Seeking treatment for his eye ailment along with the prospect of procuring arms from the LTTE in Sri Lanka is what led to the downfall of forest brigand Veerappan in 2004, according to the book, VEERAPPAN Chasing the Brigand, written by K Vijay Kumar, the officer who helmed Operation Cocoon as head of the Tamil Nadu Police Special Task Force (STF).
Veerappan was lured into a trap after he was led to believe that a well-known businessman from Tamil Nadu, with links with the LTTE, had arranged a safe passage for the brigand to go to Sri Lanka. The book identifies the businessman as Mr X.
While Veerappan, the sandalwood smuggler who is said to have killed at least 124 people, had dodged the police for two decades, the final shootout on October 18, 2004, in Tamil Nadu, “was over in twenty minutes”, writes Vijay Kumar.
According to decorated former IPS, in 2004, the STF used information regarding the businessman’s — Mr X — links to the LTTE and to Veerappan to force him to help STF to lure Veerappan out of his forest lair.
The actionable intelligence that led to the plan came from a police informer identified as ‘Trader’, who had managed to earn the trust of the brigand on account of a caste kinship.
It was in 2004, that the informer, who was only in touch with a closed STF group comprising then STF chief Vijay Kumar and one SP N Senthamaraikannan, approached the STF with information that Veerappan had asked him to meet the businessman, Mr X from Dharmapuri, to seek his help in getting arms for Veerappan’s gang and for the treatment of his eye problem.
“When Trader mentioned Mr X’s name, my eyes widened in shock. Trader hadn’t heard of Mr X before, but Kannan and I had. He was a prosperous man with a reputation for being an honourable citizen. If he had a seamier side, he had masked it for years. News that he had links with both a dangerous criminal as well as anti-India elements was quite a revelation. Kannan and I quickly hatched a plan,’’ Vijay Kumar writes in the book.
Trader, the police informer, was wired up by the STF and sent to meet Mr X and talk about Veerappan plan to travel to Sri Lanka. The recording was later used to force Mr X to help the police.
STF officers then told the businessman to pass on a message to Veerappan that contact has been established with his friends in Sri Lanka and that a man would be sent to escort Veerappan to Trichy or Madurai for an eye operation and later to Sri Lanka for an arms deal.
Police officer Velladorai (a.k.a Durai), with whom Veerappan was not familiar, was then picked to play the role of the arms dealer from Sri Lanka. Durai was sent to the forest a few times to meet Veerappan, but the brigand did not show up for the meeting.
In October 2004, STF learnt from Mr X, as well as another informer — ‘Blanket’, that Veerappan had sent word that his emissary would meet the businessman at a tea shop in the Dharmapuri.
The book says that at the tea shop meeting later, Veerappan’s emissary, a man identified as “Red’’, said: “Anna will come out on October 18.
Your man should wait at the junction near Papparapatti police station at 10 pm. If he doesn’t hear from us that day, he should come again on October 20, and then on October 22. Your man will be taken to Anna.’’
Mr X then was given one half of a lottery ticket bearing number 007710, and told that the man sent by the businessman should carry that as a proof to Papparapatti.
The ticket and the details of the brigand’s plan were then shared by the businessman with the STF and Operation Cocoon was planned. The operation got its name for the modified ambulance codenamed “Cocoon”, which was used to trap the brigand on October 18, 2004. The operation was planned by a closed group of the STF comprising Vijay Kumar, Senthamaraikannan, Velladorai and an STF driver, Sarvannan.
On October 18, the STF team led by Vijay Kumar waited near a school in Padi, 12 km from Dharmapuri, as the brigand got into the Operation Cocoon ambulance thinking he was being driven by people linked to the LTTE, sent by Mr X, the businessman.
As the ambulance stopped near the school and undercover STF men moved out, Veerappan and his associates were asked to surrender. As the gang opened fire, STF, writes Vijay Kumar, pounded the ambulance with bullets killing Veerappan and his associates in a battle that lasted around 20 minutes.
The book by Vijay Kumar has been dedicated to former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa.