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Veerappan: The Most Wanted Bandit in India




If you are looking for a thrilling story of crime, violence, and survival, look no further than the life of Veerappan, the most notorious bandit in India. For 36 years, he terrorized the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala with his sandalwood smuggling, elephant poaching, murders, and kidnappings. He was wanted for killing more than 180 people, including police officers and forest officials, poaching over 2000 elephants, and smuggling sandalwood and ivory worth millions of dollars. He evaded capture for decades despite massive manhunts and rewards. He was finally killed in a dramatic encounter by a special task force in 2004. But who was Veerappan? How did he become such a feared criminal? How did he manage to escape the law for so long? And what is his legacy today? Let's find out.




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Who was Veerappan?




Veerappan was born as Koose Munisamy Veerappan on January 18, 1952, in Gopinatham, a village in the Mysore district of Karnataka (then Madras State). He belonged to a poor family of cattle grazers who lived near the forest. He grew up admiring his uncle Saalvai Gounder, a notorious poacher and sandalwood smuggler. He also idolized Malayur Mammattiyan, a famous bandit who operated in the same region.


Early life and criminal career




Veerappan started his criminal career by assisting his uncle in poaching elephants for their tusks and smuggling sandalwood from the forest. He was said to have killed his first elephant at the age of 14 and committed his first murder at 17. He soon broke away from his uncle and formed his own gang of outlaws. He also married Muthulakshmi, a woman who was attracted by his notoriety and moustache. They had two daughters, Vidya Rani and Prabha.


Sandalwood smuggling and poaching




Veerappan's main source of income was sandalwood smuggling. Sandalwood is a valuable aromatic wood that is used for making incense, perfumes, cosmetics, medicines, and handicrafts. It is also considered sacred by many religions. The demand for sandalwood is high in India and abroad, but its supply is limited due to strict regulations and conservation efforts. Veerappan exploited this gap by illegally cutting down sandalwood trees from the forests and selling them to middlemen who transported them to various markets. He also bribed some forest officials and politicians to turn a blind eye to his activities.


Veerappan was also involved in elephant poaching. Elephants are endangered animals that are protected by law in India. They are revered by many cultures and religions as symbols of wisdom, strength, and prosperity. Their tusks are made of ivory, which is used for making ornaments, sculptures, jewelry, piano keys, and other items. Ivory is also highly valued in some countries like China and Japan, where it is believed to have medicinal properties. Veerappan killed thousands of elephants for their tusks and smuggled them to international markets through his network of contacts.


Murders and kidnappings




Veerappan did not hesitate to kill anyone who opposed or threatened his illegal activities. His victims included police officers, forest officials, informers, rivals, villagers, journalists, politicians, and celebrities. He used various methods to kill his enemies, such as shooting them with rifles or pistols, slitting their throats with knives or sickles, or blowing them up with landmines or grenades. He also tortured some of his captives before killing them.


Veerappan also kidnapped several prominent people for ransom or political demands. Some of his notable hostages were Nagappa Maradagi (a former minister of Karnataka), Ponnachi (a relative of former chief minister J.H.Patel), Rajkumar (a famous Kannada film actor), Nagappa (a former minister of Karnataka), Srinivas (a wildlife photographer), Sukumaran Nair (a forest officer), Janardhan (a journalist), Govindaraj (a doctor), Krishnaswamy (a businessman), R.R.Gopal (a journalist), Sankaranarayanan (a forest officer), Selvaraj (a police officer), Srinivas (a wildlife photographer), Sukumaran Nair (a forest officer), Janardhan (a journalist), Govindaraj (a doctor), Krishnaswamy (a businessman), R.R.Gopal (a journalist), Sankaranarayanan (a forest officer), Selvaraj (a police officer) etc.


How did Veerappan evade capture for so long?




Veerappan was one of the most wanted criminals in India for more than two decades. The governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka spent over Rs 100 crore to capture him. They deployed thousands of police officers Here is the continuation of the article. How did Veerappan evade capture for so long?




Veerappan was one of the most wanted criminals in India for more than two decades. The governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka spent over Rs 100 crore to capture him. They deployed thousands of police officers, forest guards, commandos, and paramilitary forces to hunt him down. They also offered huge rewards for his arrest or information leading to his whereabouts. However, Veerappan managed to elude them all with his cunning and guerilla tactics. How did he do it?


