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Veerappan kidnaps Rajkumar, three others

By A. Jayaraman

BANGALORE, JULY 31. The forest brigand, Veerappan, on Sunday night struck at the farmhouse of the Kannada thespian, Mr. Rajkumar, at Gajanur in Tamil Nadu and kidnapped the actor and three others.

The abduction of the matinee idol sent shock waves throughout Karnataka and mobs went on the rampage on Monday. Four Tamil newspaper offices in Bangalore were attacked while one person was killed in the violence. Schools and colleges in the city were closed and a 10,000-strong police force began patrolling the streets.

A 12-member armed gang, led by the elusive sandalwood smuggler, descended on the farm house around 9.30 p.m. last night and took away the actor, his son-in-law, Mr. S. A. Govindaraj, another relative, Mr. Nagesh, and an assistant director, Mr. Nagappa. The actor's wife, Mrs. Parvathamma, and their car driver, Mr. Hanumantha, were spared.

Veerappan sent an audio cassette, through Mrs. Parvathamma to the Karnataka Chief Minister, Mr. S. M. Krishna, listing his ``demands'' and wanted an emissary to meet him.

Addressing a press conference at his residence-cum-office here this morning, Mr. Krishna said the demands would be placed before the State Cabinet. Later, Mr. Krishna flew to Chennai to meet his Tamil Nadu counterpart, Mr. M. Karunanidhi, and discuss ways of freeing the hostages. He was accompanied by Mrs. Parvathamma, the Home Minister, Mr. Mallikarjuna Kharge, the Chief Secretary, Mr. B. K. Bhattacharya, and the Director-General of Police, Mr. C. Dinakar.

According to Mrs. Parvathamma, she and her husband left for Gajanur (near Talawadi) on Friday to make arrange for the ``gruhapravesam'' at a new house within the farmhouse.

Intrusion at night

Around 9.30 p.m. on Sunday, she and the others were watching television when about 12 armed men barged in and demanded in Kannada: ``We want sir''. Veerappan, whom she was able to identify, was leading the men. When the shell-shocked inmates demanded of the abductors why they had entered the house, Mr. Rajkumar advised them to remain silent.

Several people including some farmhands, were present when the actor and three others were taken hostage in pouring rain. The entire operation was over in less than five minutes.

Mrs. Parvathamma, who arrived in the city early today, said the kidnappers warned her against informing the police. All those who had entered or surrounded the house were armed with guns which appeared to be AK-47s, she added. The three others were beaten up by the kidnappers before being taken away.

Warning ignored

Mr. Raghavendra Rajkumar, the thespian's younger son and an actor himself, said that about a year ago the police had warned his father of a kidnap threat from Veerappan if he ventured beyond Mysore. However, Mr. Rajkumar dismissed the threat saying the smuggler would get nothing from him, except a ``shirt and dhoti''.

The abduction was not wholly unexpected as police intelligence reports had spoken of Veerappan's resolve to carry out something dramatic. The lull in his activities over the last few years was also considered ominous.

Appeal for peace

Mr. Krishna and Mrs. Parvathamma appealed to the people to remain calm and maintain the peace.

The Chief Minister said all efforts were being made to get the hostages freed and that the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, had been informed of the kidnap. Mr. Krishna, however, refused to say whether Central assistance had been sought.

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