The most famous of them all

  • 29/11/1993

VEERAPPAN'S involvement with sandalwood smuggling came to light when he organised massive felling in and around the Makkampalyam, Kottamadain and Argiyam areas of the Satyamangala forests division in Tamil Nadu between July and December 1989. About 50 truckloads of sandalwood were smuggled out of Jellipalyam in Mysore and the adjacent Mahawipalyam in Tamil Nadu. The Karnataka state reserve police had to be shifted to Hogyam from M M Hills to stop transportation of the sandalwood he tried to smuggle out via three routes -- Gopinathan to Allarhadi, Nahood to Silvekkal, Nahood to Vadakalla. br>
A joint operation was launched by the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu forest and police departments, and 65 tonnes of sandalwood were confiscated from the Silvikkal forest in Tamil Nadu in February 1990. According to official estimates, at least Rs 50 lakh worth of sandalwood was being smuggled annually by Veerappan. br>
Police and forests officials admit "the possibility of official connivance that allowed Veerappan to work so systematically inside the forest". The large-scale felling and renovation of a road inside the reserve forests leading to Tanda, which was used by Veerappan for transportation of sandalwood, was not even noticed and it was possible "because in the initial stages, some had turned a blind eye". Karnataka director general of police S N S Murthy admits that lapses on the part of the law-enforcing agencies also aided "in the creation of a monster". br>
"Obstruction to his activity incited Veerappan to a spate of killings for which he has today become a law and order problem," says Y S Rao, inspector general of police, forest cell, Bangalore. Today, Veerappan is wanted for more than 50 murders and cases of smuggling and poaching. In 1990, a special task force was set up to nab him, and following this year's killing spree of police officials, the Border Security Force has also been brought in.

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