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The BBC's Jill McGivering in Bangalore
"Jubilation about Rajkumar's return is spreading all over the city"
 real 56k

Rajkumar's daughter, Purnima Rajkumar
"The children are playing and dancing here"
 real 28k

Prof B K Chandrashekar, Karnataka Min of Info
"Satisfaction that the strategy of Chief Minister Mr Krishna has worked"
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 18:11 GMT
Joyous welcome for Indian film star
Rajkumar and wife after arrival
Rajkumar flew into Bangalore by helicopter
Indian film idol Rajkumar has received a rapturous homecoming after more than three months as a hostage of a notorious bandit.

Crowds lined the streets in the Karnataka state capital, Bangalore, to welcome him as he flew in by helicopter.

At the airfield, several thousand people tried to surge forward through police lines to greet him.

They tied my hands together (to shoot me) and it was Veerappan himself who intervened and told them to stop.

Shortly afterwards, Rajkumar gave a news conference, where he was applauded by enthusiastic supporters.

He was freed by bandit leader Veerappan, even though one of the bandit's main demands - the release of some 50 jailed associates - had not been met.

Rajkumar told journalists after his arrival in Bangalore that he had no idea where he had been held, and was constantly kept alone.

At one point - after one of his fellow captives escaped - he said he thought he was going to be shot.

Health problems

He also described a secret visit to him by a female doctor, who told him how to pretend to have a heart problem and warned Veerappan of the consequences of keeping him captive for so long.

Rajkumar fans
His fans waited patiently for his arrival
He said this was instrumental in his release.

However, he did praise his captor for his treatment.

"He treated me like an honoured guest at a festival, giving me new clothes and good food," he said.

The BBC's Jill McGivering in Bangalore says the 72-year-old star has lost weight as the result of his ordeal, but appears generally well.

Rajkumar was taken captive at gunpoint in July in the state of Tamil Nadu and released this week in neighbouring Karnataka.

'Pyschological warfare'

The news of the release was greeted with relief by government officials in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, who had faced considerable embarrassment over the hostage crisis and had been negotiating with Veerappan.

"It was psychological warfare between the governments and Veerappan. Perhaps he ran out of patience," the Karnataka chief minister said.

Veerappan had made several demands, including the release of his jailed comrades.

The state governments made moves towards meeting those demands - but a plan to release the bandit's associates from prison was blocked by the Supreme Court.

Veerappan is India's most wanted man
It is still unclear what finally brought about the breakthrough.

Reports that a ranson has been paid to secure the actor's release have been denied by the state governments.

Veerappan and his gang, said to number about 15, have terrorised police and forest authorities in three southern Indian states - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala - for nearly two decades.

Now in his mid-50s, Veerappan is accused of killing more than 100 people and smuggling millions of dollars worth of sandalwood and ivory.

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | South Asia
Mystery surrounds Rajkumar release
07 Nov 00 | South Asia
India kidnap release blocked
14 Aug 00 | South Asia
Film star's family's plea to fans
01 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kidnap drama paralyses Bangalore
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bandit kidnaps top film star
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
A ruthless and daring bandit
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