- Paperback: 263 pages
- Publisher: Rupa Publications India; First Edition edition (10 February 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 8129145359
- ISBN-13: 978-8129145352
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 384 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand Paperback – 10 Feb 2017
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About the Author
K. Vijay Kumar is a former officer in the Indian Police Service (IPS) and was the Chief of the Special Task Force (STF) that was behind the killing of the dreaded bandit Veerappan during Operation Cocoon in 2004. Mr. Kumar, a 1975 batch IPS officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre, headed the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad in 2008 and served as the Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) from 2010 to 2012. He is currently Senior Security Adviser in the Home Ministry.
From the Publisher
There is an old adage that one should not confuse activity for progress. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions with which it was launched, there was hardly any progress. Within a month of Jungle Storm winding up, a far bigger storm had struck- Veerappan had abducted Rajkumar.
The previous year had seen huge sweeps by the Tamil Nadu Police to ferret out the bandit, be it Operation Vanamalai in 1989 or a decade later, Operation Tusker. But neither had been successful.
Despite a string of failures, I was convinced that if we persevered and changed the tactics, we would strike gold.
‘I’m fully aware that so far it has seemed like a lot of sound and fury, but here is what I think we should do…’ I said.
That was the launch of Operation Inundation. DSP Tirunavukkarasu, or Tiru, was its sheet anchor. This time, instead of sending large unwieldy patrols, we poured in fighting-fit, agile mini-teams equipped with GPS, night-vision devices and other gizmos. A significant part of the area covered fell under the Karnataka STF, but they were generous enough to allow us the tactical freedom to conduct the operation.
The men went through a gruelling regimen, including the notable innovation-the ‘one-minute drill’, inspired by the ‘one-minute manager’ series.
As a boy, I had watched the centenary parade of the Tamil Nadu Police in awe as the band stripped down from full ceremonial dress to shorts and vest even while they continued playing and ran 100 metres, all within a span of one minute. I modified that drill to pack in speed, perfection and stress management. The idea was to ensure that the STF was alert at all times. There were drills for both urban and jungle scenarios, while some were devised for pure fun. The message was clear: everything had to be done within a tight time frame, which was not always 60 seconds.
Some drills, like dismantling and assembling one’s weapon, took less time. Other drills included running a certain distance while carrying one’s buddy, going from deep sleep to full battle readiness, firing over twenty rounds from a .303 or an SLR - all within a minute. These drills broke the monotony of regular training. Though the boys sweated hard, nobody protested.
In the years since I have left the STF, I have noticed that the one-minute drills have gone viral, with several other police and paramilitary forces adopting and even improving on them (airports security and corporates for bonding-drills). Perhaps these tests were introduced by STF men deputed to these forces. Or maybe good ideas just take on a life of their own!
By the end of 2003, the men were fighting fit and in high spirits.
As 2004 dawned, many of us assembled at the STF memorial at Thattakarai and took a solemn oath that we would not rest till we accomplished our mission.
‘Could it really be him?’ ‘Is it just someone who looks like him?’ ‘No, it’s actually Veerappan!’ they wondered aloud.
I then signalled that we needed to rush the four men to the nearest hospital. They were loaded onto an Omni and dashed away.
Suddenly, cries of ‘Long live the STF’ resounded through the clearing.
There was a spontaneous eruption of delight and high-fiving. I was hoisted on the shoulders of my men and effortlessly passed around. I noticed that Kannan had been similarly hefted. We exchanged broad grins and shook hands. No words were needed.
Next, it was the turn of Hussain, Rajarajan, Tiru, Sampath and Saravanan.
All the officers and team leaders present were tossed around, as were the head constables, who had spent years haranguing and tongue-lashing the men to finally make this moment possible.
There was a brief pause as the boys looked in puzzlement at Durai, standing calmly at a distance, scratching his shaven head. Nobody knew him, but they clearly understood that he was one of them and had played a pivotal role in the operation. Up went Durai, too.
Q & A with K. Vijay Kumar
Q. Why did you decide to write this book?
K. Vijay Kumar: Many versions of my story were available in the public domain-books, movies, television shows. Some were one sided, some stories were mere caricatures and others were just clumsy. ‘OPS Cocoon’ was even painted us cooked up in some versions. This was the final trigger that persuaded me to write this book and present a truer version of the story.
Q. Can you tell us about your writing process? What was the most challenging aspect of putting down your experiences on paper?
K. Vijay Kumar: I would describe the entire writing process as chaotic. I am addicted to scribbling down my thoughts, feelings, different anecdotes and ideas that come to me. These notes definitely came in handy while I was writing the book. My notes about certain incidents were quite lengthy. There is an anecdote in the book about how Veerappan once got cheated out five lakh rupees in a gun supply deal. This incident is described in the book in three lines. My notes ran into thirty pages for this episode alone. In total I had over one thousand pages of notes, memories and details on paper. It was Vikas Singh of the Times of India who helped me organize my writing into a suitable format.
Q. Were there any particular moments in your journey that were hard, which you struggled to include in the book, perhaps because they were too personal or painful?
K. Vijay Kumar: During those days, I didn't dwell too much on thoughts and feelings, I kept my emotions out of the tasks that I had to perform. This is not unusual for some Security Forces men.
There were however thoughts and fears that I struggled with-what if it were my last day? There are so many things that I still want to do. What will become of my family? How will they fend for themselves?
