Informer in Veerappan op demands reward

Informer in Veerappan op demands reward


M Shanmugapriya, then 22-years-old, bravely took up the job of befriending Muthulakshmi, Veerappan's wife, and was successful in extracting crucial information about the dreaded forest brigand’s vision problems and his hideout in the forest.

This was four months before Veerappan was shot dead by personnel of the Special Task Force (STF) in Dharmapuri district on October 18, 2004 in a carefully-executed operation.

Fourteen years later, Shanmugapriya, now a mother of a 10-year-old girl, still waits for the reward for providing "crucial inputs" to fall on her lap.

The woman, in her late 30s now, shows a bunch of letters that she wrote to those occupying the power corridors — Prime Minister and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister — seeking reward for the work that she did by risking her life. She was part of the 'Operation Northern Star' that ended in failure.

"No promise (of any reward) was made to me in writing when I was asked to befriend Muthulakshmi way back in 2004. But since I feel I am eligible for the reward and deserve it, I have been running from pillar to post to get my due recognition. Everyone knows that I risked my life," Shanmugapriya told DH.

Veerappan was a notorious sandalwood smuggler who imprisoned many civilians and kidnapped Kannada film thespian Dr Rajkumar and former Karnataka minister Nagappa, among others.

A letter sent by her to the Prime Minister’s Office in March 2015 seeking reward was forwarded to the chief secretary of Tamil Nadu on June 29, 2018 "for action as appropriate". However, she says, there has been no response from the Tamil Nadu government, with whom the file is pending.

Though efforts to reach officials concerned did not fructify, IPS officer K N Senthamaraikannan, the then Superintendent of Police with the STF who hired Shanmugapriya, told DH that no reward was ever promised to her.

"Nothing was promised to her (Shanmugapriya) and she was not part of the final operation that ended in Veerappan’s death. Reward was given only to those who were part of the final operation," Senthamaraikannan said.

Muthulakshmi had landed in Shanmugapriya's house in Vadavalli in Coimbatore through a series of STF manoeuvres. And the young woman's job was to get close to the forest brigand’s wife and pull out as much information as she could on Veerappan.

"I was chosen for this job by Senthamaraikannan. I trusted him since he was known to our family. Muthulakshmi took more than a month to open up to me and it was a very slow process. She did not trust me at the beginning," Shanmugapriya said.

It is only after a couple of months that she was forthcoming and spoke about her husband's location and his vision problems. Based on the information provided by Shanmugapriya, the STF hatched a plan to lure Veerappan to Nilgiris to meet his wife, but the plan ended in failure.