Indian Kidnapped Actor Freed
MADRAS, India (AP) _ A popular Indian film star kidnapped in July by a notorious bandit accused of 300 murders was released Wednesday.
Rajkumar’s release came after months of tortuous negotiations between Veerappan, the outlawed bandit, and the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the areas where most of his crimes were committed.
N. Karunanidhi, chief minister of Tamil Nadu, said in a statement that Rakjumar was released early Wednesday and ``informed me that he is hale and hearty.″
The statement said Rajkumar was in Erode, 280 miles northwest of Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Veerappan, 56, had agreed to let Rajkumar, 72, go even though none of his demands had been met.
The Supreme Court on Nov. 7 blocked attempts by the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments to free 51 of Veerappan accomplices _ serving sentences for murder, sandalwood smuggling and poaching _ in return for Rajkumar’s safety.
The kidnapping of Rajkumar on July 30, a veteran of more than 200 Kannada-language movies, had sparked violent strikes in the region, as people demanded quick government action to free him,
During his captivity, Rajkumar had been seen on television and heard on radio because Veerappan sent video and audio cassettes out of the jungle with a newspaper editor who acted as a mediator in negotiations.
Veerappan has eluded police for more than 30 years by using his knowledge of the jungle, where he is based. He is also protected by forest hunters and farmers who admire him.
Like many people in southern India, the bandit and the actor use only one name.
Rajkumar’s son-in-law, S.A. Govindaraj, who had been kidnapped with him, was freed Oct. 16. Another kidnap victim, a friend of the family, escaped on Sept. 28.
There was no immediate word on the third man taken with Rajkumar when Veerappan and his gang invaded their new vacation home in forested hills near the border between the two states July 30.