SALEM: Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan had driven both the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments up the wall when he abducted Kannada matinee idol Rajkumar and held him hostage for over hundred days. Two decades later, a book written by a journalist who was part of the team that negotiated with the brigand claims that the Karnataka government had paid crores of rupees, Rs 15.22 crore to be precise, as ransom, to secure a deal.
Rajkumar was abducted from his farm house in Gajanur near Thalavadi in Tamil Nadu on the night of July 30, 2000. Rajkumar’s relatives Govindaraj, Nakesh and his assistant Nagappa were also abducted. On behalf of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments, a team led by Nakkheeran magazine editor, Gopal, was sent into the forest to negotiate with Veerappan. P Sivasubramaniyam, veteran journalist and author of the book, was part of the team.
After several rounds of negotiations, which lasted 106 days, Veerappan released Rajkumar on November 13, 2000. Subsequently, it was widely speculated in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka that crores of rupees exchanged hands. But the Karnataka government and Rajkumar’s family members brushed the speculations away, saying they were rumours.
On Saturday, Sivasubramaniyam released a book ‘Veerappan Vaazhnthathum Veezhnthathum (Life & Fall of Veerappan) - part two and three’ which has created ripples in the political arena. The first part of the book was released last year.
Sivasubramaniyam, who was the first journalist to meet Veerappan and release his picture to outside world, told The New Indian Express, “People of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have every right to know the truth in this issue. Veerappan received Rs 15.22 in cash from Karnataka government to release Rajkumar. Karnataka government gave Rs 10 crores in two instalments to Veerappan through Nakkheeran Gopal. The final instalment of Rs 5.22 crore was handed over to Veerappan on November 13, 2000.”
He added, “After receiving the money, Veerappan released Rajkumar and handed him over him to DVK president, Kolathur Mani, and Tamizhar Desiya Munnani (TDM) president, P Nedumaran. A few days before the release, on November 10, 2000, Veerappan spoke with former Karnataka Chief Minister, S M Krishna, through what we believe was a satellite phone.”
According to him, Tamil Nadu government spent around Rs 10 lakh on the team towards various expenses. “At first, Veerappan demanded Rs 1,000 crore, including Rs 900 crore in gold and Rs 100 crore in cash. After several rounds negotiations, he settled for Rs 10 crore,” Sivasubramaniyam added. A doctor from Karnataka, namely Banu, treated Veerappan for injuries in his hand,” Sivasubramaniyam added. When contacted, Nakkheeran magazine editor Gopal denied involvement of money and said Rajkumar was released through negotiations.
“Money was not involved in Rajkumar’s release. Even Rajkumar’s family members denied this. Sivasubramaniyam is not part of our magazine now. The book is a figment of his imagination. The allegations he has levelled against me are false,” Gopal added. But Kolathur Mani told The New Indian Express, “We came to know that Veerappan received Rs 10 crore. We are not aware of the Rs 5.22 crore final settlement. We got involved in the issue after Veerappan refused to release Rajkumar even after he received money. We were not involved directly or indirectly in the money transfer.”
He added, “It is true that Dr Banu treated Veerappan. It was not a satellite phone given to Veerappan. An antenna to boost signal strength of mobile phone was taken to Veerappan’s hideout from Bangalore. We do not know whether Veerappan spoke to former Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna. He might have done that, but did not speak with him in our presence.”
‘No truth to it’
“There is no truth to it. No such transaction took place. There was not even such a discussion,” said Ramalinga Reddy, who was minister for Food and Civil Supplies in the SM Krishna government in 2000 when the abduction took place. Reddy is currently one of the Working Presidents of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.