By V. Shanmuganathan
Forest brigand Veerappan was a most dangerous man. More than 125 people were killed by him. He shot 2,000 elephants for their tusks. He kidnapped celebrities like film actor Rajkumar. The reward money to capture Veerappan rose up to Rs 5.5 crore. He was a terror in and around southern and Western Ghats of Dakshin Bharat.
On October 18, 2004, Police Commissioner Vijayakumar and his team of STF men gunned down Veerappan. At that time, the uppermost questions were, ?How did it happen?? and ?What was the secret of the successful operation that proved the capability of the police force??
Many attempts were made in the past, but the most important was at reducing the number of his gang. At the peak of his operations in the early nineties, he had more than 100 dacoits around him, hundreds of informers in the villages, thousands of sympathisers; even media friends and a few political party leaders supported him. Policemen struggled hard, moved intensely and searched him extensively in the forest. Most of the gangsters were caught or killed because of that hard work. Thus the evil group number dropped from a hundred to four.
They received information that Veerappan wanted to recruit more men from Tamil extremist groups. Two STF men, with Sri Lankan Tamil accent went and joined his gang.
A new strategy was evolved by the police in the early period of 2001. Instead of asking questions and harassing the people to learn about the whereabouts of Veerappan, the police changed their approach. They became friendly and helpful to the villagers. In fact, the police themselves organised medical camps; good doctors were brought who distributed free medicines. When the villagers were busy during daytime doing their work, the police took care of their kids and children, played with them, taught them alphabets and made them happy. Through this act of pure service, they earned the confidence of the local people. In turn, the villagers voluntarily started helping the police and began to interact with them more freely.
The third strategy was to move Veerappan and his gang from the dark dense forest to a sparse area of the jungle. The police successfully engulfed the Satya Mangalam and the Kollegal forests with more troops. Veerappan moved near his native village of Gopinatham. Now, it became easier for the police to obtain correct information on his movements.
The police established contacts with his erstwhile friends and trusted the people. Through them they received information that Veerappan wanted to recruit more men from Tamil extremist groups. Two STF men, with Sri Lankan Tamil accent, went and joined his gang. They found that Veerappan'sgroup was not united. Serious differences of opinion and bitterness existed among them. Dissidence among them was tactfully exploited by the police.
These two men secretly sent in the most crucial information to their authorities. ?Veerappan urgently needs medical treatment. He has a serious eye problem and is suffering from diabetes and asthma. He can be trapped by way of assuring and arranging a good and safe passage for his medical treatment.? At last Veerappan and his gang were taken in an ambulance and he was killed by adopting a clean strategy. No doubt, we should appreciate the strong political will shown by the Chief Minister.