The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nagappa killing stumps family

Kollegal, Dec. 10: The violent outpouring of grief over the killing of H. Nagappa has subsided, but the residents of Kollegal in Chamarajnagar district are rankled by doubts about how and why “their dear leader” was killed. Leading the hundreds of incredulous citizens is the family of Nagappa.

Foremost on their minds is the question why forest brigand Veerappan — who had kidnapped Nagappa on August 25 — would kill him now after not harming him for over 100 days.

“What we cannot understand is why Veerappan decided to kill my father-in-law at a stage when his primary demand of getting to meet Tamil nationalist Kolathur Mani in the Satyamangalam forests was almost met by the Karnataka government. Mani had been granted bail in almost all the cases he faced and would have been released in a couple of days from the Bellary jail — where Mani is incarcerated — and my father-in-law gets killed exactly at this point. This is unexplainable,” said Satish Mahant, Nagappa’s son-in-law.

Kiran Patel, another son-in-law, added that the family had information that Veerappan took care to give Nagappa proper medicine and food in captivity. “How and why Veerappan suddenly changed his mind is certainly a mystery,” Patel said.

Nagappa’s family members, including son Preethan, hastened to add that they were not corroborating the brigand’s claim that Nagappa was killed in an encounter between his gang and the Special Task Force of Tamil Nadu police. “We do not see any circumstantial evidence to accept that theory,” pointed out the slain leader’s brother-in-law Sureshaiyya, who was the first Nagappa relative to see his body in the Changdi forests.

“There were no signs of a battle at the point we found the body and he seemed to have been blindfolded and made to recline on a boulder before being shot,” he added. The Nagappa family seems convinced that he was shot dead at point blank range with a single bullet.

Though Nagappa’s family has merely expressed doubts about the manner in which the killing took place, many among the taluk’s residents have their own theories as to how and why it happened. The most dominant theory is that that there was a deep-rooted political conspiracy to do away with Nagappa.

According to Nagaraj, a local Janata Dal worker belonging to Nagappa’s Veerashaiva community, though Veerappan’s demands would have been met soon, there were politicians in Kollegal who did not want the Janata Dal leader to return. “For, once Nagappa came back, their secret liaisons with Veerappan would have come out into the open,” Nagaraj said.

adding that these politicians belonged not only to the rival Congress, but also Nagappa’s Janata Dal (United). He refused to name these politicians now. “I will do that at the right time,” he told The Telegraph.

Another conjecture doing the rounds, albeit with lesser intensity than the political conspiracy theory, is that Veerappan killed Nagappa to propitiate his favourite goddess. Local farmer Hanumanthappa said the brigand often makes sacrifices to the goddess on and around amavasi (black moon) and in all probability, he had set a personal deadline of the days he would keep Nagappa as hostage.

The government and police are not ready to respond to the theories. Speaking to The Telegraph on phone, law minister D.B. Chandre Gowda admitted that the government was also intrigued by the timing of the murder. “But how can one fathom the mind of a criminal known for his irrational cruelty'” he asked.

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