Chennai, Jan. 25: Forest brigand Veerappan’s village Gopinatham, on the border of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, has been sealed off by the joint Special Task Force of both states after it stepped up search operations in the forest areas since last evening.
The sudden spurt in the task force’s activities follows the arrest of two suspected members of the Veerappan gang by the Karnataka unit yesterday, reports reaching Chennai this evening said. This has fuelled speculation that Veerappan is hiding somewhere in the vicinity of Gopinatham.
Even as STF operations intensified with the installation of a new checkpost, reports said that for the first time since former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa’s abduction, STF personnel had exchanged fire with members of the Veerappan gang.
Police sources at Erode and in the STF’s base camp at Sathyamangalam declined to confirm the developments, dismissing reports that the force had encircled Veerappan as “put out without any basis” by the local media. But unconfirmed reports reaching Chennai said people were not allowed to take the road from Palar to Gopinatham.
Nobody was being allowed to enter Gopinatham either, the reports said, adding that STF contingents of both states had been reinforced in the dense forest. Attempts to reach the STF top brass from Chennai over telephone did not succeed till this evening.
The developments are significant in the light of Tamil Nadu Governor P.S. Rama Mohan Rao’s condemnation of “the brutal murder of Nagappa by the forest brigand” during his address to the Assembly on Thursday.
“There has to be an early end to the brutalities of the forest brigand and the Government of India has been requested to render all necessary assistance,” Rao said.