My fears would however vaporize the moment I looked around me and saw the boys. They were far below in the pecking order, and had much to lose as well, and yet their courage, determination and sense of duty stood above all fear. The words, 'theirs but to do and die’ would sober me at once.
Q. Did you form any close friendships, or associations during your years on the hunt that you particularly cherish?
K. Vijay Kumar: I bonded well with my team. As most projects were top secret, they were mostly silo-operations. Kannan was there with me through it all.
Q. How was this journey for your family, especially your wife? How did they support you in your mission?
K. Vijay Kumar: It’s odd, but I have thanked my wife more in this book than I have in person! She shifted from Sathy to the STF headquarters to give me support. She said, “You have eight years of service left, even if it takes that long, its fine.”
Many readers have liked my response and her sharp riposte in chapter twenty five of the book. The spouses of men in the in the Special Forces are strong. They are our silent buddies, supporting us through thick and thin. My children too were supportive of my endeavors.
Q. During your lowest moments, how did you keep your personal morale and that of your team up?
K. Vijay Kumar: I understand first-hand the meaning of the term “it’s lonely at the top”. We were a part of a long-term mission that dragged on for a long time. There were loose strands everywhere. I was in charge of a bunch of anxious men who were chasing slender leads and unwittingly aborting the mission. The STFs and Veerappan had many mutual close shaves.
I made it a point never to let my team know I was feeling down when things went south, similarly I also made it a practice not to be too jubilant when things looked our way.
I think I picked this trait from Kannan, who could deliver bad news without flinching.
“Sir, operation Boston flopped”. But he would add, “One more operation is on.”
Like this whenever we were on the brink of disaster, we chose to hang on to hope .Or like I've said in the book, “When the going got tough, the tough got praying”.
Q. Can you describe the twenty minutes of the encounter that began a 10:50 PM on Monday, October 18, 2004? What was going through your mind? How did you get your men to prepare for it?
K. Vijay Kumar: Incredibly, those 20 minutes were very vivid for me. Even now I can see each man, each team, and each action. My mind was a blur, churning together memories of past escapes and killings with my intense desire to bring down my arch enemy. I was worried about my two men providing the bandit hopefully, his final escort. I feared that they may face ‘friendly fire’ of the STF boys who were waiting with me to ambush the bandit. I feared of the mission going wrong and the censure that we would face. It was as if many movies were running in my head at the same time. I have seen hot spots before, but this was something altogether different. I have done my best to describe this in the last chapter in the book.
Q. Was there anything you would have told Veerappan had you had the opportunity?
K. Vijay Kumar: I guess by the end he was beyond the point of being told or quizzed. Maybe, I would have asked how he managed our hot pursuit. Knowledge on how he evaded the law time and again would be an asset to the forces in planning such missions in the future.
Veerappan was like a misguided missile. During my first and only face to face encounter with him, he was sinking. I felt sorry that his life was coming to an end.
Q. Do you have any plans to write a second book, perhaps about some of your other missions?
K. Vijay Kumar: There are many stories brewing in my head but they are all in an embryonic stage. My current focus is this book. It’s doing well. At a later stage I will ask my friend Vikas Singh what I can do with the thousand odd pages of notes I have sitting with me of other missions.
Q. The book is written from the point of view of the hunter and the hunted, why did you choose to include both perspectives in the book?
K. Vijay Kumar: A police diary explaining goof ups and hyping the hits would be insipid. A bandit's diary with Veerappan’s megalomania would have been a disaster. So a bifocal view is better, I thought.
Q. The book reads like a thriller, rather than a biography, was this intentional?
K. Vijay Kumar: I'm glad it does. I was keen for it to be gripping. Vikas Singh helped me to no end to get the twists and turns right. I don’t want to sound pompous, but it was my intention to make sure each page conveyed some key thought, idea, information or background to the reader. The words in the book should have value to the reader. The feedback that I have gotten so far is that the book is almost there.
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Top customer reviews
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The friendly fire cut a sorry figure.
The bombshell Mr X should have been revealed whatsoever his social status is. It's always the blessings of such Mr X which help such goons /bandits to thrive.
Kashmir too is similar and so are Maoist in chhatisgarh. There are many such Mr X because of whom the police and army are being sacrificed.
Absolute start to finish 50 mts dash.
The book narrates the evolution of Veerappan, his ruthless tactics in dealing with opponents, carefully detailing every major incidents & efforts by Tamilnadu and Karnataka police forces to nab him.
The book highlights the challenges of conducting operations in jungles, the adaptations STF had to go thru, the mind game the STF played on the gang and the change in strategy at various point in time. As good as a thriller novel.
The book also gives insights in Human and Technical Intelligence tactics used by STF at various stages.
It also shows the relentless effort made by STF to pursue every single lead.
Chapter 34 gives minute by minute account on what happened on night of October 18th, 2004.. The author has also explained that the window of opportunity to nab the gang alive was closed and had to open fire as a last resort.
If this book were not written, silent sacrifices made by hundreds of men in uniform would not have been known to the outside world.
The author has given due credit to his colleagues, subordinates at various stages.
On a side note, I think the author could have covered in some detail about the STF operations by Karnataka team. The author has acknowledged that this could be a book by itself.
Salutes to Mr.K.VijayaKumar and STF..
Also sincere respects and prayers to the Police personnel who lost their lives during this period.
The Part - 4 Operation Cocoon - the reading of it is very thrilling, some times made me restless. The climax really made me to come to the brink of my seat.
I feel, I am one of the gifted persons, had the chance to read this valuable book.
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