Volume 6, No. 1, January 2005


Veerappan – A Bandit who turned as a Rebel against state

[Translated from the Tamil original]



On 18th of August, 2004 Veerappan and his three associates Sethkkuli Govindan, Chandra Gowdar, and Sethumani were brutally killed by the Special Task Force of the Tamilnadu police. The Chief of the STF Vijayakumar ADGP, its chief of intelligence wing Senthamarai Kanna SP, and the lastest recruit into the STF, SI Velladurai, and the governments of Tamilnadu and Karnataka fabricated a story that Veerappan and his associates were brought for treatment in an ambulance, which was arranged by the STF. When the van reached Papparappatti near Dharmapuri, it was intercepted by STF and the inmates were asked to surrender. When Veerappan started to fire on the police they opened fire in self defense in which all four, including Veerappan died on the spot. But the people of Tamilnadu are not ready to believe this story. As days passed the hollowness of this story begun to get exposed and the real information about this incident started to leak out. This information exposed the sadist tortures and the fascist nature of Jayalalitha and her faithful dogs, the STF.

After this incident the STF started to roll out different stories contradicting each other. Even the bourgeois media raised many questions about the genuineness of the police version by pointing out these contradictions. The STF, till now, has not given any reply to these questions. Firstly, those who have intimate knowledge about Veerappan refute it as "an unbelievable lie" that Veerappan was brought out by deception. On the 19th morning, the very next day after the killing, the STF chief Vijayakumar, told reporters that the driver of the ambulance and one more person escaped. Later he retracted by saying that those two men were part of "operation cocoon" who were responsible to bring out Veerappan in the ambulance. SI Velladurai boasted that he went to the forest many times to meet Veerappan posing as a Eelam militant. But the STF chief said that his role was limited to bringing Veerappan out of the forest. One official said that Velladurai threw a hand grenade inside the ambulance, contradicting this, another official said that he threw a teargas shell. Vijayakumar said that three informers including Palani, who were present with Veerappan, refused to enter the ambulance and escaped. First he claimed that a video camera had been fitted in the ambulance recording all activities of Veerappan and his associates, but later he did not open his mouth on that even after repeated queries from press reporters. To list out all the stories reeled out by the STF, the limited pages in this article are not sufficient. These stories themselves clearly show that the police, in order to cover up its gruesome murder, hastily wrote a new script of the ambulance drama. By doing so they themselves got exposed even more.

On the other hand, evidence related to the incident expose this shoot out story. Firstly, the people in the surrounding area refute the police version that the shoot out continued for about 30 minutes in which hundreds of rounds were fired. They said that they heard firing sound only for a few minutes. Also, large quantity of blood was not found neither in the ambulance nor at the place of the incident. This completely exposes the story of encounter killings. Not only that, the police tried hurriedly to burn the bodies of all four on the same night by threatening the relatives. And they succeeded in burning the bodies of Sethukkuli Govindan, Chandre Gowdar, and Sethumani. Only with the resistance of Veerappan’s wife, Muthulakshmi, brother Madaiyan and few activists of democratic and human rights organisations, the body of Veerappan was prevented from cremation. Later, in the early hours, it was buried as per their custom. More importantly, the bodies of the deceased were covered completely except the faces. The relatives, even Veerappan’s wife and children were not allowed to open the cloth covering the body. The fascist Jayalalitha govt denied even the fundamental right to perform the last rites according to their customs. Anybody can easily understand the reason behind this. Its aim is to destroy all injury marks on the body suffered due to torture.

Even then, they could not conceal the cruel torture carried out by these blood thirsty beasts as the injury marks on the forehead of Veerappan, and jammed face of Govindan revealed. Information given by the relatives of the deceased and doctors expose the inhuman torture carried out by these human beasts. Limbs of Govindan were crushed and his penis was cut off; the palms of Veerappan were burnt; there were needle marks on the neck; the hip bone was found crushed. Those who gave these information are not ready to declare openly, because of fear that the fascist Jaya govt and its henchmen, the STF will not hesitate to kill them in an ‘encounter’ and brand them as accomplices of Veerappan. It is interesting to note that the DMK chief Karunanidhi gave a mild threatening statement to the STF and Jaya govt saying that "he will expose what had happened in the forest".

The above said information and the evidences establish that Veerappan and his associates were killed by gruesome torture. More facts provided by the relatives and the people in that area are coming out on this ghastly murder. By examining the information available so far on this incident, it can be concluded that, Veerappan and others were arrested by the STF using sedative drugs fed by those who were very close and trusted by Veerappan, tortured them cruelly and finally killed them. To cover up this cowardly act and show their ‘heroics’ they enacted the unbelievable drama of shoot out in the ambulance. Subsequently, they indulged in the heinous act of burning the bodies and threatening the relatives.

