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Then: A village banned deity for failing to protect them from bandit

Thursday 4 May 2006, by MENON*Jaya

Gethesaalu (Sathyamangalam), May 3: A 30-km drive through the picturesque Western Ghats ends in a muddy track climbing up to a hamlet at fringes of the Sathyamangalam forest range, once the hideout of the dreaded bandit, Veerappan. This is Gethesaalu, a backward tribal hamlet with 120 families, about 5 km from Asanur near the Karnataka border.

On October 8, 1993, at about 8 pm, 12 uniformed men, brandishing rifles and claiming to be Karnataka Police personnel stomped into the village. They told the unsuspecting tribals that they had come to reward the Veerappan informers. Eagerly, the villagers pointed to the six informants, Bomman, Kunnappan, Basawan, Maadhan, Raman and Dasan. The senseless massacre that followed lasted just 15 minutes.

Veerappan, who posed as a Karnataka STF DSP, and his men tied the hands of the six men behind their backs, dragged them to a thicket in the village centre and sprayed them with bullets, screaming all the time about teaching the traitors a lesson. They then hacked the bodies with long-swords and left the village.

Veerappan then went to nearby Kaadatti, brought provisions from the shop there and defiantly told villagers that they were free to tell the STF that they had come visiting them.

Stricken with terror and grief, the Gethesaalu villagers closed the wooden doors of the small Jadiasamy (an incarnation of Lord Shiva) temple, heaping abuses on the deity for failing to protect them. But, 11 years later, when Veerappan fell to bullets in an STF ambush on October 18, 2004, there was celebration with fireworks and the ban on the village deity was lifted. On October 20, the temple was reopened, cobwebs dusted off and special poojas conducted to celebrate the death of the ??dreaded forest rat.’’

Today, the village has a heroine, Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa. The villagers credit her with being the guiding force of ?Operation Cocoon’ which finally ended the Veerappan saga. There is a daub of colour in the village now - that of the garish wall paintings of some of the party symbols and candidates’ names contesting the Sathyamangalam constituency within which falls Gethesaalu.

The ?top’, symbol of Vaiko’s MDMK, an AIADMK ally, is most prominent. ??Our votes are for AIADMK’s two-leaves symbol or rather its ally, the MDMK,’’ says V Jadaiyan, the de facto village head. His uncle and elder brother had died in the massacre.

On May 8, the 350-odd voters in the village will be crammed into a truck like cattle and taken to the election booths in Ongalawadi and Asanur to cast their votes for ??Amma’s friend, T K Subbu of the MDMK’’. In fact, Jaddaiyan is contemplating joining the AIADMK and enrolling the villagers as members of the local unit.

Till recently, development was an alien word here. The hamlet has just eight concrete houses, a school and a one-room marriage hall to boast of. These were all built during the course of the last year. In the past, district authorities dared not venture up the Ghats, fearing Veerappan.

While all these years, Veerappan had been an excuse for authorities to keep away from their hamlet, villagers now hope their dreams of concrete housing for all, a good road and steel fencing around their farms to keep away the wild animals will be fulfilled. They bank on Amma to come to their rescue again.

See online : The Indian Express

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