STF personnel raid hamlet, thrash resident tribals
THE SPECIAL Task Force (STF), which is on a hot chase of forest brigand Veerappan, raided a tribal hamlet in Annakkad, 30 km from here. STF personnel thrashed villagers on the suspicion that they were acting as Veerappan's informers.
The Sholyur police have registered a case against the personnel and investigations are on. According to sources in the Agali police station, the local police was not informed about the raid in Annakkad, which falls within Kerala.
One of the seriously injured tribals, Nanjan (28), has been admitted to the Agali Government hospital. Several injured villagers of the Valayar tribe have fled to Coimbatore and Palakkad fearing more STFattacks.
Talking to The Hindustan Times from his hospital bed, Nanjan, injured in the abdomen and legs, said: "Yesterday at around 1 p.m. Kannada-speaking STF personnel, numbering about 40, raided our village. All male members were told to come out of huts. When we told them that we didn't know anything about Veerappan they started beating us. They attacked us with rifle butts, sticks and boots."
According to him, the STF men pulled down huts and assaulted even women when they didn't find any relevant information.
"There are only ten families in Annakkad and we often frequent thick forests to collect material to make broom sticks.
During one such trip, two men did notice a few strangers roaming in the forests.
Once they realised they were being watched, the strangers moved deeper into the forests. We have no idea whether they were Veerappan's men or poachers. But we dutifully informed the foresters", said Kannappan, Nanjan's uncle sitting beside his bed.
The STF operations have stretched over to Siruvani Forests, Palakkad, where Kerala policemen also - with vintage .303 rifles - are combing the thick forest, running the risk of getting kidnapped by the brigand.
"The STF has got all modern weapons. But we have only age-old .303s. We don't have even sweaters in the biting cold of the forests," complained a constable of Kerala police.
Tortuous roads, blood-sucking leeches, steep bends and poor visibility have added to the policemen's woes. Velan, a tribal, is a resident of Palakkayam. He never heard about either Veerappan or an operation by joint team to net him. The only thing he knows is that nowadays too many jeeps are frequenting the area.
At Siruvani forest bungalow, policemen are told to be extra-vigilant. Reason: Veerappan is supposed to visit Shivan Kovil (temple) atop Velliangiri hills on full-moon night.