Tuesday, August 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Veerappan kidnaps thespian Rajkumar
Arson in Karnataka; Gopal to be sent as emissary

BANGALORE, July 31 (PTI, UNI) — Kannada thespian Rajkumar and three of his relatives, including his son-in-law, were kidnapped last night by notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan from his farmhouse in Gajanur, Tamil Nadu, in a daring and swift operation triggering incidents of arson and violence in Karnataka.

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers held urgent consultations today in Chennai after which M. Karunanidhi said he would send an emissary to talk to Veerappan in a day or two as demanded by him.

The elite 500-strong Special Task Force (STF) fanned out into the forest ranges of Sathyamangalam to nab the forest brigand and secure the release of the hostages.

Seventyone-year-old Rajkumar, who was watching television with his wife Parvathamma and others after dinner in their house on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border, was abducted at gun point by Veerappan and a dozen other of his heavily armed associates in a 10-minute operation around 9.30 p.m.

The other three kidnapped were the actor’s son-in-law S.A. Govindraj, Nagesh and Nagappa.

Earlier in the day, he had performed “griha pravesh” (house warming) function at his new house in the farm. Tension gripped Karnataka as the news of the kidnapping spread and sporadic violence targeting Tamil newspapers in the city were reported. Heavy police deployment has been made to maintain law and order as reports of forcible closure of shops and blocking of roads came in.

Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna declared that the state was making allout efforts to ensure the safe return of Rajkumar. A concerned Mr Krishna, who returned from Chennai, after talks with Mr Karunanidhi to evolve a strategy to secure the release of the hostages appealed to the people of the state to maintain calm.

Mr Krishna told waiting newspersons that Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee had agreed to extend all necessary help to the state to free Dr Rajkumar from the clutches of Veerappan. The state had already sought six companies of central forces to meet any eventuality.

In the talks at Chennai, it was agreed to send an emissary as demanded by Veerappan. Mr Karunanidhi also indicated that Mr R. Gopal, Editor of Nakkeeran, who had earlier met the brigand, would be the emissary.

Gopal, who has met Veerappan on a couple of occasions earlier and facilitated the release of 11 Karnataka forest personnel held hostage by him in 1997, was expected to leave for the brigand’s hide-out in the Sathyamangalam forest tonight or tomorrow morning.

Mr Krishna said the audio cassette sent by Veerappan did not contain any conditions or demands other than that an emissary should be sent. Since the incident had taken place in Tamil Nadu territory, he had requested the Tamil Nadu government to send an emissary on behalf of the Karnataka government, he said. “On receipt of Veerappan’s demands (through the emissary), we will consider the same”, he added.

“I have come here to request the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to help us in the release of Dr Rajkumar. Mr Karunanidhi was gracious enough to lend his support and both of us have agreed to work towards the end”, Mr Krishna said.

Mr Karunanidhi said it was unfortunate that the film actor, despite warnings from the police, had gone to the farmhouse without informing the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu police.

Mr Krishna said he had briefed Union Home Minister L.K. Advani about the incident.

Actor’s wife Parvathamma said the brigand treated her husband politely and assured her that no harm would be done to him.

However, Veerappan, who is on the run from police of the two states and carries a hefty prize on his head, handed over an audio cassette to Parvathamma containing his demand to be passed on to Chief Minister S.M. Krishna.

The actor’s wife drove with the cassette to Bangalore a little after midnight and met Krishna this morning along with her two sons Shiv Rajkumar and Raghavendra Rajkumar.

Meanwhile, miscreants attacked the private residence of Karnataka Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge and one person was killed in separate incidents even as the police deployed a company of the rapid action force (RAF) to quell sporadic violence and arson in different parts of the state in the wake of the abduction.

Joint Commissioner of Police Ajay Kumar Singh told newsmen here that miscreants damaged 11 state transport corporation buses and four private buses, including one belonging to the software giant Infosys Technologies Limited (ITL), were set on fire by miscreants.

Prohibitory orders have been clamped in the city for a week from today.

Elsewhere in the state, 130 platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police and district armed police were deployed for maintenance of law and order. The concentration was more in the districts surrounding Bangalore.

A UNI report from New Delhi said additional forces have been rushed to Karnataka following a request to that effect from the state government in view of the abduction.


Both Houses condemn kidnapping
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 31 — Both Houses in Parliament today expressed anguish and concern at the kidnapping of Kannada matinee idol, Dr Rajkumar, by the Veerappan gang and urged the Centre to provide assistance to the Karnataka government for securing the release of the film star and arrest of the gang leader.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan assured all help from the Centre to the Governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in securing the release of Dr Rajkumar.

He informed the House that Home Minister L.K. Advani had spoken to the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers on the telephone this morning and told them that the Centre was willing to launch a joint strategy for Dr Rajkumar’s release.

"The government is ready to offer any kind of help to both the state governments for the release of Dr Rajkumar as early as possible," he said, adding that Tourism and Culture Minister Ananth Kumar was going to Chennai to assist the state governments.

Sharing the concern of the members, he appealed to the people of Karnataka to maintain peace and harmony.

Earlier, raising the issue, Mr S. Bangarappa, Mr K.M. Muniyappa, Mr G. Puttaswamy Gowda and other Congress members from Karnataka said Dr Rajkumar, a Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner, along with his son-in-law and two others were kidnapped last night from the actor’s farmhouse at Gujanur in Tamil Nadu.

The members also spoke of the tension gripping the state in the wake of the incident and the state authorities closing all schools and colleges as a precautionary measure.

The issue was raised at the start of zero hour by former Union Minister and former Karnataka Chief Minister S.R. Bommai who said the situation in the state was tense. He informed the House that schools had been closed for two days.

Leader of the House, Mr Jaswant Singh, assured members that the government would provide assistance to the state government in tackling the situation. He said the Home Ministry was in touch with the state government.

Mr K. Rahman Khan (Cong) said the kidnapping had led to a tense situation in the state. He said the state government had taken measures to secure the release of the film star. He said Veerappan had been a terror both for Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. He expected the Centre to provide necessary assistance to the state government in tackling the situation.

Mr Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) said the kidnapping of the film star was not an isolated incident. There had been several incidents of this type. He said both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Governments, with the help of the Centre should carry out joint efforts to fight the situation.


PM speaks to Karnataka CM

NEW DELHI, July 31 (UNI)— Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today spoke to Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna on phone about the situation in the state in view of the kidnapping of actor Raj Kumar last night by Veerappan.

Official sources said the Prime Minister enquired about the present situation in the state. He was being kept informed about the developments in the state, they added.

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