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Friday, 29 September, 2000, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Rajkumar 'could be free soon'
Kidnap groups
Rajkumar (right) was kidnapped nearly two months ago
The kidnapped Indian film idol, Rajkumar, could be released soon, according to one of the group who was seized with him.

Assistant film director Nagappa Maradagi is now free after escaping the clutches of the bandit, Veerappan, late on Thursday.


I am hopeful that Rajkumar will be released soon

Nagappa Maradagi
He told a news conference in the Karnataka state capital, Bangalore, that he fled on Thursday after a struggle with two of Veerappan's associates.

He sustained minor wounds to his head and ears in the process.

Appeal

"I had been constantly hearing the appeal for the release of Rajkumar by his wife, Parvathamma, over the radio, and that had made me emotional and sad," he said.

"I wanted to somehow to go and see her."

He said that when he finally got out of the forests where the groups is being held, he managed to get money to catch a bus.

He said that Rajkumar himself was fine - apart from developing a knee problem.

He also told journalists there were nine members of Veerappan's gang, and that they had changed hideouts more than 30 times.

Rajkumar and the others were seized at the end of July.

Protest

Bangalore police
Police were out in force for the strike in Bangalore
Supporters and relatives of Rajkumar - who is revered in Karnataka - have grown increasingly angry at the failure of efforts to secure his release.

On Thursday, Bangalore was paralysed by a strike to protest at Rajkumar's plight.

Rajkumar was kidnapped at the end of July by the notorious bandit, Veerappan, and prolonged negotiations have failed to secure his release.

Resolution

A resolution to the crisis appeared to be in sight last month, when the authorities agreed to release several jailed associates of Veerappan from prison.

But the move was blocked by the Supreme Court in Delhi after a petition was filed by the father of a policeman killed by Veerappan.

Veerappan is one of India's most wanted men.

He is charged with murdering more than 100 people and is wanted for elephant poaching and sandalwood smuggling.

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | South Asia
Kidnap strike paralyses Bangalore
21 Sep 00 | South Asia
Kidnapped star's fans protest
19 Sep 00 | South Asia
Legal delay in Rajkumar case
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
A ruthless and daring bandit
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