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Loaded question

IN December 2002, three months after he was kidnapped by forest brigand Veerappan, former Karnataka minister H Nagappa was found killed by a...

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore |
August 21, 2005

IN December 2002, three months after he was kidnapped by forest brigand Veerappan, former Karnataka minister

H Nagappa was found killed by a lone bullet fired from an AK-47. He was found dead in the forests bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Veerappan, before he was killed by the Tamil Nadu special task force in October 2004, denied killing the former minister and blamed the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu special task forces for carrying out the killing during a special operation.

Nearly three years after his death, the question is still unanswered. An inquiry commission set up by the Karnataka government immediately after the killing, is set to reach the end of its term in September this year—after encountering several deadends in its probe.

THE key to this whodunit lies in the single AK-47 bullet that pierced Nagappa’s heart. All three parties connected to the death of Nagappa—Veerappan, the Karnataka STF and the Tamil Nadu STF, were in possession of AK-47s, but from whose weapon the fatal bullet flew is still a mystery.

Ballistics experts in Bangalore have so far examined the 179 AK-47s in the possession of the Karnataka STF and concluded that the fatal bullet did not originate from any of these weapons.

They fired the 179 Karnataka AK-47—in batches over a period of nearly a year in 2003—and matched the signatures from spent cartridges with the signatures on 33 AK-47 cartridges found where Nagappa’s body was recovered. Their efforts proved inconclusive.

Through the Justice Vaidyanath commission which is probing the killing, advocates for Nagappa’s family subsequently sought the nearly 2,000 AK-47s in possession of the Tamil Nadu STF for similar ballistic examination. The Tamil Nadu government is yet to reply to this request.

Following the killing of Veerappan in October 2004, when two AK-47s were seized from the brigand’s possession, a request was again made through the commission to examine these guns as well. This has also not yielded any result.

NAGAPPA was incidentally the last of Veerappan’s high-profile hostages. He was kidnapped from his house in Kamagere on the fringe of the forests bordering Karnataka on August 25, 2002. The former minister was found dead in the forests on December 8 the same year.

His family, including his wife Parimala Nagappa, who was elected to the state legislature in 2004 on a Janata Dal (Secular) ticket, blamed the previous Congress government for the killing saying they failed to rein in the STF.

Veerappan, in a cassette sent following Nagappa’s death, alleged that the former minister was killed following a failed secret joint attempt by the STFs to rescue him.

Forensic experts who scoured the area where Nagappa’s body was found discovered 33 spent AK-47 cartridges which they later analysed and concluded to have been fired from four AK-47weapons.

CASE FILE

Proof in the bullet
The key to the mystery lies in the AK-47 bullet that hit Nagappa

After examining the Karnataka STF’s 179 AK-47s, ballistic experts say the fatal bullet did not originate from any of them

The AK-47s in possession of the Tamil Nadu STF as well as those found on Veerappan are yet to be examined

However, with the weapons used by the Tamil Nadu STF and the weapons seized from the Veerappan gang not being made available, the probe into the mystery has hit a deadend.

‘‘A request for the weapons in the possession of the Tamil Nadu STF and those seized from Veerappan has been made but we have not received any reply. The weapons seized from Veerappan are in the possession of a court in Tamil Nadu and will be made available when that case concludes,’’ said an official attached to the commission of inquiry in Karnataka.

The commission has so far examined nearly 58 witnesses including local police officers and supporters of the former minister. On August 6 at the last hearing of the commission, Nagappa’s son Preeth Nagappa was examined.

This process is scheduled to resume on August 26, following which Parimala Nagappa will take the witness stand.

While the commission is expected to complete its inquiry process before the end of September, it is also expected to seek an extension to produce its report on the Nagappa killing.

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