Chennai, Aug. 26: Veerappan’s latest strike has stirred an inter-state political controversy with Jayalalithaa saying the transfer of a key Karnataka official could have emboldened the bandit to kidnap former minister H. Nagappa.
Nagappa was abducted late last night from his farmhouse in Kollegal forest near Mysore.
Jayalalithaa alleged that the “abrupt transfer” of Karnataka Special Task Force (STF) chief Kempaiah and his replacement with a lower-ranked officer had triggered the strike. Veerappan had been quiet for two years since the abduction of Kannada actor Raj Kumar.
The Tamil Nadu chief minister also blamed the lack of coordination between the task forces of both the states.
Tamil Nadu had not received any information till two this afternoon when Jayalalithaa was briefed about the incident at a high-level meeting with DGP B.P. Nailwal, the home secretary and other top officials.
Jayalalithaa also used the opportunity to target those who criticised the crackdown using the new anti-terror law. She alleged that the change of guard in Karnataka came after Tamil Nationalist Movement leader P. Nedumaran, who was arrested under the anti-terror law, and a group of journalists led by the editor of a leading Chennai-based magazine met Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna.
Jayalalithaa said she suspects that they might have prevailed on her Karnataka counterpart, eventually lead- ing to Kempaiah being shunted out from the top post.
The government is still “gathering information” on Nagappa, Jayalalithaa said, adding that Krishna is yet to speak to her about the crisis.
Tamil Nadu had felt the pinch when the Centre withdrew several BSF contingents and moved them to Jharkhand some months ago. However, Jayalalithaa said it would not hamper her state’s drive against the bandit.
The BSF cannot function effectively in the difficult terrain of the forests in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Jayalalithaa pointed out. However, she was quick to add that her state’s task force would cooperate fully with its Karnataka counterpart in bringing the kidnap drama to an end.
Jayalalithaa ruled out seeking the army’s assistance during her meeting with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee in Delhi tomorrow, saying: “I don’t think the army will be able to function effectively in the forest.” The question of sending an emissary to Veerappan does not arise, she said.
Nailwal, after briefing the chief minister on the developments, told reporters that police have not received any cassette from Veerappan yet.
Denying that the Tamil Nadu STF’s strength had reduced after the departure of the BSF contingent, the police official said: “Our operational strength remains the same.”
Nailwal is rushing to Coimbatore this evening to assess the situation and is also trying to get in touch with Karnataka police in Kollegal.
He said the entire batch of the 1,000-strong STF from Tamil Nadu has reached the forest to track down Veerappan.
Nailwal rubbished reports that the brigand’s latest strike was to press for the release of Nedumaran and Sivasubramanian, a reporter in Tamil bi-weekly Nakkeeran. Sivasubramanian was arrested in connection with several cases, including the abduction of Raj Kumar.
Although Nailwal admitted that it was “back to square one” vis-à-vis the Veerappan affair, he was reluctant to blame the abduction of Nagappa on any security lapse in Karnataka. “How can I say that'” Nailwal said, adding that in situations like these, when the STF was functioning in such hostile circumstances, it was “intelligence information” that mattered.
Yesterday, Raj Kumar and his wife arrived at their farmhouse in Dodda Gajanur near Erode, from where the matinee idol was kidnapped two years ago.
Tamil Nadu police are in a quandary over whether they should advise the actor to return to Bangalore.
“Raj Kumar is a resident of Bangalore and he has come with police escort from there. You have to ask the Karnataka police,” said a senior police officer, when asked if the actor has been advised to leave Gajanur in the wake of the kidnap.