Indian officials accept demands of actor's abductor

BANGALORE, India - The governments of two Indian states have agreed to meet conditions of an elusive bandit who kidnapped a veteran movie star in an effort to direct attention to minority Tamils, officials said Sunday.

The governments of the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka agreed to the demands, which are mostly political, said S.M. Krishna, chief minister of Karnataka. Their decision was also announced Sunday over state-run radio, which kidnapper Veerappan is known to listen to.

Veerappan, 56, who abducted actor Rajkumar on July 30, made 10 demands in an audio cassette he sent through an emissary to the two state governments. Police have been trying to arrest him in that region for nearly two decades.

Like many people in southern India, Rajkumar and Veerappan go by only one name.

The demands include financial compensation for Tamil people affected in ethnic riots in 1991, the recognition of Tamil as one of the languages used in government business in Karnataka and the release of prisoners in Karnataka charged under a tough anti-terrorist law.

Krishna denied media reports that Veerappan had also asked for a ransom of $12 million and an amnesty. However, a senior official said on condition of anonymity that the ransom demand had been made.

Meanwhile, a newspaper editor who has interviewed Veerappan in recent years met with him Sunday.

R.R. Gopal, editor of the Nakeeran magazine, met Rajkumar in a house at an undisclosed location and said the actor was in good health.

Veerappan has eluded police for 18 years. He is accused of killing 130 policemen, slaughtering elephants to sell their tusks, felling thousands of sandalwood trees and kidnapping people.

Rajkumar and three others were seized Sunday from the actor's vacation home.

The 72-year-old actor has appeared in more than 200 Kannada-language films over five decades, and is politically powerful in neighboring Karnataka state.


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