Fact finding team and coercive tactics adopted by the fascist Jaya govt.

In the hope that the ruling classes and the bourgeois media would not expose her govt and no body else would dig this issue more deeply, the Jayalalitha govt made arrangements to celebrate the ‘victory’. But the formation of a Fact Finding Team comprised of Human Rights activists and democrats had created panic that the heinous crime committed by her govt would get exposed before the masses. It is adopting various coercive tactics to pressurize the human rights activists and create hurdles in their effort to bring out the facts. When the Team visited the area, the STF organized the family members of police informers, who were killed by Veerappan, to disturb the team’s effort to bring out the facts. In a press meet held at Bangalore, the STF chief Vijayakumar gave an open threat by saying "we know how to deal with the Fact Finding Team". They also started a slanderous attack on this team through their stooges. They issued open threats under some fictitious name in the Brahminical newspaper "Dinamalar" that they will be arrested if they do not stop the fact finding. They intimidated the relatives of the deceased and the people in that area not to divulge any information. None of the STF officials were ready to meet the team and fled away from the area. They did not allow any one to see the ambulance van or any other evidence. Even they refused to give the postmortem report to the wife of Veerappan, as if it is a classified defense secret. The relatives had to move the High Court even to get the postmortem report.

The STF, with the help of some bourgeois intellectuals, put forward the argument of "can any one demand human rights for a criminal like Veerappan"? Raising the same argument, news magazines like "Tughlaq", "Dinamalar" and "India Today" which supports almost all fascist measures of the govt, have written editorials condemning the Fact Finding Team. The so-called neutral journals "Hindu" and "Ananda Vikatan", raised question like "what is the necessity of human rights to Veerappan"? They adduce prejudices by addressing the Fact Finding Team as "supporters of Veerappan".

The main content of this ‘civilized’ argument is "civil rights are not applicable to dangerous criminals like Veerappan". The unstated argument is to deny all fundamental rights guaranteed under Constitution to these "dangerous criminals", and it is a justified act to subject them to any kind of inhuman, third degree torture. This argument is very dangerous. This argument is not only against the Constitution, but also supports and justifies state terrorism and fascism. The human rights organizations demanded that the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India are common to all, including to those who are charged with serious criminal charges, that the state cannot violate these rights and the accused must be tried and punished only by a court of law. Even the formal Rights, guaranteed by the Constitution is an illusion for the broad masses. Today, when the state machinery, particularly the police and the army are trampling the rights of the people under their foot, and committing countless atrocities on them, the demands of the human rights organizations are justifiable.

Those props of fascism who criticize the human rights activists got exposed completely in the case of the arrest of Kanchi swami Jayendra. They make a big hue and cry against the arrest of the ‘holy’ man Kanchi Shankaracharya, who hired notorious gangsters to kill a poor brahmin in a temple for his personal benefit. They shout from the rooftop that human rights are violated and it is wrong to arrest such a ‘holy’ man. The RSS, BJP and other saffron gangsters, who scorn off the very concept of human rights, are fuming over the arrest of the ‘holy’ pontiff of the Sankara mutt. On the contrary, the human rights organizations are demanding that the fundamental rights guaranteed under constitution should be applicable to all; proper legal procedures must be complied with in punishing an accused and prevention of physical and mental torture.

There is another danger in the argument of "are human rights applicable to criminals"? Today, when the govt is ruling the country through black laws like the Goonda Act, NSA, POTA the police can frame charges against any one according to its wish, brand them as a dacoit or, rowdy, or terrorist or extremist. Thousands were arrested all over the country and charged as terrorists and extremists under NSA, POTA, etc. Lakhs of people who are detained under the goonda (prevention) Act have been acquitted as innocents. Under such circumstances raising questions like "are criminals entitled for human rights" is nothing but giving license to the police/govt to arrest, torture and kill by branding any one a criminal.

This argument is not confined to this. The Hindu fascist gangsters and the Congress are demanding that human rights are not applicable to cross border ‘terrorists’. The same argument is extended to the Naxalites and other militants belonging to national liberation movements, who are waging armed struggle for the liberation of the oppressed masses and nationalities. Tomorrow this can be extended to a trade unionist or a Dalit activist or a feminist or any one who is fighting genuinely against exploitation and oppression. As the growth of fascist forces increases this argument will be extended to newer and newer sections of the population and finally reach a situation where there will be no democracy or human rights to any one other than the fascists. It is an immediate task of all the democratic forces to expose and defeat such fascist arguments. As part of this, it is not only inevitable but also essential to expose the human rights violation, and to demand punishment of the guilty police personnel who were involved in this gruesome murder of Veerappan and three others.

