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Now: This hamlet prays at bandit’s temple to see Jayalalithaa’s doom

Thursday 4 May 2006, by MENON*Jaya

Mettupazhaiyur (Mettur), May 3: Across Dharmapuri district, where the mountain ranges are hot, dry and drought prone, are a cluster of villages where Veerappan is idolised and Jayalalithaa hated.

Veerappan would slip into these villages under the cover of darkness, buy provisions and push crisp Rs 500 notes into the villagers’ hands. He would help out with money for a marriage or a death in the family.

But the STF reprisals were heavy. Many households in Methupazhaiyur, for instance, claim to have lost either a husband or son to the brutality of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Special Task Forces. STF personnel tortured them to extract information about Veerappan, say the villagers.

There is seething anger still, particularly against Jayalalithaa, with villagers blaming her for letting loose the STF on them during 1991-96 when she was Chief Minister and the ?nab-Veerappan’ operation was at a peak.

The Vanniyars, a Backward Caste from which Veerappan hailed, form a large chunk spread across two constituencies of Pennagaram and Mettur.

The PMK, with a strong Vanniyar base, has fielded its state president G K Mani in Mettur and is openly supporting the Independent Muthulakshmi, Veerappan’s wife, in Pennagaram. The Vanniyars in the ?hail Veerappan’ villages are expected to back Mani, who is pitted against AIADMK heavyweight K Kandasamy.

Mettupazhaiyur has many stories of anguish. Palayi is alone today. Her husband Ammasi, she says, was taken into the forest, tortured and shot by the STF. Her 19-year-old son Dhanapalan was also shot dead. She is alone today and lives on the villagers’ benevolence for food and clothing.

Kulandaippan and Paappa are old and very ill. They claim both their sons, Rangu and Mallikan, were killed during the Veerappan operation - Rangu killed in the 1993 Palar bomb blast, set off by Veerappan’s men, killing 21 policemen, and Mallikan shot dead by the STF. The villagers provide them food and they blame Jayalalithaa for their misery. Their votes are for ?Mani Saar’, who helped them with the cases against the STF.

Villagers whip up sympathy for the forest brigand, narrating with relish the story of how he was ?poisoned’ to death. ??They (the STF) used people close to him to poison him. In a straight battle they couldn’t have beat him. The negotiations for the pay-off for the killers took a long time, that’s why the bodies appeared decomposed when they were brought to the Dharmapuri hospital,’’ said G Mani, a village youth working for People’s Watch, an organisation helping victims of STF atrocities, adding: ??Veerappan’s moustache was clipped on the banks of the Cauvery.’’

Rajathy Rangasamy accused the district police of preventing the villagers from going into the forest to collect firewood. ??When Veerappan was around, we freely roamed the jungles collecting firewood and wild berries,’’ she said. The police harassed them whenever they purchased a new saree or a small piece of jewellery. ??They accuse us of buying them with Veerappan’s money which we have dug out of the forests.’’

The villagers pray hard at the Muneeswaran temple in the village for godly intervention to end their miseries. They say the deity is powerful and Veerappan himself frequented it at night. ??Lord Muniappa kept him alive for many years, so we are also praying for a good result in the elections (read defeat for Amma),’’ said Pappathi, who lost her son while fleeing the village to avoid being caught by the STF.

See online : The Indian Express

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