Crime seems to always make for good copy. Whether in a book or a newspaper or magazine. I don’t get any macabre thrills about reading about the crime, but I am intrigued to know what makes a person a criminal. Of late, I have been devouring books written on criminals and their psychology. The book, ‘Veerappan: Chasing The Brigand’ was released last year, almost 13 years after the dreaded smuggler was shot dead in an ambush by a Special Task Force constituted only to capture him.
That the book is written by K Vijay Kumar, who was head of the task force, made me pick it up, for I thought it would be credible. I was certainly not disappointed on that count. What did disappoint me just a wee bit was that there weren’t too many photographs of the subject – the dreaded bandit Koose Muniswamy Veerappan, who held the state machineries of almost all of the southern Indian states in his career spanning two decades. In fact, the author often confuses the genre to be an ‘autobiography’ and not just an ‘account’. I did feel at times that K Vijay Kumar often mixed ‘autobiography’ with ‘narration’ – incorporating details of his own life, training and rigour into the book. I agree that a little bit of overlap is bound to happen. But I was frankly not interested in reading so much about the author’s own arduous training etc – especially in a book on Veerappan. I would have loved to see pictures of Veerappan’s hideouts, his village, his family etc. Now that the elephant in the room has been dealt with, what I did like about the book was its attention to detail, without revealing all of the official secrets. The ruthless killings and high-profile kidnappings masterminded by Veerappan, including the 108-day ordeal involving Kannada cinema superstar, Dr Rajkumar, are described in fascinating detail.
The book does narrate some events that shaped Veerappan’s life – from his birth in Gopinatham in 1952 to his death in 2004 in a shootout in Padi. It traces his dramatic rise from a small-time poacher and sandalwood smuggler to a brutal fugitive who killed his own newborn daughter. Apparently, Veerappan was shaken after a close shave with the authorities and was not about to let anything compromise his location in the jungle. To a man with such motives, a newborn baby with 110-decibel cries is a complete liability. A simple gesture to the midwife, who delivered the child, did the job. This ruthless sacrifice is said to have stunned his gang of 100 or so jungle dwellers and ensured their utter loyalty.
Veerappan and his terror showed how an internal threat can shake a state (or three) to its core. The book, dedicated to J Jayalalithaa, who was one of the most determined leaders in the fight against Veerappan, is essentially a chronological retelling of most incidents in the chase between Veerappan and the STF. A lot of books on crime seem to create a sort of sympathy for the criminal. Not this one. This book is a tribute to the courage of STF officers who lost their lives fighting Veerappan’s gang. Every chapter brings out a tale of heroic bravery under the most desperate situations – also narrating many spine-chilling yet inspiring episodes. Having said that, the author’s unbiased investigation of Veerappan’s life and choices shows him for what the latter really was – an illiterate and yet cunning outlaw with great survival tactics and leadership qualities.
This non-fiction book reads like a thrilling fiction. It is definitely worth buying.
About The Author
K Vijay Kumar was among the first batch of IPS officers to join the SPG, the Special Protection Group that guards Prime Ministers; he also had a successful tenure fighting militancy in Kashmir in the late 1990s while serving in the Border Security Force besides various postings in the Tamil Nadu Police. He is, however, best known for eliminating the dreaded brigand Veerappan in 2004 as head of the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force (STF).
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh
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