Published:  12:42 AM, 17 September 2017

How to catch a bandit

How to catch a bandit Veerappan: Chasing The Brigand by K Vijay Kumar, Publisher - Rupa Publications India in February 2017

RK Vij delineates the first-hand account of the capture and killing of Veerappan, as portrayed by the author

The mission accomplished on the night of October 18, 2004, was not a result of luck or "divine forces" but a strategic outcome of insights gained from previous attempts to nab Veerappan. The entire game was played out on the trusted turf of the Special Task Force (STF). Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand, by former Tamil Nadu STF chief K Vijay Kumar, and currently a senior security advisor to the Ministry of Home Affairs, is a classic study on how to catch a notorious offender. The book, which reads like a spy thriller, elaborates the endgame of Veerappan, who was responsible for the killings of "forty-four cops and foresters and no less than eighty civilians".

Though, by then, Veerappan's gang had been reduced to "four or six", Kumar, as the then STF head, took no chances. He constituted multiple teams of six commandoes, well equipped and trained for night operations in forests. The teams comprised those who "had spent a significant part of their career chasing Veerappan" as well as those having "their first day with the STF". The book confirms that Kumar analysed well his adversary's strengths and weaknesses. His earlier "plan to infiltrate Veerappan's gang" had little success, and so he launched Operation Boston to lure Veerappan out of the jungles for his eye operation by making an undercover policewoman befriend Veerappan's wife, Muthulakshmi.

The idea was to trap him, but the plan "flopped for whatever reasons" in its last leg.Veerappan's modus operandi to unleash a wave of terror was quite different from the "kangaroo courts" of the Maoists who operate in the forests of Dandakaranya. The Maoists are also known to publicly kill villagers on the suspicion of being police informers, but the brigand who operated in the forests of south India took brutality to a different plane. Veerappan chopped off Deputy Conservator of Forests P Srinivas's head and "carried the grisly trophy back to his camp".

He did not spare even his own baby girl as her "ill-timed cry" could have alerted police patrols. She was eventually buried in the jungles. Still, the level of enthusiasm of the police officers was so high that quite a few had taken a vow not to marry till they nab Veerappan. Interstate cooperation is crucial when the area of operation of any outfit transcends the jurisdiction of a state. Veerappan was operating in the border forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

  So much so that not much fuss was made even when the Karnataka STF "had almost opened fire on Tamil Nadu STF, mistaking them for Veerappan's men". Kumar deserves accolades for the success of the operation. He used a police vehicle remodelled as an ambulance (code-named Cocoon) to lure Veerappan for an eye operation. Yet, as a leader, he gives full credit to his officers who displayed exemplary courage and perseverance for almost two decades, especially Srinivas, who had developed a reliable network of informers but was later brutally killed. Only four core members of his team knew about the final shootout, that too on a "need-to-know basis".

The identity of one Mr X, believed to have some links with certain Sri Lanka-based Tamil radicals, is never revealed in the book Every banned outfit has a different socio-cultural economy and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Written in felicitous prose, offering a first-hand account of a meticulously planned operation, Kumar's work is an excellent guide for young policemen who wish to lead the forces from the front. The writer is additional director general of police in Chhattisgarh.

The reviewer is an additional director general of police in Chhattisgarh

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