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23 Aug 2019, Edition - 1501, Friday

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Coimbatore

Former SI Mohan Nawaz recounts chilling moments of face-to-face with bandit Veerappan

Renald A. Frank

Coimbatore: He was built slim, had a moustache that looked terrifying enough to scare people and the aura he possessed made him defy the police and government for more than a decade, Veerappan had his own way in whatever he did.

He was a dacoit and a smuggler by profession yet he had people at the highest level to sympathize with him. I don’t know you but I want you is what his wife Muthulakshmi thought on first seeing him with the kattabomman moustache.

Veerappan was a man of few words but his actions (of killing and smuggling) spoke volumes. The most wanted bandit of India was shot dead during Operation Cocoon in 2004 at the hands of the then TamilNadu Special Task Force Chief K.Vijayakumar near Dharmapuri.

The 1996 ambush on then Special Task Force S.P. N. Tamizhselvan and his team was narrated to then STF Chief K. Vijay Kumar in 2001 by then sub-inspector Mohan Nawaz who now is the the Additional Superintendent of Police, Naxal Special Division.

Former STF Chief K. Vijay Kumar who has been elevated as the Senior Security Advisor; Ministry of Home Affairs for the Government of India, gives an account of the events that unfolded on that fateful day in the year of 1996 to a Tamil magazine from which the following information has been taken.

Preparations had started long before when forces in 1996 had an encounter with Veerappan and his gang near the mountain road of Dhimbam-Germalam where Veerappan had kept his men posted for six days before carrying out the attack on then STF Superintendent of Police N.Tamizhselvan and his team.

It was on 10th February, 1996 that Veerappan was trying to re-unite his gang on the western side of Dhimbam mountain. A tribal man named Thuppaki Chittan and his wife were inducted into Veerappan’s gang who in turn brought in many more tribals.

Having received enough manpower Veerappan now decided to plan his attacks. One fine night he decided to attack the camp of STF team where then sub-inspector Mohan Navaz used to live but luckily for him the dogs started barking loudly looking towards a tree.

Sensing danger the other police personnel also woke up with their guns ready but they couldn’t see anything. The dogs ran towards the tree and Veerappan who was hiding decided to abort the risky attack and silently escaped into the forest with his men.

Veerappan was hell bent on capturing Navaz because he believed that the SO was the root cause of all his (Veerappan’s) problems. It was after this incident that Veerappan choose the upward mountain direction of Dhimbam-Germalam as an assault point to target people in general.

On most days Mohan Navaz used to sit beside the driver but on that particular day his seat was occupied by then STF S.P. N.Tamizhselvan along with head constable Selvaraj, constable Raghupathi and sub-inspectors Loyola Ignatius and Mohan Navaz.

Sub-inspector Navaz who had crossed the stretch on earlier occasions always had an instinct of something not being right. All along the way Tamizhselvan and Navaz were talking casually without being aware of the consequence awaiting them.

When the jeep was climbing upwards there was some sound in the engine because of which Navaz couldn’t hear what Tamizhselvan was telling him. It was at this point of time that Mohan Navaz exchanged seat with constable Selvaraj who was sitting behind Tamizhselvan.

Suddenly flurry of bullets were fired from the right hand side of the mountain and Selvaraj was killed on the spot. The jovial atmosphere in the vehicle turned serious now with the jeep driver Illangovan who with his sheer presence of mind moved the vehicle to a corner to use it as a shield from the flying bullets.

The situation was very tense out there and all of a sudden a bullet hit the head of sub-inspector Loyola Ignatius who immediately became unconscious.

Ironically the bullet got stuck at a point where it could not be removed by the doctors and he continues to live with it. Tamizhselvan in spite of injuring his left hand rolled under the jeep and started firing using his AK-47 rifle along with Raghupathy.

Mohan Navaz who was injured badly on his left side of his nose, head and left shoulder saw Veerappan’s men running downwards. He tried chasing them but the path was rugged hence causing him to fall and in the process hit himself against a rock.

His AK-47 rifle slipped from his hand but with great difficulty he managed to pick it up. Upon picking it up he found Veerappan and his men standing opposite to him.

While Veerappan lifted his country pistol and SLR, an angry Navaz in spite of breaking his rib bone shouted violently and started shooting. This is despite the fact that he couldn’t hold his gun properly because of the bullet injury that had left his face with sweat and blood oozing.

After this incident in the year 1996, on one fine day Mohan Navaz was heard saying to Vijay Kumar that these stray dogs are my best security and I regret not having them along when Veerappan and his men attacked us way back in 1996.

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