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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 13:16 GMT
Mystery surrounds Rajkumar release
Rajkumar with envoys
Negotiations for Rajkumar's release dragged on
By Habib Beary in Bangalore

It is far from clear what finally led to the release of film idol Rajkumar - but speculation is growing that a ransom was paid over a period of time since the abduction at the end of July.

Officials associated with the hostage crisis said the health of the ageing actor was a critical factor in facilitating the release.

Veerappan: Did not want actor's health to deteroriate
Rajkumar said emissaries and a team of unofficial representatives sent to negotiate had asked him to fake illness - which he did.

This is said to have unnerved Veerappan who recognised the consequences if the film star was harmed in any way.

Tamil organisations in Karnataka had also taken initiatives to secure his release as they feared reprisals against the Tamil community, whose cause Veerappan had ostensibly been championing.

Rajkumar himself and the Karnataka Chief Minster SM Krishna have so far evaded questions on whether a ransom was paid to the bandit.

At a joint news conference held at the imposing state secretariat in Bangalore on Thursday, Mr Krishna side-stepped such questions.

No comment

He said the purpose of the conference was to present before the media the freed actor and get his account of his stay in the jungle and not to answer any other questions.

Rajkumar fans protesting
Pressure from supporters grew
Rajkumar said he would talk about his ordeal and would not comment on other matters.

To a specific question as to whether the government would grant an amnesty or clemency to Veerappan, Rajkumar said it was for the government to talk about that.

But he quickly added that there was a human side to the bandit who had taken great care of him.

Although the state government has denied paying any ransom, there is talk in film industry circles of a lot of money passing hands to facilitate the release.

Immediately after the kidnap, newspapers reported that Veerappan had asked for a ransom of 500m rupees.

And in the past ,Veerapppan had demanded ransom in exchange for the release of hostages held by him.

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | South Asia
Star set for joyful homecoming
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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