In an interview to Firstpost, Muthulakshmi, wife of slain brigand Veerappan, reacts to the recent Karnataka High Court’s damning indictment of senior police officer Shankar Bidari for his role as deputy commander of the Special Task Force (STF) that was formed in the early 1990′s to nab Veerappan.
Describing Bidari as “worse than Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi” for the STF’s record of atrocities committed against women and tribals during the hunt for Veerappan, the Karnataka High Court had struck down his appointment by the government as the Director General of Police (DGP). The Supreme Court, in response to Bidari’s appeal against the High Court order, has stayed the quashing of his appointment and directed the High Court to re-examine the case and dispose it before 31 May.
What was your first reaction to the Karnataka High Court judgment that struck down Shankar Bidari’s appointment as DGP?
We welcome the High Court’s judgment and its observations comparing Shankar Bidari to Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi as he is a person who does care about human rights.
Do you see this as vindication for the crimes committed by the STF against you and your family?
Since my marriage to Veerappan I suffered a lot. I have faced all sorts of atrocities and have even been deprived of caring for my daughters. Now I have been discharged of all the TADA (Terroist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act) and murder cases that were falsely put on me simply because I was the wife of Veerappan. How can they hold me responsible for the acts or crimes connected to my late husband?
The world knows the truth now. This is the beginning of justice. As victims, we want a CBI enquiry into the matter as it concerns Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, encompassing 22,000 square kilometres of forest land in the border areas. This alone can reveal the truth. We expect justice to be done.
The High Court in its verdict described Bidari as worse than Saddam and Gaddafi. What were the atrocities committed by the STF during the operation to capture Veerappan?
Yes, the High Court has made public the true nature of Shankar Bidari. The comparison to Saddam and Gaddafi is absolutely correct. Bidari is worse than them.
He would order the officers in his team to give electric shocks to all the TADA detainees at the Madheswaran Malai workshop camp and also at the Dimbam camp, where I was detained for over 15 days. Shankar Bidari and his other officers would torture the girls and women by giving them electric shocks. It was worse than hell. There is no count of number of women and girls who have been brutalised by the STF.
You were captured by the STF in the early 199os..
I was captured by the STF in 1993. There was a clash between around 5.30 am in the forest between the STF personnel and Veerappan’s men. To escape the firing, I took shelter in a village on the Karnataka side of the border. The villagers, however, informed the STF and I was captured. I was kept at the Dimbam camp, in Karnataka, for over 15 days. I was beaten badly, given electric shocks. There were more than 15 girls and women at the camp and we were at the mercy of the STF men. We were tortured.
Later, I was shifted to Bannari camp workshop in Tamil Nadu. I was detained there illegally for more than two years. In 1996, unable to bear the torture anymore, I tried to commit suicide. My condition became very serious and I was admitted to a government hospital. This was reported in the press and a PIL was filed in the Madras High Court on my illegal detention.
I was threatened at gun point and forced to testify in court that I was looked after well. I had no choice. I was very afraid that I would be handed over to the Karnataka STF.
I was subsequently released from the STF camp and kept under house arrest in Coimbatore and later on in Mettur till my husband’s death in 2004.
What impressions do you have the personal encounters with Bidari?
In 1993, when I was captured from Punjanur, I was taken to Dimbam camp. It was there that I came face-to-face with Shankar Bidari. He was extremely rude and used the filthiest language. He misbehaved with me, took away my thali and rest of the jewellery, and money that was on me. He did the same with other women. You can judge by this what kind of an officer he was.