) (aged 52)[1]
Papparapatti, Tamil Nadu
Cause of death Firearm
Resting place Moolakadu, Tamil Nadu
Nationality Indian
Known for Sandalwood smuggling
Spouse(s) Muthulakshmi (m. 1990)[3]
Children 2
Reward amount
5 crore (equivalent to 13 crore or US$2.0 million in 2016)
Capture status
Escaped 1986
Escape end 2004
Comments 784 crore (equivalent to 21 billion or US$310 million in 2016) spent to capture
Victims 184 people (97 of them are police officials & forest officers),
900 elephants[4]
Span of killings
State(s) Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu,

Koose Muniswamy Veerappan[5] (18 January 1952 – 18 October 2004), commonly known only as Veerappan, was a notorious Indian brigand and dacoit. He was active for nearly 30 years in the scrub lands and forests in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.


Veerappan was a member of the Vanniyar community.[6][7][8][9] Veerappan married Muthulakshmi[2] His wife reportedly appreciated his "notoriety and moustache" and married him because of that.[2] As of 2004, his two other daughters were studying in Tamil Nadu.[10]

Criminal life[edit]

Veerappan started as an assistant to his relative Saalvai Gounder, a notorious poacher and sandalwood smuggler.[11] 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.[2]

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 informants.[12]

In 1987, Veerappan kidnapped and murdered a forest officer named Chidambaram from Tamil Nadu. This first brought him to the Indian Government's attention.[13][14] 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.[13] He regularly killed anyone suspected of being a police informer. Because of political instability, Veerappan could easily escape from one state to another.[15]

Palar blast[edit]

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, present Chamarajanagar District, Karnataka, and killed 22 members of the team. Known as the Palar blast, this was his single largest mass killing.[16]

Special Task Force[edit]

In 1990, the Karnataka and the Tamil Nadu Governments formed a Special Task Force to catch Veerappan.[12] 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.[17]

Through these operations, the combined Special Task Force discovered that Veerappan's gang was down to only five members.[17][18] Meetings with Gopinatham villagers were held, and the 5-crore bounty was announced.[18] In 1993, the task force arrested Veerappan's wife, Muthulakshmi, and charged her with aiding,[3] but she was acquitted of all charges.

Kidnap of Rajkumar[edit]

On 30 July 2000, Veerappan kidnapped actor Rajkumar and three others from Dodda Gajanur, a village in Erode district near the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border where the film star was attending his housewarming ceremony.[19][20][21] Public outcry and violence ensued in Bangalore as well as other parts of Karnataka.[21] 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.[21] Negotiations were conducted and R. Gopal, an editor of the Tamil magazine Nakkeeran, was involved in several rounds of talks with Veerappan.[22] Gopal had earlier visited Veerappan for similar negotiations,[11] 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.[23] Rajkumar was held for 108 days and finally released without harm in November 2000. A police official later suggested that 20 crore rupees had been paid by Karnataka government for his release.[20][24][25]

Kidnap of Nagappa[edit]

On 25 August 2002, Veerappan abducted H. Nagappa, a former minister of Karnataka, from his village house in Chamarajanagara District.[26] Nagappa was a minister for Agricultural Marketing from 1996 to 1999.[26] The Joint Special task forces of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu worked with the Kerala police to help release Nagappa.[27] An encounter to release him failed, and Nagappa was found dead three months later in a Karnataka forest.[28] The reward offered by the Karnataka state government was then increased to 50 crore rupees (US$1.25 million).

Ransom demands[edit]

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.[21] 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.[29]

Political support[edit]

During his later years, Veerappan got political support from Tamil nationalist organisations like Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a political party predominantly of the Vanniyar caste to which Veerappan belonged.[30] Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (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.[31] Karunanidhi also extended the 31 October 1997 deadline for Veerappan's surrender and postponed Special Task Force (STF) police action by few days saying, "it is not far too late for Veerappan to surrender".[32] Banned organisations like the Tamil National Retrieval Troops (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.[23] Kolathur Mani, president of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, formerly the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) party,[33] supported Veerappan and was booked by police as an accomplice in several of Veerappan's crimes, including the Palar blast case.[34]

Operation Cocoon[edit]

Main article: Operation Cocoon

Operation Cocoon was the operation launched by the Special Task Force of Tamil Nadu Police to nab the forest brigand Veerappan and his associates, who were dominant in Sathyamangalam Forest in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. The operation was headed by the then Superintendent of Police, Vijay Kumar. Veerappan was shot dead in the operation on 18 October 2004 along with three of his associates, Sethukuli Govinda, Chandre Gowda and Sethumani, while four policemen were injured.

