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Bandit seeks emissary

Bangalore, Oct. 7: The silence on the Veerappan front was broken today with the bandit sending another audio cassette to the family of the kidnapped former minister H. Nagappa.

Veerappan has demanded that Tamil nationalist leader Kolathur Mani be sent as an emissary within eight days to negotiate the release of the Janata Dal (United) leader, Karnataka home minister Mallikarjuna Kharge told reporters after listening to the tape.

The former minister is under Veerappan’s captivity for the last 44 days and Mani is now in Bellary jail, booked for alleged anti- national activities.

Kharge said the government’s response has not yet been decided. A decision would be taken after consulting chief minister S.M. Krishna, who is now on a padayatra on the Cauvery issue.

The cassette was apparently found on the lawns of Nagappa’s farmhouse at Kamagere, the place from where he was kidnapped. It was handed over to Kharge by Nagappa’s son Preetam.

Veerappan had made a similar demand in his second cassette too. He had said that either Mani or P. Nedumaran – another Tamil nationalist leader — be sent as emissaries. This time the name has been narrowed down to Mani.

Nedumaran is in a Tamil Nadu prison. Both Mani and Nedumaran had played an important role in securing the release of Kannada thespian Rajkumar from the clutches of Veerappan after a 108-day kidnap saga.

The earlier demand was rejected by the Karnataka government, which said it could not send anyone lodged in jail.

Since then, however, many political leaders, including some ministers, have said in public that there is nothing wrong in sending Mani as an emissary.

Veerappan’s new demand has to be seen in the context of these new voices as well as an informal effort to secure Nagappa’s release.

The behind-the-scenes drive, spearheaded essentially by Nagappa’s family and friends, is not sanctioned by the government. It is also taking place without the knowledge and involvement of the special task forces of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police.

Many rumours had circulated in the past one week about the unofficial effort. Some suggested that Nagappa’s family and friends have paid a huge ransom to Veerappan.

The Karnataka government has scaled down operations of its task force, asking it to confine to combing operations. The go-slow came after Nagappa’s family, the Janata Dal (United) and some seers of the Veerashaiva community, to which Nagappa belongs, put pressure on the government to do so in the interest of the former minister’s safety.

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