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Veerappan killer to Naxal hunter, CRPF boss speaks

Last updated on: October 8, 2010 02:00 IST

Veerappan killer to Naxal hunter, CRPF boss speaks

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He had vowed to shave off his head the day he killed the notorious forest brigand Veerappan. On October 18, 2004, when he appeared before the media and announced the death of the dreaded sandalwood smuggler, he became a hero in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Today, K Vijay Kumar is the Director General of the elite Central Reserve Police Force, which faces the task of combating the Naxal menace. 

Vijay Kumar's new role with CRPF will be a challenging one. He points out that it cannot be compared to the Veerappan operation since countering Naxals is a whole new ballgame. "The experience gained during the Veerappan operation of fighting a battle in the jungle can be used to counter the Naxals. However, it can never be the same since this is a battle involving a group of organised criminals, while Veerappan was an individual. The only similarity is that someone is on the run and we are on their trail," he said.

However, he agrees that nabbing the Naxals will be tough.

Reportage: Vicky Nanjappa


Image: CRPF jawan pays his last respects to colleagues who died in a Naxalite attack in Chhattisgarh. Inset:K Vijay Kumar
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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"We need to improvise on intelligence sharing and we have noticed that villagers are scared to divulge information. A confidence-building exercise is necessary here. The force is a good one and I need to ensure that I add value to it," he added.

Vijay Kumar, son of a retired police officer, has come a long way. The second of six children, he was born on September 15, 1952. From his childhood days, he wanted to join the police force and despite his family's constant persuasion that he should pursue a career in the Indian Administrative Service, he opted for the Indian Police Service. He gave a shot at IAS and was a top runner and was not far behind in the IPS exam -- he stood second. But Vijay Kumar found his calling in the police force with his father being his role model.   

For this top cop, IPS was more the Ideal Public Service and he believed that he could make a difference by being a policeman. He joined the police force in 1975 and served as an assistant superintendent of police at Pattukottai in Trichy before moving to Chennai. In Tamil Nadu, he served at Salem and this is when he came in touch with the legendary former Director General of Police Walter Devaram.


Image: A paramilitary trooper trains at the Jungle Warfare School in Kanker village, Chhattisgarh
Photographs: Reuters
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During his days in the force, Vijay Kumar always drew inspiration from Devaram and followed his footsteps. His batchmates and officers who worked with him say that his inspiration to be bold and courageous while fighting Veerappan was drawn from Dawaram.

Before taking over as the CRPF boss, Vijay Kumar held some sensitive and high-profile posts. He was part of the Special Protection Group for former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was in-charge of operations in the Border Security Force and was the police commissioner in Chennai. However, he shot to fame as the head of the Special Task Force, which ended with Veerappan's death. Vijay Kumar first joined the STF under Devaram in 1993 and stayed on till 1996 after which he was put in charge of the chief minister's security. He then returned to the force in 2001 after which he started chasing the forest brigand, who he termed as his worst foe.

Following this stint, he was made in charge of law and order as the additional director general of police, Chennai before being transferred to Hyderabad where he was appointed as the director of the National Police Academy.


Image: Security forces patrol a Maoist-infested zone
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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Interestingly, Vijay Kumar did not find his role in the STF the most challenging. Topping his list of toughest jobs is his stint in Kashmir with the BSF where he served as an inspector general. Even while serving the BSF Veerappan was still on his mind and on one such occasion he sent 1,000 BSF men to nab him.  

As the police commissioner of Chennai, his biggest challenge was to cut down organised crime in the city and despite facing crticism from human rights groups he was successful. He carried out seven encounters during his tenure including that of 'Ayodhyakuppam' Veeramani, Tamil extremists Rajaram and Saravanan and Venkatesa Pannaiyar.



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In 2003, he was posted back with the Special Task Force when J Jayalalithaa was the chief minister. During this stint he improvised intelligence sharing which he claims was a key in nabbing Veerappan. He kickstarted Operation Cocoon, which he planned for 10 months, and finally in October 2004 it bore fruits after his team cracked down on the bandit and his men. For this operation, he was awarded the President's Police Medal for Gallantry in 2005.

Those who have worked with Vijay Kumar say he's a workaholic. "He's a serious sort of a person, but what draws you towards him is his commitment and dedication for the job."

When free from crime and criminals, the cop spends time playing badminton.



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