Dacoity is a criminal activity involving robbery, and one of the most dangerous dacoits of all time is none other than Veerappan of Tamil Nadu.
Veerappan was born into a Tamil family in Gopinatham, Kollegala of Karnataka. His descent into a life of crime started under the influence of his uncle Salvai Gandar, a scandalous poacher and a sandalwood trafficker. At the age of 17, Veerappan committed his first murder and then went on to kill all those who provided resistance to his illegal activities.
In 1987, Chidambaram, an officer of the Sathyamangalam Range, was kidnapped and murdered by Veerappan in Tamil Nadu. His actions soon brought his other activities to the notice of the Indian Government. His notoriety only escalated when people learned of his assassination of a senior IFS officer, Pandillapalli Srinivas in November 1991. He also captured a police party, which included a senior IPS official, Harikrishna in August 1992.
As mentioned earlier, Veerappan abducted different police authorities and other personalities and demanded ransom during the 1990s. It is widely believed that these ransoms were usually paid for unofficially. For example, in July 1997, Veerappan kidnapped nine timberland authorities in the Burude woodland of Chamarajanagar area. However, the hostages were released despite his demands not being met. Also, Veerappan buried large amounts of money in various parts of the forest. Veerappan received support from radical organizations like TNRP and Tamil Nadu Liberation Army to create the false pretence of a ‘Robin Hood’ personality and to draft negotiations when he kidnapped prominent people.
Veerappan had also killed a Bandari, who was suspected to be a policeman. This act resulted in the creation of a 41-member team of police officials for the investigation. On the 9th of April, 1993, in Palar, landmines exploded under two of their vehicles, killing 22 members of the team. This horrific instance is considered Veerappan’s single largest mass killing.
Though Veerappan has committed various crimes, some of his deeds have incidentally favoured the people of Tamil Nadu. One such instance was the kidnapping of actor Rajkumar and three others from Dodda Gajanur and his demand for justice in the Cauvery water dispute.
On October 18th 2004, Veerappan was killed in an encounter with the Tamil Nadu special task force and N.K. Senthamarai, under the leadership of K. Vijaykumar (the inspiration for the movie Theri). His body was buried at Moolakadu near Metur in Tamil Nadu, while his final rites were performed by his daughters, Vidya Rani and Prabha, who were studying in Tamil Nadu at the time.
The entire operation was named Operation Cocoon. It was fatal not only for Veerappan, but also for his associates Sethukuli Govindan, Chandre Gowdar, and Sethumani. In The Guardian, his demise was depicted as “The death of a demon”. After his death, Gopinatham has been promoted as a destination for ecotourism by the Karnataka state department of Forest and Tourism.