K R BALASUBRAMANYAM
SATHYAMANGALAM (PERIYAR DISTRICT), NOVEMBER 15: After spending 107 days in the custody of bandit Veerappan, Kannada icon Dr Rajkumar and another hostage, Nagesh, today walked out of the Periyar forests in Tamil Nadu as dawn broke. The superstar, along with his family members, is camping at an undisclosed farmhouse on the periphery of the forests and is likely to reach Bangalore tomorrow evening. In an exclusive interview with The Indian Express over the phone, he said “I am dying to meet the people of Karnataka.”
The release was scheduled to happen either this evening or on Thursday morning but took place earlier than that because of unknown reasons. The veteran actor was straightaway taken to a farmhouse as planned earlier, from where information was given only to close family members and the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The sixth mission to break the impasse was successful because of the initiative of Tamil Nationalist Movement leader P Nedumaran, human rights activists Prof Kalyani and Puduvai Sugumaran and another key person from Banglaore, P Shanmugasundaram. The latest mission took place after the latter, who heads the Bangalore Tamil Peravai (Banglaore Tamil Federation), worked out the nitty-gritty of the operation in association with some prominent men of Banglaore, almost as a parallel operation which did not involve Nakkeeran editor R R Gopal.
Two-three more persons were involved in the mission but their identity is being protected for strategic reasons for the time being. These people got involved in the mission on humanitarian grounds and in the larger interests of Kannada-Tamil amity.
Dr Rajkumar told The Indian Express that he would first like to step onto the soil of Karnataka. “Then I want to be with my family. I want to talk to them…I want to talk to them leisurely about my experiences in the forest,” he said.
He thanked the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, M Karunanidhi and S M Krishna, for their efforts to secure his safe release during the past three months. “I would especially like to thank Nedumaran, Prof Kalyani, G Sugumaran and Bangalore Tamil Peruvai president P Shanmugasundaram for their forays into the forests to have me released.”
Soon after reaching the safe house in Erode, Dr Rajkumar said he took a shower and changed his clothes. He said he was feeling quite relaxed. “When the dust settles I would like to go in for a proper health check-up. But as of now I am alright.”
The mood at the farmhouse was festive with all family members present. The actor’s wife, Parvathamma Rajkumar, his children and son-in-laws, actor Ram Kumar and S A Govindraj besides Minor Irrigation Minister and relative Madhu Bangarappa arrived soon after they were told about the actor’s release. Producer Rockline Venkatesh too is camping there.
Indian Express / 16.11.2000.