Tags: India's | Rambo | Releases | Movie | Idol

India's Rambo Releases Movie Idol

Thursday, 16 November 2000 12:00 AM

Although Rambo, the macho Hollywood screen hero played by Sylvester Stallone, is a fictional character, the outlaw Veerappan, who reigns supreme in the Nilgiri jungles in south India, is for real and very much a law unto himself.

Over the past decade, he has been blamed for killing more than 100 people, including 30 police officers, who have dared to challenge him in the 6,000-square-kilometer jungle tract along the borders of southern Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala states.

Veerappan - a ruthless ivory poacher who first shot an elephant at the age of 10 in 1955 – callously murdered scores of police informers and others who got in the way of his lucrative elephant tusk and precious sandalwood multimillion-dollar smuggling operation.

But he really hit news headlines with a bang in July when he kidnapped movie star Rajkumar and three of his relatives from the beloved star’s luxury country estate.

After Rajkumar's kidnapping, residents of movie-crazy Karnataka state were in a state of shock. Cinemas shut down in sympathy, and film shooting in the state of 40 million people came to standstill.

A newspaper editor, R.R. Gopal, met four times with the brigand in his constantly moving hideouts before a "desperate" Karnataka state government agreed to swap 51 jailed terrorists as demanded by Veerappan for the release of Rajkumar. The neighboring state of Tamil Nadu state also knuckled under agreed to a Veerappan demand to release dozens of prisoners.

But the crisis heightened on Nov. 7 when the federal Supreme Court rejected the plans of both states to barter prisoners for Rajkumar's release. And both state governments were reluctant to send police or troops into the dense jungles in case Veerappan decided to execute his prized captive.

Without warning, this deadlock was broken Tuesday when Veerappan suddenly decided to free Rajkumar unharmed after 100 days in captivity.

"It was psychological warfare between the governments – perhaps Veerappan ran out of patience,” observed Karnataka’s chief minister.

Known as the Robin Hood of the Jungle, Veerappan built up an excellent rapport with the forest people over the years with his charitable gestures – including doling out money to ensure that he was alerted whenever police teams tried to reach his hideouts.

Also, he has a bizarre sense of self-preservation. According to his wife, Muthulakshmy, who was captured in a 1993 police dragnet, Veerappan choked his 6-month-old baby to death in her presence. With police teams dangerously close to him, a harmless whimper from the baby would have drawn police attention, revealed his grief-stricken wife.

Such stories are the stuff of legends. Veerappan escapades have struck a chord in the Indian psyche so much that he’s even featured in national advertisements that play up his "evil genius”.

Sadly, he’s fast becoming a household name in this a nation of 1 billion people.

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Although Rambo, the macho Hollywood screen hero played by Sylvester Stallone,is a fictional character, the outlaw Veerappan, who reigns supreme in the Nilgiri jungles in south India, is for real and very much a law unto himself. Over the past decade, he has been blamed for...
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Thursday, 16 November 2000 12:00 AM
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