The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctor-snatch scare in bandit tale

Chennai, Sept. 1: The Veerappan hostage crisis seemed to take a critical turn with unconfirmed reports circulating that the brigand had whisked away a homoeopathic doctor from Lokana Halli in Kollegal taluk — close to where he had abducted H. Nagappa — early this morning apparently to attend to the ailing former minister, who is a diabetic.

The information also reached the camp of the joint special task force (STF) hunting for the sandalwood smuggler at Sathyamangalam in Tamil Nadu before police dismissed it as “baseless”.

“It is all a rumour and we have no authentic or credible information to confirm it,” police sources in Erode monitoring the situation said. “We are hearing several such rumours, but we have no information on a second audio cassette having reached the powers-that-be at Bangalore from Veerappan,” they added.

The sources pointed out that Nagappa, who was on Veerappan’s hit-list, was still the brigand’s best bet to resist the STF’s intensified drive against him. So, it was unlikely that he would harm his hostage. The local dailies were going to town with “all sorts of stories, but we cannot comment on any of these”, the sources added.

Even eight days after Nagappa’s abduction, the STF remains clueless about his whereabouts. The force, under the command of Walter I. Davaram, has been instructed to “act according to the demands of the local situation” while not losing sight of their duty to catch Veerappan and ensure Nagappa’s safety.

The STF teams are making forays into the forest depending on the information they are receiving about the bandit’s possible movements, but there is nothing much one could do in such a situation, the sources said. About 2,000 personnel, the total strength of the STF, is now deployed in the combing operations.

The level of cooperation from the local tribals, vital for any information on Veerappan’s whereabouts, does not seem to have improved over the last week. “It is the same old drama Veerappan is enacting and nothing will be known until the first contact is established,” the sources added.

In the past, the brigand has nominated an emissary who would shunt between the forest and the two state governments to resolve the crisis, on the condition that the STF would stop its operations till a settlement. But this time, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka seem to be differing on the modalities of the STF action.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa has ruled out sending an emissary for talks with Veerappan. Nagappa’s wife proposes to call on her in a day or two to impress the need to cooperate with Karnataka in sending an emissary who could establish contact with the brigand and begin negotiations.

As the state governments quibble over the means to end the hostage drama, Veerappan with his latest abduction has dismissed speculation that he had escaped to northern Sri Lanka after releasing his last hostage, Kannada thespian Raj Kumar, nearly two years ago.

PMK leader S. Ramadoss told reporters in Vellore that considering that over Rs 60 crore have been spent on the futile STF operations, Veerappan could well be given amnesty.

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