The menace of Veerappan and Dawood has reached a level where no state government can control it   (11 Aug 2000)




It is most unfortunate that the Indian police is finding itself helpless when it comes to nabbing two dreaded criminals — Veerappan in Karnataka and the Dawood Ibrahim gang in the Middle East. Though Dawood himself lives in Karachi, his gang operates from Dubai under the leadership of Abu Salem who has constantly kept Mumbai on tenterhooks, even during the Shiv Sena regime.

One can understand the situation in the cases of Osama Bin Laden and Prabhakaran, who have become more powerful than any government in their respective territories. But in the case of Veerappan and the Dawood gang, the general feeling is that if the government of India takes up the issue in its hands, half the problems will be resolved. It is a bitter fact that Government of India has so far not shown the kind of interest it should have in these two matters.

Since in our Constitution, law and order is a state subject, the Union government has left the responsibility of tackling both these problems on the Karnataka and Maharashtra governments respectively. But the menace of Veerappan and the Dawood gang have reached a level where no state government can control it. Both, the Karnataka and Maharashtra governments may try their level best, but they will be disappointed.

In fact, for more than two decades now the state police, in coordination with the central forces, has been trying to curb the activities of both these gangsters. While the Karnataka police openly used the services of the paramilitary forces, the Maharashtra police did not ask for their help. Mumbais police force kept fighting the underworld operated by Dawood with a remote control from Dubai. Young boys from eastern Uttar Pradesh were used by the Dawood gang in Mumbai to carry out murders and kidnapping for as little as a couple of thousand rupees. Fearing this gang, a number of film producers and businessman have decided to shift their bases either to Bangalore or Delhi. And the Hindi film industry seems to be quite inclined to shooting in South India rather than in Mumbai.

So far, the Government of India has not taken up this issue forcefully with the emir of the United Arab Emirates. India is such a powerful force in the region that if it makes an issue for the repatriation of an individual, the Emirates authorities would definitely like to oblige. It is the people of Mumbai who live in fear today. Unfortunately, their agony is not being shared by the central government. The kind of commandos which the Indian forces have can finish the Dawood gang in Dubai itself if the Arab authorities allow them to do so. After all, the CBI succeeded in repatriating the Memon brothers from Dubai despite all the efforts made by the ISI to snatch them away. The CBI booked them on an Emirates flight in Dubai and quietly brought them to India by an Indian Airlines flight from Sharjah Airport. All that while, it was an endless wait for ISI sleuths at the Dubai Airport.

It is indeed a matter of shame that our security forces are still not able to nab Veerappan. The dreaded smuggler has been creating havoc in the lives of ordinary people for the last 25 years. He must have killed more than 200 people and thousands of wild animals including elephants to run his illegal business — smuggling of sandalwood and ivory.

Successive state governments of all the political parties in Karnataka have tried their level best with the coordination of the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh police to catch him in the thick forest, but unfortunately they could not succeed due to lack of cooperation on the part of villagers and due to the topography of the jungles which they were not familiar with. On four occasions the police party managed to reach his base camp, but Veerappan had managed to give them the slip.

I am of the firm view that the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu police cannot catch him as they have psychologically conceded defeat. Now it is the turn of the central government to swing into action. Paramilitary forces alone cannot be successful in this venture. In fact, if army help is sought and if joint combing operations are conducted by the Indian Army and Airforce helicopters, fully aided by the paramilitary forces and the state police of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, he cannot survive for more than a week.

Nobody should compare Veerappan with Prabhakaran. In the case of the LTTE, Prabhakaran has thousands of militants to fight and the most sophisticated weapons to fight any army. Here, Veerappan has only 25 gang members and AK 47 rifles which is nothing in front of the might of the Indian Army.