The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nagappa colleague acquits Veerappan

Bangalore, Dec. 13: A party colleague of slain Janata Dal (U) leader Nagappa has virtually absolved Veerappan of having killed his hostage.

Former Karnataka home minister P.G.R. Sindhia today told newsmen that Nagappa — held captive by Veerappan for over 100 days — appeared to have been killed in an encounter between the forest bandit and policemen who intended to rescue him.

Sindhia, who visited Nagappa’s home in Kollegal yesterday, refused to comment whether his statement had been spurred or influenced by his colleague’s family. But they joined hands with him today in demanding a CBI probe into the hostage crisis.

Political observers feel that Sindhia’s statement could be considered the official view of the Dal (U) as he is the leader of party in the Assembly.

Sindhia said sources had informed him that policemen disguised as devotees of Lord Ayyappa — who go on pilgrimage to Sabarimala in Kerala at this time of the year — had entered the forests with the intention of killing Veerappan and freeing Nagappa. These policemen could have been members of the Special Task Force of either Tamil Nadu or Karnataka or a joint team, he said.

But it was possible that the Karnataka political leadership, including chief minister S.M. Krishna, was not aware of the operation, Sindhia added.

Representatives of the government, including the chief minister’s office, have declined comment on Sindhia’s statement. The chief minister’s office said the government would place all available information before the Assembly when the session begins on December 23.

According to Sindhia, who was home minister in the erstwhile J.H. Patel Cabinet, there were differences within the STF on how to carry out rescue operations. While one section was keen to catch the bandit alive, another wanted to kill him to “cover up the things that had transpired” before the release of Kannada film star Raj Kumar over two years ago.

Details were available today on the post mortem on Nagappa’s body. The report by forensic expert Panduranga Shenoy said Nagappa had neither been blindfolded nor his hands tied before he was shot. He had a meal of maize flour and milk about an hour before being killed by a bullet fired from a distance of 15-20 feet.

The bullet pierced the left side of his chest and tore his lungs and heart before exiting at the level of the tenth-rib in the back. The body bore no other wound except a minor injury on the left palm, which could have been due to scraping by the bullet.

The report is, however, silent on the type of weapon used.

A forensic expert called for a ballistic analysis of spent bullets and cartridges recovered near the site in Chengadi forest where Nagappa’s body was found.

P. Chandrasekharan, an authority on forensic science and pro vice-chancellor of National Law University, Jodhpur, said this was the only way to end speculation on his death.

A Padma Bhushan awardee, Chandrasekharan had done the forensic analysis in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

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