The govt and the mass media have created an image for many years that "Veerappan is a notorious criminal and a gruesome murderer". In this background the fascist Jayalalitha gang and the mercenary chieftains like Vijayakumar and Walter Devaram have expected that the people of Tamilnadu will celebrate the killing of Veerappan, who was a nightmare to the police over many years. Except these gangsters, people of the state did not celebrate this cowardly act. Ruling class parties and the mass media expressed their support for the killing. But the attitude of the people of Tamilnadu, particularly the people in Veerappan’s area has shocked the ruling classes. Bourgeois intellectuals were shocked by the spontaneous sympathy wave generated in support of Veerappan. They accuse the mass media, which projected Veerappan as a hero as responsible for such sentiment among the people. What is the reason behind the hero’s image and the sympathy wave after his killing among the masses? To find out the answer to this question, we have to examine the clashes and encounters (real encounters) between the STF and Veerappan in the last fifteen years and the monstrous atrocities committed by the STF on the people of that area, particularly on the adivasis. Let us briefly look into this.

How Veerappan, a criminal turned into an anti-state rebel

The story of Veerappan has been focused many times by the bourgeois media in Tamilnadu. It is not our aim to narrate this again. All of them focussed mainly on poaching, smuggling, kidnapping and the killing activities of Veerappan. But they did not narrate the history of his daring fight against a specially trained joint force of Tamilnadu, Karnataka equipped with modern weapons, by adopting guerrilla tactics. He continued his fight for the last two decades against the state forces, including the para-military forces, like the BSF and CRPF on some occasions, numbering about two thousand under ‘normal’ operations, and up to four thousand during the peak period. The media does not bother to go deeply into these reasons and the impact it had created. In fact, the hero image of Veerappan is the outcome of that fight. If Veerappan continued his smuggling and poaching activities instead of fighting against the state, he could have become an MLA or even an ‘honorable’ minister. Smugglers and poachers are not considered as despicable criminals in this social system. The police and forest departments are not their enemies. They are also the partners in this lucrative business. In fact, the under world dons and criminals are created and protected by these anti-people officials. With Veerapan dead all these mafia stand to make fortunes from the forest wealth — just the exquisite granite stones from this forest is expected to earn about Rs. 500 crores a year only in exports.

Veerappan differs from other criminals specifically due to his decision to confront the state directly and dare to direct his guns against the police. This was the turning point in his life. He refused to surrender to police and lived in the forest as a fugitive. This has completely changed the life of Veerappan. He continued to pursue the same until his death. The reason could be either to avenge the rape and killing of his sister and brother, or to take revenge for atrocities committed on his close associates or even it could be out of business rivalry or a composite of all. But ultimately he became a rebel against the state. His rebellion was not a conscious decision based on some political outlook, but circumstantial. Veerappan who was a sharp shooter, having excellent knowledge of the terrain where he operated, organised his own group and remained inside the forest for his own survival after killing many police and forest officials belonging to Tamilnadu and Karnataka. After these two governments launching a manhunt, it has become inevitable for him to continue this armed resistance, which was sustained for two decades. This long blood stained struggle has created the present image of Veerappan.

In the last fifteen years there were many encounters between the STF and Veerappan’s group. At one stage the strength of his group increased up to hundred men. But later only a handful of men remained with him. Despite this, it is an irrefutable fact that the joint forces of the STF could not defeat him in any of the direct encounters. By utilizing the advantage of vast expanse and difficult terrain, by adopting simple guerrilla tactics, the courage and determination to confront big forces had made Veerappan’s group almost invincible. Although, Veerappan’s tactics like ambush, usage of landmines, raids on police station, were aimed at self- defense, he carried out some stunning attacks on the STF. Even when the STF surrounded his group he launched counter offensives and inflicted serious losses to the STF. In the real encounters the STF suffered more loss of life. From ordinary policemen to SPs, were the victims of Veerappan. In short, Veerappan, with his knowledge of the forest, and by adopting simple guerrilla tactics not only protected himself from the joint onslaught of the TN and Karnataka police but also inflicted serious losses to them. Due to this heroic fight against the state armed forces he became a "legendary fighter" amongst the people in the forest, who despise the police due to the indescribable atrocities suffered at the hands of these hooligans in uniform.