Veerappan defied the state governments of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Indian Border security paramilitary forces, and 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$2.6 million and about 10,000 tonnes of sandalwood worth approximately US$22 million.

The joint Special Task Force (STF) operation of Veerappan, constituted in 1991 by the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, is considered one of the costliest in Indian history, consuming ₹1 billion over the years.


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[28][35] 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.[35] 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.[28] The entire operation was named Operation Cocoon and Veerappan's associates Sethukuli Govindan, Chandre Gowdar and Sethumani were also killed in the operation.[30] His death was described as the "death of a demon" by The Guardian.[2] The villagers of Gopinatham celebrated with firecrackers on hearing the news.[13] Several human rights outfits, which rallied under the banner of the Centre for Protection of Civil Liberties (CPCL), claimed that circumstantial evidence indicated that the forest brigand Veerappan was murdered by police after being tortured. [36] Since Veerappan's death, the village has been promoted as a destination for ecotourism by the Karnataka State Department of Forest and Tourism.[37]

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.[38] The police had planned a cremation but decided on a burial after objections from Veerappan's relatives.[38] Thousands of people turned out for the burial, while others were kept away by heavy security.[38][39]


Timeline of Veerappan's activities:

  • 1962: Veerappan’s first crime. He was 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.[40]
  • 1986: Arrested and lodged at Boodipada forest guest house but escaped under mysterious circumstances (reportedly bribed a police officer).[citation needed]
  • 26 August 1986 : Killed Siddarama Naik, a forest watcher at Alegowdana Katte, Gundlupet, Karnataka.[40]
  • 1987: Kidnapped and hacked Tamil Nadu forest officer Chidambaram. Kidnapped and killed 5 members of a rival gang.[14]
  • 1989: Killed three forest personnel after 15 days of abducting them from Begur forest range.[14]
  • 9 April 1990: Killed three police SI Dinesh, Jagannath, Ramalingu and police constable Shankara Rao near Hogenakal.[40] The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments constitute Special Task Force (STF) to catch Veerappan.[13] Shot and beheaded Karnataka deputy conservator of forests, Srinivas,[13] 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.[14]
  • 1992: Attacked a police station in Ramapura, killing five policemen, injuring two and stealing arms and ammunition.[41] 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.[40]
  • 25 January 1993: Veerappan and his gang had a close encounter and missed by a 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.[42]
  • 1993: Border Security force (BSF) was deployed to hunt Veerappan but it felt that language was main barrier to carry out successful operation.[42] Deployment of Border Security Force (of Central Government) was disliked by Tamil Nadu Government.[42] Veerappan killed about 20 combatants of BSF.[42]
  • 1993: April : Trapped and blew a Tamil Nadu bus carrying police, forest officials and civilians, using a landmine, which killed 22 civilians and police[14] in Palar blast incident.[16]
  • 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.[14][40] 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.[21]
  • 1995: In November, kidnapped three forest department officials of Tamil Nadu.[21]
  • 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.[30] 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.[43]
  • 2000: Kidnapped Kannada film actor Dr. Rajkumar. Released him after 108 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.[28]

In Media[edit]

Film and television[edit]


