BENGALURU: A Tamil Nadu police officer who was part of the anti-Veerappan operations, especially ‘Operation Cocoon’ (in which Veerappan was shot dead) feels the forest brigand could have been captured alive, but they decided to eliminate him.
Speaking to Express on the condition of anonymity, he said, “With the level of preparedness that we had, we could have captured Veerappan alive. He was known to change decisions at the last minute and had chalked out four escape routes. We were prepared for this and had armed men inside the ambulance in which he was being brought from Papirappati village in Dharmapuri district. After our men came out, Veerappan and his men opened fire and we retaliated. If we had just waited till he ran out of ammunition, we could have captured him alive.”
“But the loss of lives of policemen mattered more. If we had caught him, he would have been jailed and would come out on bail...We did not want this to happen. Our only intention was shoot to kill.”
However, Vijay Kumar, who headed the TNSTF during Operation Cocoon, during the interaction with veteran journalist and writer T J S George, said, “We wanted to catch him alive and we tried too. But the chances were slim and we shot him because we did not want to lose any of our men.”
Veerappan had sensed danger minutes before his death, said the man who had managed to gain the trust of the brigand posing as an arms dealer.
Saravanan, presently police inspector of Dharmapuri district who was then a constable, drove the ambulance in which the brigand was being taken to a hospital. “It took six months for me to earn his trust. During those days, Veerappan and his team always suspected me. Veerappan’s last journey lasted 35 minutes.”