Moreover, the people in the forest are not against Veerappan because he did not kill or harass any body other than police informers and gave lots of money to the ordinary people, above all these, the nightmarish attacks on the STF has enhanced his stature. Since, he did not have any outlook on the liberation of the people, he did not have close relations with them. He built a network to fulfill his needs based on money and close association.

During mid 90s, different groups having allegiance to Tamil national liberation have joined Veerappan, some for their own protection and some others for the sake of money. The TNLA, under Maran’s leadership, stayed with him in the forest and became popular during the Kannada actor Rajkumar kidnap episode. Veerappan was very serious in helping those who suffered at the hands of the STF. He wanted to provide some solace to the victims of the STF and the release of TADA prisoners. This wish of Veerappan and the adventurist aspirations of the Tamil nationalist groups coincided in the Rajkumar kidnapping. Later, the kidnap of Nagappa, an ex-minister of Karnataka, and his killing by the STF of TN followed.

During this period, Veerappan was introduced to various political ideas. The movement led by the LTTE and the armed struggle by the Naxalite organizations had an impact on him. Veerappan, who inevitably took up arms against the state, thought it would be respectable to become a fighter for the cause of the masses. But it cannot be said conclusively that his idea to become a militant was politically profound or there was clarity regarding his old methods as a brigand. To sum up, he had mixed ideas, such as the influence of his old criminal methods, helping the victims of STF terror, and to transform himself into a militant. But he was firm in his fight against the state.

The armed confrontation between Veerappan and the STF continued for the last fifteen years and the fall of the Veerappan group illustrates two important lessons for any one who wants to build armed struggle for the liberation of the masses. Firstly, regarding utilization of terrain. He could survive and sustain the attacks of the STF for fifteen years with the help of the terrain, even without a deep mass base. This illustrates that in the war against the state, a weak revolutionary force can sustain for a long period and develop the movement and its forces with the better understanding and utilization of the terrain. Secondly, in the war against the state it is impossible to grow or sustain without a deep mass base, which is the real bastion. As it is already mentioned, the anti-state struggle of Veerappan did not have a correct political orientation or mass base. Although the people had sympathy, they did not rally behind him. Hence, he had to depend on his network, ultimately which led to his fall. His fifteen years of anti-state fight was wiped out completely by the STF. This clearly shows that, even if the terrain played an advantageous role, without the mass base and their conscious participation it is certain to collapse. This is the basic concept of Mao’s people’s war.

STF — pervert, hideous armed gangsters

When you look at Veerappan, it is inevitable to look at the its other side—the STF. The STF formed by the TN and Karnataka governments in the 90s to nab Veerappan, have committed innumerable crimes against the people. The horrifying terror created by these forces in the name of capturing Veerappan and utilizing the isolated environment of the forest makes one’s blood boil. The lives of the adivasis and other oppressed people in that area had become a hell.

The STF had snatched away the basic livelihood of the people by seizing all activities such as grazing of cattle, collections of fire-wood, ferrying in the river, etc on which the people depend. The STF, like a feudal lord, looted the people’s meager assets like cattle, fowls, money and also forced them to do free labour in their camps by threatening that they would be included in "Veerappan’s case". The STF was nick named as "bandits of sheep" by the local people. Not only that, more than hundred person were booked under TADA (more than 50% of them were widows, whose spouses were killed by the STF) and jailed for many years. It is significant to note that most of them were released by the govt only after Veerappan put forward it as a condition for the release of Rajkumar.

In addition, the inhuman gang rapes committed by the STF of both states, which put mankind to shame, is part of the dark history of the STF. The testimony made by the people before the Sadashivam Commission, which was set up to probe the atrocities committed by the STF, explains the gory chapter of the STF. Recently, Mr.Balamurugan, an advocate and human rights activist, published a book "Solagar doddi" (hamlet of Soligas) which picturises some of the loathsome atrocities.

