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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 20:41 GMT 21:41 UK
Bandit's widow speaks out
Veerappan's widow, Muthulakshmi (centre), and daughters Nidhi (left) and Prabha (right)
Veerappan's wife (centre) and daughters attended the funeral
The wife of Veerappan, India's most wanted bandit killed by police on Monday, says her husband offered to surrender three years ago - but the authorities never responded.

Muthulakshmi was speaking in an exclusive - and often emotional - interview with the BBC Tamil service's Sampath Kumar after burying the husband she had met only twice in the last 10 years.

She last saw Veerappan in 2001 when she says he sent the Tamil Nadu state chief minister, Jayalalitha, a video tape in which he offered to give up crime and spend time in prison - but not the rest of his life.

Veerappan, with his trademark handlebar moustache, was wanted in connection with more than 100 murders, and police had been seeking him since the late 1960s.

'He wanted family life'

The authorities have never mentioned the video cassette, which Muthulakshmi says was sent to the chief minister through Veerappan's nephew, a practising lawyer in Madras (Chennai) High Court.

He never beat me or the children
Veerappan's widow

But the chief minister ignored the offer, Muthulakshmi said.

Her husband had made clear on the tape he would stay in the jungle if the authorities sought to put him in prison for the rest of his life.

"He wanted to live with his family for at least 10 years as he was already 53 years old and putting him in prison would mean he would never lead a family life again."

The man she married but rarely saw was portrayed by his supporters as a latter-day Robin Hood, but his gang are said to have dealt ruthlessly with suspected informers.

Veerappan, said Muthulakshmi, had been a "loving father and a good husband".

"He never beat me or the children."

Asked why she had chosen to devote her life to a bandit, she said Veerappan was wanted only for poaching and smuggling when she married him in 1990.

It was only later that he graduated to kidnapping and alleged murder.

She said she had pleaded with him to end his life of banditry.

"He asked me to be patient, saying he would take the necessary steps at the right time.

"For the sake of the children he said I should not come to the jungle to live with him."

'I was tortured'

Muthulakshmi said life had been a struggle for the last 10 years, spent constantly under the shadow of the police special task force (STF) hunting her husband

Ten years under the control of the police special task force has ruined my life and made me unable to work
"They used to tap phone calls and record my movements in my house with a video camera."

She was detained in 1992 for two years, and says she was tortured by the police.

"I was given electric shocks on my breasts, was not allowed to go even to the toilet, not given proper food and was beaten up."

Police have not commented on Muthulakshmi's torture claims.

But there have been numerous allegations of human rights abuses committed by security forces against suspected Veerappan sympathisers.

Reporters in a Dharmapuri hospital photograph the body which police say is Koose Muniswamy Veerappan
The exact circumstances of Veerappan's death remain unknown
In 1996 the Madras High Court ordered compensation be paid to a number of women who India's Central Bureau of Investigation found had been raped by the security forces.

Tamil Nadu's former director general of police, Walter Davaram, says the security forces paid little attention to human rights in the hunt for Veerappan.

"Our concern was to protect the forests, protect the animals and ensure the safety of the people," he told the BBC Tamil service.

Muthulakshmi says the future for her and her two teenage daughters now looks gloomy.

She says they have little money and no one will give her a job.

"My children's education had been affected because police would not let them have a peaceful time in school. They thought they can use the children to trap my husband.

"Ten years under the control of the STF has ruined my life and made me unable to work - it is now up to the government to take care of my children's education."

How Veerappan became India's most notorious bandit

Legendary bandit buried in India
20 Oct 04 |  South Asia
Veerappan hunt a 'waste of time'
01 Jul 03 |  South Asia
Indian police hunt bandit online
18 Feb 03 |  South Asia
India ups bandit reward
31 Dec 02 |  South Asia
The hunt for India's elusive bandit
09 Dec 02 |  South Asia

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