The tragic death of former minister H. Nagappa while in Veerappan’s clutches is not just about a government that has lost its nerve and its will, like the one presided over by S.M. Krishna. It is a sad commentary on how successive governments in Karnataka and neighbouring Tamil Nadu have got caught in their own world of myopic politics and, in the process, allowed a problem called Veerappan to fester for decades.
It is time they understand that the scourge of Veerappan is an issue that has now gone way beyond the realm of state politics. The days of backyard squabbles on strategy are over. Be it legal manoeuverings to facilitate Kolathur Mani’s mission as an emissary or the nitty-gritty of yet another botched up Special Task Force (STF) operation, the crux of the matter is that the very idea of a Veerappan roaming freely in the jungles with impunity is a matter of national shame.
A lot is at stake for Krishna personally. For even as he loudly proclaims that his government is now going all out to capture Veerappan dead or alive, his promise rings hollow. Poor Nagappa, held hostage for over three months, paid with his life precisely because the state did not follow up on an identical vow made after Rajkumar was released two years ago.
What is worse is Krishna’s attempt to hide behind a pathetic excuse: STF operations were suspended in deference to Nagappa’s well-wishers, read family and partymen. Accepted. But suspension of operations does not necessarily require the STF to let down its guard completely. That the news of Nagappa’s death reached the government late, via the bandit’s trademark taped missive, only goes to show how lax the police has been. Not only were they not vigilant, they did not even think it necessary to treat the crisis with a renewed sense of urgency, given that the bandit’s deadline had expired.
Today, Veerappan is on the run and doesn’t have a hostage. If ever there was a time to act, it is now. First, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka must shed their differences and resolve to end this menace once and for all — the bandit has already sown the seeds of a confrontation by claiming that Nagappa’s death was a result of injuries suffered during an STF encounter. Second, the two chief ministers require to understand that the issue is of national importance which calls upon them to display qualities of statesmanship and maturity. Finally, they need to strike now and ensure that Nagappa’s death is the last cross the country has to bear as far as Veerappan is concerned.