Veerappan, believed to be in his fifties, is holding two state governments, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, to ransom over the past fortnight. All he had to do was to kidnap at gunpoint the Kannada language matinee idol, Raj Kumar, to the forests where the brigand has been living for the last three or four decades. One can say not a leaf falleth nor an animal maketh a sound without Veerappan taking note of it.
His notoriety first spread as the poacher of wild elephants for their precious tusks. He switched on later to the lucrative clandestine trade of felling and smuggling of sandalwood trees. Naturally both these avocations had to be done with the connivance of unscrupulous forest and wildlife officials of both states. The patronage of venal politicians was not far behind.
Veerappan should have been in cloud nine while riding the tiger of notoriety and the hungry media built up his formidable reputation. Since the eighties he has systematically eliminated honest police and forest officials in both states. He cocked a snook at the special task force of both the states. Their internal rivalry was fully exploited by him. During the last few years Veerappan is reported to be hobnobbing with assorted extremists of various hues including the LTTE of Sri Lanka and one or two splinter Tamil extremist groups.
The kidnapping of Raj Kumar has catapulted the forest brigand to national and perhaps international level. His exploit dominated the media during the last fortnight. He is due to hog the limelight for the next few days too. Both state administrations are fully on the defensive. Sins of past governments are being visited upon them now. Since any harm to the reel hero will be fully exploited by the lumpen elements in Karnataka to harass the Tamil population in the State.
The official emissary, editor of a Tamil weekly, R R Gopal, says Veerappan now wants to be known as a Che-like Tamil extremist speaking for sixty million Tamils. Though some of his demands for the release of the actor are outrageous, the core element seems to be to procure the release from jail of Tamil extremists in jail in Tamil Nadu. Their release will embarrass the present Government to a great extent especially since elections are round the corner.
The Government in Karnataka may also be toppled by pretenders waiting on the sidelines. Already Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu has witnessed airdashing by the Karnataka leader every other day for a tete-a-tete with his counterpart.
Assuming the governments concede all the demands of Veerappan, it can safely be assumed that the shamed governments will exert fully in eliminating the brigand even at this late stage. The same late grit will be displayed by them if he goes back on his word. But Veerappan need not be bothered by such niceties and can take his own time. But can he afford to dismount the tiger now?
Two college students, Akshay and Sunil, are sititng in a taxi in Mumbai when a beggar approaches them asking for spare change. Akshay adamantly rejects the man in disgust. Sunil, on the other hand, whips out his wallet, pulls out a couples of notes and gladly hands them over to the beggar with a smile. The beggar thanks him kindly and then continues to other taxis. Akshay is outraged by his friend's act of generosity. "What on earth did you do that for?" yells Akshay. "You know he's only going to use it on cigarattes and alcohol."
Sunil replies, "And we weren't?"