  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Veerappan". 
  2. ^ a b c d e Oliver, Mark (2004). "Death of a 'demon'". The Guardian. 
  3. ^ a b Shiva Kumar, M T (26 April 2011). "Muthulakshmi to bring out book on 'police atrocities'". The Hindu. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Barker, Ken (24 October 2004). "India revels in death of bandit king". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  6. ^ Slater, Candace (2004-03-01). In Search of the Rain Forest. Duke University Press. ISBN 0822385279. 
  7. ^ "Caste politics may bail out Veerappan - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2016-11-05. 
  8. ^ "A desperate alliance". Retrieved 2016-11-05. 
  9. ^ "Assembly Election Result 2016, Assembly Election Schedule Candidate List, Assembly Election Opinion/Exit Poll Latest News 2016". Retrieved 2016-11-05. 
  10. ^ Illangovan, R (22 October 2004). "Leave us in peace, say Veerappan's daughters". The Hindu. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Harding, Luke (5 August 2000). "In the lair of India's asthmatic bandit king". London: Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  12. ^ a b timesofindia, com. (19 October 2004). "How Veerappan was shot dead". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d e R, Ilangovan (20 October 2004). "A relieved Gopinatham breathes easy". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f Press Trust of India (19 October 2004). "Veerappan: End of three decades of terror". Coimbatore: The Times of India. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  15. ^ Estevez, Benita. Smugglers. R.W.Press. ISBN 978-1-909284-08-1. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Aravind, H M (14 February 2013). "Why Veerappan planned the Palar blast". The Times of India. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  17. ^ a b V.S., Palaniyappan (27 January 2003). "STF planning to corner Veerappan near Gopinatham". The Hindu. 
  18. ^ a b Times Network (28 January 2003). "STF tries to lure villagers". The Times of India. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  19. ^ "Veerappan's widow Muthulakshmi acquitted in actor Rajkumar kidnap case". India Today. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "'Treasure hunt' for bandit's loot". BBC News. 22 October 2004. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f Ravi, Sharma (5–18 August 2000). "Veerappan's Prize Catch". Frontline Magazine, Chennai. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  22. ^ "I have tried to be as truthful as possible". The Hindu. 24 August 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  23. ^ a b Nambath, Suresh (20 October 2004). "Veerappan as "Robin Hood"". The Hindu. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ News archives of Dr.Rajkumar kidnap incident
  26. ^ a b "Veerappan sends cassette". Express India. 26 August 2002. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  27. ^ PTI (28 August 2002). "Kerala Police to help STF in operation against Veerappan". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  28. ^ a b c d "How Veerappan was shot dead". The Times of India. 19 October 2004. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  29. ^ K.T., Sangameswaran (21 October 2004). "`Ransoms' remain a mystery". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  30. ^ a b c Nambath, Suresh (31 October 2004). "Jungle Drama". The Hindu. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  31. ^ Nairita (18 February 2013). "Death Penalty:Why DMK chief seeks Karuna for Veerappan aides". One India news. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  32. ^ Subramanian, T.S. (15–28 November 1997). "Back to an offencive". Frontline. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  33. ^ TNN (19 August 2012). "Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) splits into two parties". The Times of India. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  34. ^ "Muthulakshmi acquitted in Palar bomb blast case". The Hindu. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  35. ^ a b M.B.Maramkal, Bansy Kalappa (20 October 2004). "Veerappan Brigand's last run". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ V, Paneesha (14 May 2011). "Have fun in Veerappan territory". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  38. ^ a b c R, Illangovan (21 October 2004). "Veerappan buried after wrangling". The Hindu. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  39. ^ Independent: Koose Muniswamy Veerappan: The Bandit King
  40. ^ a b c d e Subrahmanya, K.V. (20 October 2004). "Police had 15 encounters with brigand". The Hindu. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  41. ^ Dinakar, C. (2003). Veerappan's prize catch: Rajkumar. Delhi: Konark Publishers Pvt ltd. p. 145. ISBN 978-81-220-0644-5. 
  42. ^ a b c d N. R. Madhava Menon, D. Banerjea (2001). Criminal Justice, India series, Vol.16. 16. New Delhi: Allied Publishers. pp. 146, 147. ISBN 978-81-7764-519-4. 
  43. ^ Reporter, Staff (29 April 2009). ""Nakeeran" Gopal acquitted". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  44. ^ "Film on slain bandit Veerappan". The Times of India. 16 June 2008. Retrieved 19 September 2010. 
  45. ^ "Window2india". Window2india. Retrieved 19 September 2010.