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Will Veerappan get exemplary punishment?
By Iqbal Mohammed, Bangalore

For the two Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Veerappan is a nightmare, which they desperately want to get rid of. Ever since Veerappan kidnapped Raj Kumar, Kannada Film actor, and is holding him hostage, the two Chief Ministers have been working hard to get the hostage released as much as keeping the fans of the matinee idol at peace.

The Police appreciates it very well that Veerappan, on his own, could not have abducted the matinee idol. They have found out, much to their dismay, that it was a militant outfit of Tamil Nadu that masterminded the kidnapping. The Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA) is a Marxist Leninist outfit that vow to take up armed rebellion in order to liberate Tamil Nadu from the Indian Union. The TNLA and Veerappan have now joined hands as they realize that they can support each other if they work together. The TNLA is desperately in need of money in order to provide for its men, and purchase arms and ammunition. Veerappan makes their men familiarize with the forest. Both Veerappan and the TNLA require safe hideout to carry on their operation of loot and kidnap.

One wonders just who this Veerappan is? He was a small time sandalwood poacher, and the like of him are in hundreds, who make their fortunes by stealing the forest wealth. The politicians and the bureaucracy accommodate them for they are money-spinners. How come Veerappan has made a name for himself? The politicians and the bureaucracy let the grass grow under their feet. He has grown out of their fold.

The Forest Police first arrested him in 1965. The Bureaucracy and the Judiciary turned a blind eye at him. He was let go. He escaped Police custody. Subsequently, Police nabbed Veerappan at Mettur in 1972. By this time he had committed several murders. He was not given exemplary punishment. He came out on bail, and continued to live as a free man. In 1986, the Karnataka Police arrested Veerappan and lodged him at Boodi Padaga Guest House, Samrajnagar. As usual, he escaped unharmed and unpunished. The Government initiated an inquiry into the matter, and found out the guilt of District Superintendent of Police. Instead of suspending the Police Officer, he was promoted. Is justice done or done away with?

The Governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu created Special Task Force to arrest Veerappan. The STF committed such atrocities that even Veerappan is ashamed of. The Government was quick to appoint a commission (Sadashiva Commission) in order to inquire into STF atrocities. The result is that the Government is now waiting for the report of the Commission. One telling example for how miserably the Government agencies have functioned in the Veerappan episodes is the carnage at Kambalapalli. The carnage is now a favorite subject for the CBI investigation.

The Karnataka High Court Judge, Justice M.F.Saldanha, observed in his ruling that it was necessary for the Court to award exemplary punishment to Abdul Gaffar of Hanavar because he showed disrespect to Hindu Temple. (The Times of India, Bangalore, August 13-2000). Are exemplary punishments reserved only for the minority community?
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