What is India Editorial

No eulogy for Veerappan

Veerappan is a model of how not to live a life, and his killing must spur us to address the causes that create such monsters

Aravind Sitaraman
What is India News Service
November 8, 2004 

In India, one does not speak badly of the dead, much less rejoice at someone’s death. However, barring those who directly fed off him, the whole nation was very happy to learn that Koose Muniswamy Veerapan was dead.

If one were to describe Veerapan, one would say that this is exactly how not to live your life. A murderer, kidnapper, poacher, extortionist, and thief, Veerapan accounted for the known deaths of over 2,000 elephants and 135 humans, theft of several hundred sandalwood trees, and at least 10 kidnappings and countless unreported ones. The hunt for Veerapan went on for decades, making it the costliest manhunt in Indian history involving the most number of security and police forces. Future generations will wonder why it took a nation of 1 billion, and one of the largest security and police forces in the world, this long to catch a criminal with no apparent political links or sophisticated arms. The answers are yet to come, and in a country growing apathetic and cynical by the day, they are obvious.

Veerapan started his terrorist career in the late '60s, working for a local Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) politician in Dharmapuri district. With countless encounters with the police, Veerapan magically always escaped. Either the police were reined in by conniving politicians in Chennai or Bangalore, or he simply bribed his way out. Coincidentally, every time the DMK was in power, the hunt would be toned down. There were many rumors of DMK politicians getting a payback from Veerapan. Unfortunately, there was no investigation from the media which is now bent on comparing him to Robin Hood and glorifying his existence. Even though the numbers of humans killed were overwhelmingly civilian, no one questioned self-styled human rights activists on the rights of those executed by Veerapan in cold blood. While editorials talk about the “questions about the manner in which he was killed'', they do not talk about the lives of police and forest officials who were killed in the most barbaric and gruesome manner.

Instead of finding out whether Veerapan was a criminal or a Robin Hood, we should find out how he managed to get crores of rupees into the forest undetected. Instead of alluding motives for Veerapan’s death, we should find out how hundreds of tonnes of sandalwood were smuggled out of the forest without anyone noticing. Instead of figuring out how he managed to “enthrall” the local population, we should be asking how he managed to hide this money. Many reports say that Veerapan had the habit of burying the money in polythene bags in the forest. Such reports are spurring bounty seekers to enter the forest in droves to “discover” his hidden treasure.

While those bounty seekers need to be stopped, it would be a good idea to pore through bank accounts of politicians, their relatives, and the unusually large accounts of unknown or benami individuals to see whether there was any interesting activity of transfers. It would also be interesting to find out if these people had filed taxes and what they declared as their sources of income.

Ultimately, we have to examine the circumstances that created, nurtured, and protected Veerapan. If one removes the individual, Veerapan is more a disease stemming from lack of education, low job opportunities and health care, systemic corruption, and loss of fundamental hereditary values in several communities.  While we must kill the Veerapans of this world, we must also ensure that we fix these root causes.

The killing of Veerapan is only the first step. Let us focus on destroying the precipitating and sustaining environment for such criminals.

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