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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Divisions over Indian bandit talks
Burning Veerappan's effigy
Locals burnt effigies of Veerappan two years ago
The government in the southern Indian state of Karnataka says it is open to negotiations with the bandit Veerappan to ensure the release of a former minister kidnapped by the bandit on Sunday.

The statement follows comments by the chief minister of the neighbouring Tamil Nadu state, ruling out any talks with the bandit.

Observers say differences between the two governments over the handling of Veerappan, could threaten efforts to secure the safe release of the abducted former Minister H Nagappa.

Meanwhile, the operation by a joint task force set up by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to track down Veerappan has continued.

The bandit is alleged to have been involved in hundreds of incidents of murder, smuggling and elephant poaching in the forests bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Pressure

Karnataka's Law Minister, Chandre Gowda, told journalists on Thursday, that if possible, the state government would also send emissaries to negotiate with Veerappan.

Bandit Veerappan
Veerappan: Latter-day Robin Hood

Correspondents say Karnataka is under pressure to ensure Mr Nagappa's safe release of Mr Nagappa.

Mr Nagappa's family has appealed to the government to adopt a cautious approach.

The film star Rajkumar, who was abducted by Veerappan two years ago, has also joined in the appeals for Mr Nagappa's release.

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha had firmly rejected any negotiations with the bandit.

"Once he is captured, he will have to face legal action and pay the penalty for his crimes," she told the media in Delhi earlier this week.

Ms Jayalalitha also blamed the previous DMK government in Tamil Nadu for allowing Veerappan's gang to regroup.

Elusive

Sixty-two-year-old Mr Nagappa was abducted by Veerappan and his associates at gunpoint on Sunday.

H Nagappa
Nagappa: Snatched from his home

The bandit left an audio cassette in which he is believed to have demanded the release of some of his imprisoned associates.

Two years ago Veerappan grabbed international attention with the abduction of Rajkumar in the same part of India.

Despite intensive searches Veerappan has evaded arrest for nearly 20 years.

One major difficulty in arresting the fugitive has been his excellent information network, which appears to have enabled him to stay one step ahead of law enforcers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava
"Hundreds of policemen are involved in a massive search operation to track down the country's most wanted outlaw"
The BBC's Charles Haviland
"Wanted in connection with over a hundred murders and numerous kidnappings"
See also:

27 Aug 02 | South Asia
20 Jun 02 | South Asia
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
10 Dec 00 | South Asia
16 Nov 00 | South Asia
28 Sep 00 | South Asia
24 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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