For the families of the four Veerappan aides whose mercy petitions were rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee, the news has come as a tremendous shock.

They are convinced that the four — Simon, Bilavendran, Gyanaprakash and Madaiah — were framed by the police. The four were convicted for their involvement in the 1993 Palar blast case.

The families of Bilavendran and Gyanaprakash live in Marthalli, while Simon’s family lives in Voddaradoddi, both in Kollegal taluk of Chamarajanagar district. Madaiah’s family lives in Mettupalayur in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district.

The four were awarded life sentence by the TADA court in Mysore after they were found guilty of involvement in the Palar blast case in which 22 people — mainly policemen — were killed in a landmine explosion triggered by Veerappan in April 1993. A few organisations and activists appealed in the Supreme Court against the life sentence. The apex court, however, enhanced the sentence to death.

Residents of Vodddaradoddi and Marthalli, however, paint a different picture of the three, stating that they were far from being Veerappan’s aides.

They said that Gyanaparakash was working in a farm belonging to the local church and was content selling milk, while Simon, who was described as an “explosives expert” by the police, was a shepherd.

Bilavendran owned more than 32 acres of land, they added.

“Why would a farmer with 32 acres of land give up all that to live like a fugitive with Veerappan,” they asked. Bilavendran’s sisters — Antonyamma, Tekla Mary and Elizabeth — broke down in tears upon learning the fate of their brother.

“It has been more than five years since we last saw him. We know that he was framed,” said Antonyamma.

‘Different cases’

Gabriel, a relative of Bilavendra who is engaged in social work and associated with the Good Shepherd Institute at Marthalli said there were concerns when the President disposed of the mercy petitions of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru in quick succession. He told The Hindu: “Those cases were altogether different. War was waged against the country. We were hopeful that these mercy petitions would not be rejected. This sudden development, after years of dithering, has come as a shock,” said Mr. Gabriel.

Constant prayers

Simon’s sister Jaya Mary was in a daze. She said that the last time she saw her brother was in the Belgaum jail last year, but that she constantly prayed for him.

“He has been in prison for nearly 20 years. One should understand our agony. Our tears have dried up. We have turned to God now,” she said.

Simon’s father, Anthony, owned a few guntas of land and sold it part by part to meet legal expenses. He is now dependent on Jaya Mary, even for food.

‘No links with him’

Kulandai Raj, who was detained by the police on the suspicion of being a confidante of Veeraappan, was imprisoned for more than 10 years until the TADA court acquitted him. Speaking about Gyanaprakash, Mr. Raj, said the former had absolutely no links with Veerappan and first saw his photograph when he was imprisoned more than 10 years ago. “Such an innocent person has to hang. It is a travesty of justice,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Anthony, Bilavendran’s wife, Kamala Mary, and Gyanaprakash’s wife, Selvi Mary, left for Tamil Nadu on Thursday to seek legal opinion to stall the execution.

More In: Karnataka | National