Support from locals and politicians




One of the reasons why Veerappan was able to survive for so long was his support from some of the locals and politicians in the region. He had a network of informers and sympathizers who provided him with food, shelter, weapons, ammunition, medicine, and intelligence. He also bribed some of them with money or gifts from his loot. He cultivated a Robin Hood image among some of the poor and oppressed people by helping them with their problems or grievances. He also claimed to be fighting for the rights of the Tamil people and demanded a separate state for them. Some of the political parties and groups supported his cause or used him for their own agenda.


Knowledge of the terrain and informers




Another reason why Veerappan was able to evade capture for so long was his knowledge of the terrain and informers. He knew the forests like the back of his hand. He had several hideouts and escape routes in the dense and rugged terrain. He also used various disguises and vehicles to avoid detection. He was always on the move and changed his location frequently. He also had a network of informers who alerted him about the movements and plans of the security forces. He used mobile phones, walkie-talkies, and satellite phones to communicate with his associates and contacts.


Use of landmines and firearms




A third reason why Veerappan was able to evade capture for so long was his use of landmines and firearms. He had access to a large arsenal of weapons and explosives that he obtained from various sources, such as smugglers, arms dealers, militants, or stolen from the security forces. He used landmines, grenades, rockets, rifles, pistols, shotguns, and machine guns to attack or defend himself from his enemies. He also trained his men in handling these weapons and explosives. He planted landmines along the roads and paths leading to his hideouts or areas of operation. He also booby-trapped some of the trees and rocks with explosives. He often ambushed or engaged in firefights with the security forces who tried to track him down.


How was Veerappan finally killed?




After years of unsuccessful attempts to capture or kill Veerappan, the Tamil Nadu government launched a final operation in 2004 to end his reign of terror. The operation was codenamed Operation Cocoon and was led by K.Vijay Kumar, a senior police officer who had been involved in several previous operations against Veerappan.


Operation Cocoon




Operation Cocoon was a covert operation that involved infiltrating Veerappan's gang with undercover agents who posed as sympathizers or mediators. The operation was based on human intelligence rather than technical surveillance or forceful action. The main objective was to lure Veerappan out of his forest hideout and into a trap where he could be killed or captured.


The operation began in August 2004 when a police informer named N.Selvaraj approached Veerappan's gang with an offer to arrange a meeting with a politician named Thangavelu who claimed to support Veerappan's cause and wanted to help him surrender to the government on favorable terms. Veerappan agreed to meet Thangavelu but insisted on meeting him in a safe place outside the forest. Selvaraj suggested that they meet in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu where Thangavelu had a farmhouse.


However, Thangavelu was actually an alias used by N.K.Senthamarai Kannan Yadava, another senior police officer who was part of Operation Cocoon. He had undergone extensive training and makeover to impersonate Thangavelu convincingly. He also had a team of undercover agents who acted as his associates or bodyguards.


The meeting between Thangavelu and Veerappan was arranged for October 18, 2004 at 11 pm near Papparapatti village in Dharmapuri district. Veerappan decided to go with three of his trusted men: Sethukuli Govinda, Chandre Gowda, and Sethumani. They boarded an ambulance that was driven by Selvaraj who claimed that it was safer than using their own vehicle.


However, the ambulance was actually rigged with hidden cameras and microphones that recorded everything that happened inside it. It also had a GPS tracker that enabled the Special Task Force (STF) to monitor its location and movement.


The encounter and aftermath




The ambulance reached Papparapatti village around midnight where it was stopped by a police checkpoint that had been set up as part of Operation Cocoon. The STF personnel pretended to check the ambulance for routine inspection but actually identified Veerappan and his men inside it.


The STF then opened fire at the ambulance from all sides killing Veerappan and his men instantly. Four STF personnel were also injured in the crossfire.


The encounter lasted for about 20 minutes and ended with Veerappan's death after 36 years of criminal career.


The bodies of Veerappan and his men were taken to Dharmapuri Government Hospital where they were identified by their relatives and former associates.


The STF also recovered several weapons and explosives from the ambulance including AK-47 rifles, pistols, grenades, rockets, landmines, detonators, etc.


Controversies and conspiracy theories




The killing of Veerappan by Operation Cocoon sparked several controversies and conspiracy theories among various sections of people.


Some people questioned the legality Here is the continuation of the article. What is the legacy of Veerappan?




