For forest brigand Veerappan, killing his own daughter was a matter of survival in the jungle

Tamil Nadu STF chief K Vijay Kumar chronicles the many incidents that shaped the dreaded outlaw’s life.
For forest brigand Veerappan, killing his own daughter was a matter of survival in the jungle
For forest brigand Veerappan, killing his own daughter was a matter of survival in the jungle
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July 2001

Karuppusamy wasn’t done with recounting Veerappan’s deeds. One, in particular, was hard to believe.

‘What kind of person kills his own child?’ I asked. ‘Is this fact or just hearsay?’

As a father of two, I could not think of anything more precious than holding my children in my arms and protecting them from harm, even more so given the harsh realities of my profession.

Karuppusamy scowled. ‘A complaint was made at Burgur Police Station. It was registered on 17 July 1993, as Burgur PS Cr. No. 17/1993 under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, making it a case of murder. One Neethipuram Chinnasamy was with the brigand when he got his daughter murdered. He confirmed this fact when we arrested him.’

I knew Veerappan had committed multiple murders, but the news that he was an accessory to the murder of his daughter came as a shock to me, especially since Veerappan was known to be highly protective of his family. He would wreak vengeance at any perceived slight on them at the hands of the authorities.

As I picked up the file with the records of the death, I asked Karuppusamy to tell me more about Veerappan and his wife Muthulakshmi.

After his escape from captivity, Veerappan, it is believed, made it a point to stay away from intoxicants and women, both of which he perceived as dangerous distractions. He was very clear that he would never again give the authorities a chance to nab him. However, despite his resolution, he could not help being drawn to Muthulakshmi, an attractive teenager from Neruppur village.

Muthulakshmi soon noticed that Veerappan was a frequent visitor to her village. His bristling moustache, piercing gaze and air of authority—as well as the awe and fear he generated among the villagers—made quite an impact on her. She began responding positively to his attention.

Muthulakshmi’s parents were far less enthusiastic about her suitor. Her father even informed Veerappan that Muthulakshmi’s marriage had already been fixed with one of her cousins. But Veerappan refused to give up. A few months after his proposal was rejected by her father, he eloped with Muthulakshmi and the two got married in a forest temple.

Soon, Muthulakshmi was pregnant and managed to stay in the forest in that condition for eight months. She finally returned to her parents’ house for her delivery. Worried about her being arrested, her father took her to Chennai, where she surrendered to the police.

The police lodged her in a women’s hostel. Later, she delivered a baby girl who was named Vidya Rani by an STF officer, Sylendra Babu. He permitted Muthulakshmi to return to her parents’ home in Neruppur, though her movements were closely monitored.

One day, one of Veerappan’s men came to Muthulakshmi’s home, pretending to be a relative. As soon as he entered the house, he whispered that Veerappan had sent word that she leave the infant with her parents and return to the jungle, as he missed her.

No mother can part with her baby easily. For a couple of months, Muthulakshmi ignored her husband’s command. Finally, she was convinced that her child would have a better future in the village than in the forest.

One night, she sneaked out of Neruppur and was soon reunited with Veerappan.

In 1992, the couple had another baby girl, Prabha, who was delivered by a seasoned midwife called Chinnapullai. A year later, yet another girl was born to them. But far from being a cause for celebration, this newborn became a source of worry for Veerappan.

By the time the baby was born, his band had swelled to over 100 members, including several women and elderly persons. This was slowing down their movement.

The STF had overrun his virtual fortress in Bodamalai and demined its approaches from three sides, forcing the gang to shift towards thicker forests in Dhimbam, with the authorities in hot pursuit. Veerappan’s scouts had already reported that pursuers from the south and east were closing in.

In the forest, an alert patrol can detect the slightest sound from a long distance. A baby’s cry can go as high as 110 decibels, barely 10 decibels below a thunderclap. Besides, a baby is completely unpredictable and its crying could instantly reveal a well-concealed location without giving any opportunity to muffle the sound.

‘She is turning into a major problem,’ thought Veerappan grimly.

According to Neethipuram Chinnasamy’s account, one day, the child let out an extremely ill-timed cry. Everyone in the band looked at her, then their eyes swivelled towards Veerappan. Nobody said anything, but the implication was clear.

Veerappan turned towards the midwife. Chinnapullai took great pride in delivering babies safely even under the most harrowing circumstances, but this time, Veerappan had a different job in mind for her.

The midwife began to say something, but changed her mind when she understood Veerappan’s intention. ‘Some juice of erukkampoo will make her choke,’ she said.

Erukkampoo, or Calotropis, is revered as Lord Ganesha’s favourite flower. Practitioners of Ayurveda use it regularly for medicinal purposes.

‘Do it,’ Veerappan said shortly. Muthulakshmi was the only one to shed tears for the baby.

Karuppusamy said that on 13 July 1993, a Karnataka STF team led by Inspector Jegadeesan and a BSF contingent found a suspicious mound at a place called Maari Maduvu. They dug it up, only to find the body of a baby. The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy could not determine the cause of death, as the body was in a highly decomposed state.

‘I know he killed many innocents, but to take the life of your own child is inhuman,’ I couldn’t help exclaiming. ‘For Veerappan, tactical considerations always outweigh ethical ones,’ said Karuppusamy darkly. ‘Like a Russel’s viper that can bite through its own skin, he is capable of turning on his own flesh and blood, if it is a matter of survival.’ Karuppusamy maintained that according to Chinnasamy, Veerappan’s heinous act had served another purpose. ‘It sent tremors through the ranks of his followers,’ he said, adding that it ensured that his gang remained loyal to him.

Excerpted with the permission of Rupa Publications India from the book Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K Vijay Kumar. 

 You can buy the book here.

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