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Published on: 12/6/17 12:32 PM

Book review: Veerappan, Chasing the Brigand by K Vijay Kumar

Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K Vijay Kumar. Rupa Publications.

I wanted this book to read like a thriller, the author states in his Acknowledgments. And that is exactly what Veerappan… reads like: a bracing, fast-paced thriller that keeps the reader hooked and happy.

It could be described as a crackling good yarn except, as we all know, it isn’t. A yarn, I mean. For well over two decades, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu police and then the newly formed STF, were tracking the moustachioed elephant poacher and sandalwood smuggler Koose Munisamy Veerappan Gounder, sometimes just yards away from the wily and elusive robber-murderer but unable to actually nab him.

This book`s real triumph is that Vijay Kumar briskly outlines the immense effort and stupendous amount of man-hours that went into the hunt for Veerappan, the intricate setting up  and spreading of a network, the contacts made with sympathisers and victims over the years, the running of confidential informers, the drafting of dogs, the dangers of traversing mined territory, the occupational  hazard of friendly fire, the battle with leeches, snakes, angry elephants and a bestial foe, the misery of having to carry away the stiffening body of a buddy from a conflict zone, the setting of many a trap, the exhilaration quickly giving way to intense disappointment and then to a philosophical resignation that tomorrow is another day.

Another triumph is the way this STF commander is most generous in praising his  counterparts and teams of the Karnataka STF, despite the fact that the joint operation had its share of problems. At one point, Vijay Kumar says wryly, the word `joint` may exude synergy and strength but demolition manuals insist that the joint is the best spot to fix a charge!

Then finally, Op Cocoon is launched and they manage to bring the `general without a division down.`

The book was bound to be a page- turner given its subject matter but the author`s direct  style, infused with gentle humour, helps things along. At times the prose is almost lyrical as when he says a guerrilla is like a poet, keen to the rustle of leaves, the break of the twigs, the ripples of the river. Or  when he informs us that darkness like the jungle is neutral; if you master it better than your foe, it becomes an advantage.

As for the final moments of Op Cocoon, that alone is worth the price of the book. A good read, this.


elephant murdererK Vijay Kumarkarnatakanon-fictionsandalwood poacherSTFTamil NaduVeerappan

Sheila Kumar • December 6, 2017

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