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Rajkumar's son Ragvindra Kumar
I knew it was my father straight away
 real 28k

The BBC's Gill McGivering
"He said the Indian government should consider Veerappan's problems"
 real 28k

Friday, 4 August, 2000, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Kidnapped star warns against rescue
Protest outside Rajkumar's house
Thousands protested against the kidnapping
The kidnapped Indian screen idol Rajkumar has appealed to police not to attempt an armed rescue operation and called on his fans to keep calm.

Rajkumar was abducted on Sunday along with three family members by India's most-wanted bandit, Veerappan.


I and my colleagues have not been harmed by Veerappan and everybody is being looked after well.

Rajkumar
The kidnapping triggered sporadic violence and a general strike in Karnataka's state capital, Bangalore.

"I am safe. Veerappan has been looking after me well. It [the abduction] is just an accident,'' Rajkumar said in the message recorded in the bandit's forest hideout in southern India.

Rajkumar belongs to the Kannadiga community, the dominant group in Karnataka, while Veerappan is a Tamil.

Rescue warning

Rajkumar
Rajkumar is a legend in Karnataka
In the recording broadcast on a local television network, Rajkumar said he, his fellow hostages and their captors had heard reports on the radio that federal forces may launch a rescue mission.

"Veerappan tells me that it won't help matters," he said.

"I and my colleagues have not been harmed by Veerappan and everybody is being looked after well. Nobody needs to worry about my health," said Rajkumar, who spoke in Kannada, the official language of Karnataka.

The 72-year-old actor is said to have received medication for hypertension and a leg ailment.

Veerappan
Veerappan is India's most wanted man
According to a police spokesman, the tape was given to an individual, handed on to the Tamil Nadu state government and later confirmed as genuine by Rajkumar's son, Shivraj.

No demands

The tape did not specify what the bandit's problems or demands were.

Government officials expect Veerappan to seek amnesty and rehabilitation, a demand he has made in the past.

He 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-fifties, Veerappan is accused of killing more than 100 people and smuggling millions of dollars worth of sandalwood and ivory.

A government emissary, R.R. Gopal, is attempting to make contact with Veerappan to find out about his demands.

Mr Gopal, the editor of the Tamil-language magazine Nakeeran, is the only journalist to have interview Veerappan and is said to trusted by the bandit.

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See also:

31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bandit kidnaps top film star
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
A ruthless and daring bandit
14 Apr 99 | South Asia
Jayalalitha: Actress-turned-politician
03 Sep 99 | South Asia
South India takes its place
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