After 18 yrs, verdict in Raj abduction case on Sept 25

After 18 yrs, verdict in Raj abduction case on Sept 25

Actor Rajkumar addresses a press conference at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru after he was released from the clutches of forest brigand Veerappan in 2000. The then chief minister S M Krishna and minister Mallikarjuna Kharge look on. DH file photo

The judgment in the 18-year-old abduction case of Kannada thespian Dr Rajkumar by forest brigand Veerappan will be delivered by K Mani, the additional district judge in Gobichettipalayam, Erode district, on September 25.

Rajkumar’s abduction by Veerappan and his associates from the former’s farmhouse in Gajanur, Erode district on July 30, 2000, had put both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on tenterhooks for three months as the thespian was released 108 days later and only after six rounds of talks led by journalist R R Gopal of Tamil magazine Nakheeran.

Veerappan released Rajkumar and three others kidnapped along with him, only after some of his demands were met. While Veerappan died in 2004 in an operation by Special Task Force constituted to nab him, Rajkumar passed away in April 2006.

The abduction had led to rioting on the streets of Bengaluru with offices of four Tamil newspapers being ransacked and gave sleepless nights to both S M Krishna and M Karunanidhi – chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, respectively. 

Though eight people were added as accused in the sensational case, three persons – Veerappan, Sethukuzhi Govindan and Rangasamy – died during the trial and the remaining five - Govindaraj, Anthil, Pasuvanna, Kuppusamy and Kalmadi Raman - are in jail.

Nearly 100 people, including Rajkumar’s son-in-law S A Govindaraj, deposed before the court as witnesses. Rajkumar’s wife Parvathamma, who was also present when Veerappan abducted her husband, could not depose before the court due to ill-health. She passed away in 2017.

After the five appeared before the court on Monday, judge Mani announced that the verdict would be delivered on September 25.

Charges were framed under Sections 109 (abetment of an offence), 120B (conspiracy) 147 (unlawful assembly), 148 (unlawful assembly with deadly weapons), 449 (criminal trespass into house), 364A (abduction for ransom), 365 (abduction for wrongful confinement) of Indian Penal Code, besides Section 25 (1) (b) and 27 (1) of the Arms

Recalling the harrowing experience of trekking in the dense forests in Sathyamangalam and Bhavani six times in 108 days, Gopal told DH that he agreed to negotiate Rajkumar’s release only due to relentless pressure from the actor’s family and Tamil superstar Rajinikanth.

“It was one of the toughest times in my life. Veerappan’s demands for Rajkumar’s release were hard to meet and the forest brigand behaved in a completely different manner when he held the actor captive. It took 11 days of trekking and wait, for me to have a glimpse of Rajkumar,” Gopal said.

“After lodging us in a hut, Veerappan’s associates refused to take us to the place where Rajkumar was held captive. It took at least four hours to convince them to take us deep into the forests. There, I saw Rajkumar and it took a couple of hours more to meet Veerappan.

“If I had not secured Rajkumar’s release, everything – my career built over decades and the news magazine – would have been at stake because everyone believed I would bring Rajkumar alive. Thank God, I could bring him back,” he said.

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