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Silence on eve of bandit deadline

Bangalore, Oct. 14: Forest bandit Veerappan’s deadline to send two emissaries to negotiate the release of kidnapped former minister H. Nagappa will expire tomorrow morning but the Karnataka government seems to be in no hurry to respond to the demand.

Veerappan had asked for Tamil nationalist Kolathur Mani, now in Bellary Jail, and Janata Dal (United) leader Ponnachi Mahadeva Swamy, as emissaries. However, there was virtually no step from the side of the government to fulfil the demand.

On the contrary, a section of Karnataka police officers privately expressed dismay that Swamy, who had expressed readiness to be a negotiator last week, is missing since Friday.

“Swamy has vanished without a trace,” a senior police officer said. However, there is speculation that Mahadeva Swamy has kept himself incommunicado for the last few days.

Today marked the completion of 51 days since the abduction of the Dal (United) leader from his farm house in Kollegal.

Veerappan sent three cassettes since the abduction and the last two contained his demands.

The Karnataka government refused to comply with the demands in the second cassette, which included sending Mani and another Tamil nationalist leader Nedumaran as emissaries as well as despatching money through them ostensibly to compensate the victims of “police atrocities”.

The third cassette, sent eight days ago, had asked for Mani and Swamy as emissaries.

There were indications initially that the government would rope in Swamy as an emissary, though it might not be able to abide by the directive to send Mani, since he was in Bellary jail.

Chief minister S.M. Krishna had made it clear that he would not release a jail bird and anoint him as a negotiator, though sections of Karnataka’s political class, including some Cabinet ministers, had argued that there is nothing wrong in sending Mani.

However, their efforts suffered a setback last week when Karnataka High Court adjourned the hearing on Mani’s bail application to a date after October 20.

The operations of the Special Task Force (STF) of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, constituted to hunt Veerappan, had been slowed down in the past two weeks to prepare the ground for Nagappa’s negotiated release. But today’s inactivity from the government side has raised many eyebrows.

The Dal (United) is planning a state-wide agitation after October 16 to put pressure on the government to ensure Nagappa’s safe release.

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