Veerappan's death marked the end of an era of banditry and lawlessness in the southern Indian forests. His life and crimes have inspired several books, films, documentaries, and songs that depict him as either a hero or a villain. His legacy also has implications for the wildlife and the people of the region.


Impact on wildlife and forests




Veerappan's illegal activities had a devastating impact on the wildlife and forests of the region. He was responsible for killing thousands of elephants and other animals, destroying thousands of sandalwood trees and other plants, and degrading the habitat and ecosystem of the forest. He also posed a threat to the conservation efforts and initiatives of the government and NGOs.


However, after his death, the situation has improved considerably. The forest area that was once his stronghold has been declared as a tiger reserve and a wildlife sanctuary by the Karnataka government. The Male Mahadeshwara Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve are now home to several endangered species such as tigers, leopards, elephants, gaurs, sloth bears, etc. The forest department and the local communities have also taken steps to protect and restore the forest resources and biodiversity.


Media portrayals and books




Veerappan's life and crimes have fascinated and intrigued many people across India and beyond. His story has been told and retold in various forms of media such as books, films, documentaries, songs, etc. Some of these portrayals are based on facts and research, while others are based on fiction and imagination. Some of them glorify him as a rebel or a freedom fighter, while others condemn him as a terrorist or a criminal.


Some of the notable books that have been written about Veerappan are: - Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K.Vijay Kumar - The Veerappan Story by Sunaad Raghuram - Veerappan: India's Most Wanted Man by Sunil Kumar - Veerappan: The Untold Story by M.R.Narayan Swamy - Veerappan: The Untouchable by Kishore Shetty - Veerappan: The Real Story by R.R.Gopal Some of the notable films and documentaries that have been made about Veerappan are: - Vana Yuddham (2013), a Tamil film directed by A.M.R.Ramesh - Killing Veerappan (2016), a Kannada film directed by Ram Gopal Varma - Veerappan (2016), a Hindi film directed by Ram Gopal Varma - The Hunt for Veerappan (2001), a documentary by BBC - The Last Days of Veerappan (2004), a documentary by Discovery Channel - The End of Bandit Queen (2005), a documentary by National Geographic Channel Legal cases and compensation




Veerappan's death did not end the legal cases and controversies surrounding him. His wife Muthulakshmi filed several petitions in various courts seeking compensation for her husband's death, protection for her family, release of her husband's associates from jail, etc. She also claimed that her husband was innocent and was killed in a fake encounter. She also accused some politicians and police officers of being involved in his crimes or having links with him.


The Supreme Court of India ordered an inquiry into Veerappan's death in 2014 based on Muthulakshmi's petition. The inquiry was conducted by Justice A.Santosh Hegde who submitted his report in 2018. The report stated that Veerappan's death was not a fake encounter but a genuine one. It also stated that there was no evidence to prove that any politician or police officer had any nexus with him. However, it recommended that Muthulakshmi should be given some compensation for her husband's death as per the guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission.


Conclusion




Veerappan was one of the most notorious bandits in India who terrorized the southern states for 36 years with his sandalwood smuggling, elephant poaching, murders, and kidnappings. He was wanted for killing more than 180 people, poaching over 2000 elephants, and smuggling sandalwood and ivory worth millions of dollars. He evaded capture for decades despite massive manhunts and rewards. He was finally killed in 2004 by Operation Cocoon, a covert operation launched by the Tamil Nadu Police.


Veerappan's legacy is a mixed one. On one hand, he caused immense damage to the wildlife and forests of the region. On the other hand, his death paved the way for better conservation and protection of the forest resources and biodiversity. His life and crimes have also inspired several books, films, documentaries, and songs that depict him in different ways. His wife Muthulakshmi continues to fight for her rights and justice in various courts.


Frequently Asked Questions





  • What was Veerappan's real name?



Veerappan's real name was Koose Munisamy Veerappan.


  • When was Veerappan born?



Veerappan was born on January 18, 1952 in Gopinatham village in Karnataka.


  • When did Veerappan die?



Veerappan died on October 18, 2004 near Papparapatti village in Tamil Nadu.


  • How did Veerappan die?



Veerappan died in an encounter with the Special Task Force of Tamil Nadu Police who had launched Operation Cocoon to capture him.


  • Who killed Veerappan?



Veerappan was killed by K.Vijay Kumar and N.K.Senthamarai Kannan Yadava who were leading Operation Cocoon.



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