Monday, October 25, 2004

India: The making of Legends


It has been Muthulakshmi's case that her husband had committed suicide on being surrounded and overwhelmed by the police. Indicative of suicide was the fact that there was only one bullet wound on Veerappan's body - in his temple. If it was a shoot out, his body would have been riddled with bullets, she argued. Muthulakshmi also recalled Veerappan's telling her that he would commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of the police. Muthulakshmi is also quoted as saying that the police had prevented her from seeing Veerappan's body kept at the Dharmapuri hospital till the evening. "I was kept locked in a room," she said. "Even at the burial, I was not allowed to see the full body," she complained.
Lankan Tamil press highlights flaws in Veerappan’s elimination
PK Balachanddran

There are interesting differences in the way in which the Tamil press and the English language press of Sri Lanka have been reporting the killing of the Tamil Nadu bandit king, Veerappan.

While the Tamil press is highlighting the alleged flaws in the police version of the elimination of the legendary outlaw, the English language press is featuring the police version only, albeit with a sentence or two saying that he was a kind of Robin Hood to the poor in the 150 villages around his jungle lair.

There could be two reasons for this difference:

a) The Tamil press is able to access critical reports appearing in the Tamil language newspapers of Tamil Nadu, something which the English language press is not able to do.

The English language press in Tamil Nadu and India, which the English language press in Sri Lanka can access, have apparently not come out with speculative and critical stories on the incident.

b) There seems to be an underlying sympathy for Veerappan among Sri Lankan Tamils, because, like them, he too had been an underdog fighting the might of a state.

Though the LTTE itself probably had nothing to do with the Tamil extremist and separatist groups, which had come to dominate Veerappan in his last days, pro-LTTE personalities like P Nedumaran and Nakkeeran editor RR Gopal, had advocated a soft line towards the brigand.

They had wanted the state to secure the outlaw's surrender rather than seek his scalp, and had acted as go-betweens to secure the release of some high profile hostages.

Some years ago, when the Kannada actor Rajkumar was being kept in captivity by the brigand, a leading Sri Lankan Tamil journalist settled in Canada had written in The Sunday Leader that Veerappan's struggle could well be an incipient Tamil nationalist movement.

He quoted Gramsci to say that it was a thin line, which divided the bandit and the revolutionary. Friday's Virakesari and Thinakkural carried a long story with a Salem (Tamil Nadu) dateline on the version of Muthulakshmi, the grieving wife of Veerappan.

It has been Muthulakshmi's case that her husband had committed suicide on being surrounded and overwhelmed by the police.

Indicative of suicide was the fact that there was only one bullet wound on Veerappan's body - in his temple. If it was a shoot out, his body would have been riddled with bullets, she argued.

Muthulakshmi also recalled Veerappan's telling her that he would commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of the police.

Muthulakshmi is also quoted as saying that the police had prevented her from seeing Veerappan's body kept at the Dharmapuri hospital till the evening. "I was kept locked in a room," she said.

"Even at the burial, I was not allowed to see the full body," she complained.

Muthulakshmi said that all the money and foodgrain sent by her husband had been taken away by the police, and wondered how she would look after her two daughters. "My life is in danger. I need protection," she said.

All the Tamil newspapers in Lanka carried pictures of the grieving Muthulakshmi and her two daughters.

According to the report, Veerappan had given her a tape addressed to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, in which he had said that he was getting old, and that he was now ready to spend the last seven or eight years of his life in jail.

Muthulakshmi had sent this tape to the Chief Minister, but there was no reply.

On Thursday, Thinakkural had carried a statement by Prakash Mirji, the head of the Karnataka Special Task Force (STF), saying that the police opened fire first and not the other way round as claimed by the Tamil Nadu STF.

The paper also carried a Tamil translation of an editorial in The Hindu, which said that there were some questions surrounding the killing of Veerappan and his associates that needed answers.

That fewer than half-a-dozen outlaws travelling in a passenger vehicle could not be captured alive required some explanation, The Hindu had said.

On Thursday, the state-owned Tamil daily Thinakaran carried a Chennai-datelined story saying that there was a feeling that Veerappan was killed three days earlier than the reported date.

The report also said that there was a theory that at the hospital where he was taken, Veerappan had begun to expose the involvement of public men and officials in his crimes, and the police killed him for this, on the orders of higher ups.

Sudar Oli on Thursday carried a longish story, which said that 20 minutes prior to the killing of Veerappan, all traffic on the normally busy road, had been stopped.

The police also searched for and took away all the spent bullets. The story suggested that the killing was premeditated.

In a Chennai-datelined report on Friday, Sudar Oli Weekly said that the manner in which Veerappan was eliminated had created a sympathy wave for him among the people in the area.

People in about 150 villagers in and around Veerppan's lair had been tortured for years by the police on the hunt for the outlaw, the report said.

The report concluded by saying that Veerappan was posing a problem even after death, and that his death would bring relief only to politicians.

HTI 25/10/2004