The torture camps, particularly the MM Hills camp, put the Abu Gharib prison to shame. Not only the STF camps, the whole forest was turned into a massive torture camp. In the name of hunting for Veerappan, it had become a regular feature of the STF to arrest any one on flimsy grounds, subject them to severe torture for many days and finally declare that he was killed in an ‘encounter’. The male chauvinist sexual assault on women would put any one to tears. Rape was a common practice of the STF. They considered that it was their birth right to enter into adivasi hamlets and rape any one they wished. Gang rapes in front of their husband/son/father; subjecting female children and even old age women to sexual torture; parading women in the naked in front of the family members and forcing them to watch; passing electricity in the genital organs and many more such sadist tortures were committed on these poor masses. All these were committed under the direct supervision of high-level officers, particularly STF chiefs Walter Dewaram and Shankar Bidri. They directly indulged in various types of torture, including rape. Many women were kept as sexual slaves for many years in these camps. Another important aspect to be noted is that the STF formed to nab Veerappan was regularly deployed to suppress the movement led by the erstwhile CPI (ML) People’s War party in Dharmapuri. Also, Com.Ravindran was killed by the STF in a fake encounter. It is just an example how the STF will be deployed to suppress the revolutionary movement.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the STF of both states were running a blood-thirsty rule. Their gruesome regime was no less than the rule of Hitler’s Nazi forces, Sinhalese chauvinist forces, US forces in Iraq, Indian mercenary forces in Kashmir and the North-Eastern states. The atrocities of the STF were not just human rights violation. It was a crime committed against humanity.

The fascist Jaya govt and the Karnataka govt presented awards and rewards worth crores of rupees to these cruel chieftains and other gangsters. The blood of innocent people and the tears of rape victims are going as rewards to these rogues. Any one with the minimum of human values cannot tolerate this ghastly carnival. It is not surprising that a fascist like Jayalalitha, praises such heinous crimes against innocent people.

Although the fascists are praising the mercenaries and celebrate their victory the people are not participating in that. The consistent anti state struggle by Veerappan has made him a legend in the eyes of the people of TN, particularly among the oppressed masses in that area. On the other hand, it is not surprising that the STF, which had committed monstrous crimes and cowardly killed Veerappan and his associates, gained their hatred.

Let us organize against the atrocities of the STF and the growing fascist repression

On the one hand, the fascist Jaya govt is glad over the fall of Veerappan. Other ruling class parties are praising her, as "the crimes of Veerappan have come to an end". On the other hand, the Jaya govt is trying to bury the horrendous crimes committed by the joint forces of the STF. The rewards for the murderous force, is nothing but the recognition of its illegal terror campaign against the innocent oppressed masses for the last fifteen years. The TN govt since many years has opposed the probe of the STF for its excesses and punishment for its crimes. The Sadashivam Commission of inquiry was put to rest by the governments of TN and Karnataka. No case was registered against the murderers, including the murder of Veerappan, committed by the STF. The sexual violence was not even under the purview of the law. On the whole, these two state governments conspired to bury these crimes once and for all.

In TN, the Jaya govt, has built a special police wing specializing in fake encounters. It is adopting fake encounter as a weapon. Vijayakumar, Sailendra babu, Velladurai, Ashok Kumar Das and such other merciless killers are focused as heroes of the police force. It announced rewards for the killing of Naxalbari revolutionaries, Muslim and nationalist forces and even a few rowdies. Further, they are encouraged to undertake such ‘special assignments’. As part of increasing fascisation, ‘encounter’ killings, custodial deaths, sexual violence in police station are also increasing. These unlawful crimes are being institutionalized and are duly rewarded by the govt. Even after ‘accomplishing’ the task of hunting down Veerappan, the STF is not disbanded. Instead, the govt has announced that STF operations in the forest area would continue. It only means that the atrocities and oppression on the oppressed masses in that area will continue.

In this situation, punishment for the illegal offences committed by the STF and disbanding of this force is a justified democratic demand. To build a movement based on these demands is a democratic task. This should be part of a broader struggle against the increasing fascisation and violence by the police. It is an immediate task to build a democratic movement based on these issues throughout TN, particularly in the areas affected by this. There is a need for all the revolutionary forces, democratic organizations, human rights organizations and others to organize and unify the affected masses in the path of struggles.

It is inevitable to rally all democratic forces, but it is, only the revolutionary movement that can provide the correct, final solution for the fascist dictatorship and offences committed by the STF. The offences against the people committed by the state terrorist forces should be avenged by the people’s war. The decadent exploitative social system and this cruel oppression are twins. Most of the people who suffered in the Veerappan episode are the backward adivasis and other oppressed masses. The state, which protects the interests of the big comprodor capitalist-big landlord combine, suppresses any resistance or refusal of the oppressed masses to be subjugated. Whether it is AP or Jharkhand, or Kashmir, or the North-Eastern states or any other struggle against the state, the state removes its democratic mask and unleashes a reign of terror. It can be eradicated only by overthrowing this exploitative social system, and in its place establishing a New democratic society through people’s war waged by the oppressed masses. The people of TN, in order to put an end to this state terror, must punish the guilty and to liberate themselves from this exploitation and oppression must rally under the Maoist path of protracted people’s war.





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