Veerappan on Veerappan
A JOURNEY INTO THE MIND OF VEERAPPAN
In person, Koose Muniswamy Veerappan, India's most notorious criminal, doesn't disappoint. The man who has evaded thousands of armed policemen for the past decade, thwarting the biggest and costliest man-hunt ever in the country, has always been contemptuous of efforts to capture him.
He gave his first ever interview with pictures to INDIA TODAY, published in the issue dated May 15, 1993. Veerappan was 43 then. Few have met him since and rarely has he spoken with such devastating clarity to media. When you read the interview, you will forget that it was done seven years ago, because it takes you into the mind of the man. If it was chilling then, it is chilling now. As Veerappan, who started out as an elephant poacher at 14, said then about people coming after him: "What they will get is bullets and death, not Veerappan."
On his life as an elephant poacher, to which he was introduced by his uncle, Sevi Gounder: "I hunted down elephants with abandon. I made a lot of money in the bargain and also recruited a lot of men to do the work. And after that I also paid a lot of money as bribe to the officials. They themselves would come to my place, sit with me, speak to me, take my money. But I feel we should help no politician. He flourishes, but does that help us?"
On how he turned from a poacher of animals to a killer of men: "People started growing jealous of me. Expert hunters began to look out for me. I was told that the district forester had told them that if they hunted me down the cases against them would be dropped. Rage consumed me and I vowed to exterminate these men. I lay in wait for them with my men and shot them down. When they fell down, I went at them with my axe and knife and hacked them. Now I had become a tiger and would not hesitate to cut down anybody who advanced. I cut the bodies to pieces and packed them into sacks and went to where the Cauvery flowed. These were the hands which wanted to kill me, I said, and cutting them to pieces fed them to the fish."
On his escape into the forests, where he has hidden since: "I rushed back to the jungle. It was a place I had often hunted in. I knew it like the back of my hand. I rushed in, picking up a couple of rocks on the way. Anybody pursues me and I would simply knock the jelly out of his brain. I reached a mountain and then thought, are you chaps going to catch me any more? Just see how I settle scores with you. Nightfall came but there was moonlight to guide me. It was a terrible forest, populated by tigers, bears, wild buffaloes and elephants, but I was confident. Dogged by fatigue, hunger, sleep, thorns and leeches I kept on, with only my instincts for my compass and wild berries for food. At last the meaning of my captivity and my escape dawned on me. It was then that I really understood about the oppression of the officials. It was after that my guns, which had been trained on elephants, turned towards the officials. Beware you fellows, here I come, I thought. It gave me great peace." "I had a stock of ivory but was not able to sell anything. We were in a state of penury. We survived for months on tubers and roots found in the forest. There would be many patches on my clothes and I would hide from the eyes of the people because I did not want them to see my sad state. I was a lakhpati who helped a thousand people. How could I show my face like a beggar? For a year we lived like this. It was like the exile of the Pandavas."
On his initial brush with forest officers and the law as a fugitive: "The forest force tried to take us on but retreated. Then came the police force. But by this time I had a good supply of arms. So they could not do anything to us. What I ask is this, the MLA does it, the MP does it, why do you sister-f******s object to me alone? I am not amassing wealth through it like the IAS men, officers and politicians. I am not building cinema theatres and buying estates for myself like those fellows. I am only earning my livelihood and protecting my own people.''
On his killing of Chidambaram, a Tamil Nadu Ranger who came after him: "I asked the people about Chidambaram. They told me that he was a demon and constantly harmed them. I asked details about his appearance and they said he more or less resembled a wild buffalo. He was dark in colour. As fate would have it, he crossed my path. I thought that Yama, the god of death, was bringing him to me for the sins he had committed. I cursed him but he stood like a log. I gave him a resounding blow on his face. He crashed down. I asked my comrades to kill him by crushing him with stones. They kept on attacking his head and his chest. I told them that `it' was dead. So they need not beat it any more (laughs). Earlier two of the other officials who came with Chidambaram were beaten by my men with stones. However, I spared their lives. My men asked me if we could burn up Chidambaram and these two fellows with the sandalwood that they had seized. I said no. Why burn up these fellows with sandalwood? They would go to heaven then (laughs again)."
On his wife and family. (At one time, security forces had encirlced Veerappan and his pregnant wife, Muthulakshmi, in Bodhimalai forest but they both managed to slip away): "For 15 days they encircled Bodhimalai and went on saying we will catch Veerappan. All they could do was arrest the trees on Bodhimalai (chuckles). But I had another problem at hand. If my wife gave birth to a child I could not bring it up in the forest. The baby would cry, and that would give me away. Therefore I told her to surrender to the police through a lawyer. Tell the police that Veerappan kidnapped you and then abandoned you. They can take no action against you. They will admit you into a hospital and I will get back to you after seven or eight months and have you brought to me. If I couldn't I would kidnap the wives of some policemen and they would post haste bring her back to me. Then I would send back their wives. After seven to eight months elapsed and they brought her to her parents, she slipped away and joined me. My daughter is being brought up by her grandparents."
On his killing of P. Srinivas, a deputy conservator of forests who had thwarted Veerappans growth "The idea that Veerappan was going to surrender seemed to have robbed Srinivas of all reason. So he rushed like the wind towards me. My blood was boiling. I was waiting for the time I could tear his chest open and see the blood gushing forth. I took out my gun and before he knew what was happening shot him. I then cut off his head and began hacking off his hands. These were the very hands that wanted to turn machine guns on me. I then kept his head as a souvenir."
On a murderous raid on a police station in Karnataka: "The fellows were lying in the police station, I got them straight on my gun... chattaar chattaar... chattaar.... One after the other they died with blood gushing out in streams. You chaps, who let Tamil blood flow like water."
On his ambush that killed T.R. Harikrishna, a dare-devil Superintendent of Police in Karnataka: "If they see a fortification of stones the policemen might grow suspicious. So I erected a construction that resembled a Shiva lingam temple. I consecrated the temple by doing puja. I prayed: O God, I am using you as my rampart, you must help me to come out victorious. When the car came, I shouted to my boys and they jumped into position. I had told my boys that their aim should be accurate: in one shot the head should be shattered. The SP just turned his head to one side to see the stones that had been rolled in_there was an AK-47 on his lap. I aimed at his head and hit it with one shot. It was shattered. He collapsed in a heap."
On himself: "Why are people trying to brand me as a trigger happy murderer? Is it wrong if I kill people who are out to kill me? They may even send the army to kill me. But even they cannot harm even a single hair on my head. There's no doubt they are only going to bite the dust. People should know I don't want any money. My heart has become stone, my feelings are frozen. I have become like a sadhu. All this is in God's hands, not mine. If I was a bad man God will strike me down with a bolt of lightning." Post-script: ABangalore psychiatrist, who last year did a psycho-profile on Veerappan, classified him as a frighteningly angry man who has an uncontrolled aggression against anything that represents society, law and authority. A criminal who is undoubtedly in a class of his own. His conclusion: Veerappan will never surrender to the police. He will battle it out to the very end and die fighting.
: From a 1993 interview from INDIA TODAY