In the night of July 30-31, 2000, Karnataka’s most popular actor, Rajkumar, was whisked away by India’s most elusive criminal, Veerappan. Then followed 108 tense days. On September 14, Rajkumar was finally released.
But many points remain unanswered. Was a ransom paid (most recently J. Jayalalithaa said so)? How was the release organised? Who were the key players?
C. Dinakar, then Karnataka’s police chief and now retired, has penned his version of events. Exclusive extracts from his book Veerappan’s Prize Catch: Rajkumar (Konark, Rs 400):
Veerappan is now dreaming of becoming a big political leader a la Phoolan Devi. He needs money for that. Big money. And this is the opportunity given to him by Goddess Babbari Amman to make that money. He is not asking for amnesty. He is asking for recognition. He wants to be a leader.
If he can help others to win elections...why can’t he himself become a member of the Assembly? The policemen who have chased him will then respect him. Maybe he can become a Minister too. The policemen will then salute him.
S.M. Krishna alerts his trusted friend R.T. Narayan to try and provide the resources. Narayan is an Iyengar Brahmin hailing from Mysore. He had set up a small industrial unit in the outskirts of Mysore city by taking a loan from the Karnataka State Financial Corporation. That could not make him prosperous. But people say that was how he got acquainted with Krishna who was in D. Devaraj Urs’ Cabinet...
He contacts liquor barons, industrialists and businessmen and asks for money. It is easy to ask for money now. The demand will be treated as legitimate and reasonable. Of course, the money that comes in is not white or off-white. It is colourful money. And black is the queen of all the colours. ‘Natural black’ is the darkest colour. I receive information that R.T. Narayan is raising Rs 5 crore...
In terms of simple arithmetic, a few crore do not matter. Because the Chief Minister’s post is much more expensive. If anything happens to Rajkumar, S.M. Krishna will have to pack up his bag and baggage, and shift back to his own house. That will be the end of his political career too. He is in his late 60’s. But that is young for political leaders.
14 September 2000
The packages taken by DIG Jayaprakash are loaded into a Tata Sumo. Nedumaran and his two associates leave Erode in the morning and reach Veerappan’s camp. Rather surprising: the short time in which they travel and reach Veerappan’s camp unlike Nakkeeran Gopal who used to wait in the outskirts of the forest waiting for a signal from Veerappan...
This probably indicates the respect and regard that Veerappan has for P. Nedumaran. Veerappan is happy to see them and the readily visible packages. He immediately tells Maran to hunt for a deer and arrange for a feast...
Veerappan chats with Nedumaran and other emissaries. He is in a very happy mood. What has given him a thrill is his talking to S.M. Krishna over the mobile phone.
Ramkumar rings up S.M. Krishna and Nedumaran speaks to him first. Then Rajkumar talks to S.M. Krishna thanking him profusely. ‘I will never forget your help,’ he says. Veerappan then talks to S.M. Krishna and tells him, ‘Avangale vittuttengo.’ (I have released them.) S.M. Krishna thanks them, and in particular Veerappan rather profusely.
Nedumaran and other emissaries want to accompany Rajkumar to Bangalore. But they change their plan after their talk with Krishna, who requests them not to...
Shankar Bidri walks into my chamber around 5 p.m. and tells me that Rajkumar was freed around 4.00 p.m. I wonder why Veerappan releases Rajkumar during Rahu kalam. Or could it be that there was some difference in time between the watches?
‘They have gone to a house in a nearby village. The release will be announced only tomorrow. They want to give time to Veerappan to go to an inaccessible area of the forest,’ he says. It is the house of Ramaraj, President of Bhoothapadi Panchayat, in Unjapalayam Village, about 25 km from Erode.
Rajkumar and Bhanu (one of the emissaries) share a single room in the house. As Rajkumar goes into the toilet, he is shocked to see his appearance in the mirror. He says that he can’t face his fans in that condition. A barber is summoned to give him a shave and haircut, and also dye his hair. Bhanumathi applies cream to Rajkumar’s face, which is somewhat puffed up.
‘You are looking nice,’ she says. He complains of pain in his right knee. He has been having this pain since many years because the cartilage has worn out under the kneecap. There is no cure for it. Bhanumathi applies Iodex Spray. It gives him temporary relief.
Rajkumar is talking in a peculiar way. ‘You came like a Goddess to help me,’ he tells her in Tamil and kisses her on her cheek. Is it that he is overjoyed with his freedom that he does not know what he is saying? Or has he gone bonkers?
While all these developments are taking place, Karnataka STF Chief camping at M.M. Hills just a few kilometres away is blissfully ignorant of them. He sends a message in the night that negotiations are on between Veerappan and Nedumaran for the release of Rajkumar.
S.M. Krishna probably thinks that I am not aware of all the developments. He has obviously taken Home Secretary M.B. Prakash into confidence, as he is found in ‘Anugraha’ at odd hours. Doesn’t Krishna know that even mobile phones can be tapped?
15 September 2000
The media is informed in the morning that Rajkumar was released at 4.30 a.m. today. Intelligence Chief P.S. Ramanujam rings me at about 10.00 a.m. to say that Rajkumar has been released. Poor chap! The Intelligence Chief does not know the sources of intelligence of his own DGP.
He has been tapping all my telephones and mobile phone, and reporting to S.M. Krishna, Mallikarjun Kharge and M.B. Prakash about my activities. That man with the dolichocephalic face does not know that I have learnt the police work the hard way instead of writing books and articles like him. Police work is not done with the nib of a pen. It is a crafty game...
There is a law in our country which requires that every commodity sold in the market should have a price tag. Human beings do not have a price tag. The price of human beings has to be bargained. The price paid for Rajkumar is:
• Rs 5 crore sent by S.M. Krishna through his son-in-law V.G. Siddhartha on two occasions and Rs.5 crore sent by S.M. Krishna through DIG Jayaprakash.
• Rs 1 crore sent by Parvathamma to Chennai and given in Karunanidhi’s house.
• Rs 2 crore handed over personally by Parvathamma to Bhanu in her house in Indiranagar, Bangalore.
• Rs 2 crore given by the film industry people in M. Karunanidhi’s house at Chennai.
Extracted with permission from Konark Publishers