Film fans riot as manhunt called off for 'bandit king'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

India's Southern states have suspended the hunt for the country's most wanted bandit who this week kidnapped the veteran film star Rajkumar, a senior official announced yesterday.

India's Southern states have suspended the hunt for the country's most wanted bandit who this week kidnapped the veteran film star Rajkumar, a senior official announced yesterday.

Meanwhile, in the southern state of Karnataka, angry fans of the cult movie idol brought the state capital Bangalore to a halt for the second day with protests against the abduction. Police imposed a curfew in the city and many neighbouring villages on Monday after hundreds of fans marched through the streets, smashing windows and burning cars.

The chief minister of Karnataka, SM Krishna, said: "All operations against Veerappan have been stopped... We are not doing anything that can adversely effect the situation."

Rajkumar, 72, was seized at gunpoint by Veerappan - often referred to as India's "Bandit King" - along with three members of his family, on Sunday night. Police have hunted Veerappan - who has been charged with the murders of 120 people - for the past decade, and have placed a 5m rupee (£25,000) reward on his head.

Veerappan has always managed to elude the authorities in the thick forests of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala states. To many low-caste members of the local population he is a Robin Hood figure.

A special emissary was set to leave for the forests last night, to receive Veerappan's demands. He is expected to renew his demand for amnesty and rehabilitation in exchange for the safe return of Rajkumar.

Rajkumar is a cult figure in Karnataka, where he has starred in 220 films in Kannada, a language spoken by around 60 million people. In Bangalore, regarded as one of the top five world centres for information technology, mostshops and businesses remained closed. Schools and colleges will beclosed until the weekend. The local Kannada language association has called for a general strike in protest against the kidnapping.

In the past, Veerappan has seized government officials. Two years ago he kidnapped a pair of wildlife photographers, hoping to strike an amnesty deal. He also wanted his life story to be filmed, and at one point insisted he be the director. The local authorities dragged out the negotiations and the hostages were eventually released unharmed.

"Since those he kidnapped in the past were not big enough for the government to take his demands seriously, we feel he has resorted to kidnapping someone as important as Rajkumar," said an official, who asked not to be identified.

Comments