Execution of Veerappan - [October 18, 2004] This Day in History

On 18 October 2004, notorious dacoit and smuggler Veerappan was killed by the Special Task Force of the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu police forces. Veerappan had evaded the law for 30 years and was responsible for the deaths of over 180 people and over 900 elephants. The operation was code-named ‘Operation Cocoon’. This article will give details about Operation Cocoon within the context of the IAS Exam.

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Background of Operation Cocoon

  • Veerappan was born in Gopinatham village situated in the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border in 1952. His father and other family members were poachers. He started assisting them in smuggling and started killing animals when he was still a child. He committed his first murder aged 17 when he gunned down a forest guard.
  • Over the years, he built a gang of dacoits and smugglers who would cause havoc in the forests located in the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. He indulged in poaching elephants for their tusks and also in sandalwood smuggling. He operated in an area of around 6000 Sq.km of forest cover.
  • He killed any forest guard or officer who came in his way. A total of 184 people were murdered by him most of them police officers and forest guards. He even killed informers and any villager suspected to have links with the police.
  • He was arrested twice but escaped by bribing officials.
  • He grew to have some political friends as well. He also counted some businessmen as his friends.
  • His most famous victims were Indian Forest Officer P Srinivas, IPS Officer Harikrishna and H Nagappa, a former minister in the Karnataka government. Nagappa had been abducted by Veerappan’s gang in 2002. An encounter by the joint police forces of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had failed to rescue him. His body was discovered three months later in the forest. By this time, the bounty on Veerappan’s head was increased by the Karnataka state government to Rs.50 Crore.
  • His criminal life began in 1970 and did not end until his death at the hands of the enforcers whom he had evaded for about 40 years. His name evoked fear among the people as no other dacoit did. His ruthlessness and audacity made him notorious throughout India.
  • In 2000, Veerappan kidnapped Kannada actor Rajkumar and kept him hostage for 108 days. In exchange for release, he demanded justice for Tamil Nadu in the Cauvery water dispute, the release of some Tamil extremists in prison and the making of Tamil as Karnataka’s second official language. Rajkumar was released after negotiations. It has been suggested by some that the Karnataka government paid a huge ransom for his release although this is not official or verified.
K Vijay Kumar IPS

K Vijay Kumar IPS

  • The Special Task Force (STF) formed to hunt for Veerappan was headed by IPS Officer K Vijay Kumar. The team was comprised of police troops from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Over months, policemen infiltrated his core gang and merged with the locals posing as traders and bus conductors.
  • They were able to get information that the brigand had an eye condition for which he had to seek medical help outside the village. They were able to lure him into an ambulance which he thought would take him to a hospital. The ambulance was ambushed on the way and the dacoit was killed in the encounter that followed. His four aides were also killed.
  • This brought an end to 40 years of crime. This operation that was nicknamed ‘Cocoon’ was a success. Unlike previous STFs, the police forces of both states worked in tandem passing on to each other any vital clue and this is said to have played a huge part in defeating Veerappan.
Also on this day 

1906: The Depressed Classes Mission Society established by Vitthal Ramji Shinde.

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See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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