The Hunt for Veerappan follows Veerappan, an Indian smuggler and poacher who eluded the authorities for years. The docuseries is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
In India, a man named Veerappan decides to take advantage of the resources found in the forests of the MM Hills. Veerappan’s gang starts poaching elephants. Apart from killing over 1000 elephants, the gang is known to have taken human lives as well.
In 1989, the Karnataka Forest Department employs various methods to catch Veerappan’s gang; they even create a new gang and supply them with weapons to take Veerappan down, but this new gang is killed by Veerappan’s men.
Veerappan’s gang then starts smuggling expensive sandalwood found in these forests, which brings him a lot of money. The police finally lend the Forest Department their help in putting an end to the gang’s activities. The police operation results in the largest sandalwood seizure ever.
Due to this, Veerappan’s budding business empire crumbles. He retaliates by attacking a police jeep, and the government of Karnataka is forced to form a Special Task Force (STF) to apprehend Veerappan. This marks the beginning of the costliest manhunt in India.
The STF works closely with the Forest Department to catch Veerappan, who lives in the dense forest. A forest officer, P. Srinivas, wishes to capture the criminal without killing him. His nonviolent methods earned him the trust and the respect of the people of Veerappan’s village and even some of his gang members.
However, Veerappan sees him as his enemy. When Veerappan’s sister kills herself because of her association with Srinivas, Veerappan agrees to his brother’s request to surrender only if he brings Srinivas to him. His brother complies, but Veerappan does not surrender. Instead, he kills Srinivas and mutilates his body.
Srinivas’ death results in the government announcing a bounty on his head and sending the best police officers to the STF, which is prepared to shoot Veerappan at sight. The two sides keep attacking and retaliating, and it is the people living in the forest and the villages nearby who pay the price.
Soon, the Tamil Nadu police also get involved, as Veerappan keeps crossing the border between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. There are instances of police brutality as well as instances of high-ranking police officials being killed by Veerappan.
Just like that, three years pass since the formation of STF, and by 1993, the police has lost too many officers but is not close to capturing the criminal.
Finally, Veerappan allows a photojournalist to take his and his gang’s pictures, which enables the STF to recognize the members of his gang. They then arrested hundreds of people, who are suspected to be linked to Veerappan’s gang members, and torture them for information.
Finally, with the help of their informants, the STF finds out where Veer’s gang has been hiding. Most of the gang members are killed or arrested by the STF. Veerappan’s wife, Muthulakshmi, is one of the people arrested, but Veerappan is still not caught.
With his strength dwindled considerably, Veerappan disappears for a while. In 1999, he comes back to the limelight, but this time, as a Tamil revolutionary. The next year, he kidnaps a famous celebrity of Karnataka, Dr. Rajkumar, and his three associates.
Rajkumar is considered to be the greatest icon of Karnataka cinema and the cultural ambassador of the state. His kidnapping gives rise to protests all over the state, and the government sends a journalist as an emissary to secure his release.
Veerappan gives the journalist a list of ten demands that complicate matters and deteriorate relations between the people of two Indian states — Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The demands cannot be fulfilled by the government.
However, they can fulfill one demand, which is to release all the innocent people who had been arrested by the police due to their suspected links to Veerappan in 1993. The government would have released the prisoners if it was not for a Supreme Court order.
Eventually, a Tamil separatist leader is sent to Veerappan as an emissary. He convinces Veerappan to release Dr. Rajkumar and his associates. It is believed that the government had to pay crores of rupees in ransom to Veerappan, but the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka deny this claim.
Veer escapes into the depths of the forest once again. The governments of the two states as well as the STF become more determined than ever to catch the infamous criminal.
The Hunt for Veerappan ending explained in detail:
What is the STF’s new strategy?
During this time, Veerappan meets his estranged wife and daughters after years. This changes him, as he now desires to live with his family. However, after he releases Dr. Rajkumar, the police move his wife and daughters to Coimbatore in 2003.
Unbeknownst to her, out of the two other women inhabiting the house, one is a police informant, codenamed “The Coimbatore Girl”. She befriends Muthulakshmi and her daughters and gets Muthulakshmi to confide in her.
With her help, the police set a trap to catch Veerappan. While they fail to capture him, they get him to come out of the forest. The STF knows that they cannot catch Veerappan when he is in the forest, so they must get him to come out, and this incident proves to them that it can be done.
Does the STF catch Veerappan?
The STF changes its approach under the leadership of its new commander, ADGP Vijay Kumar. The incidents of police brutality also go down. The STF starts catching men who have been supplying Veerappan with various necessities.
Fearing that he will be caught sooner or later, a trader who supplies goods to Veerappan comes clean to Vijay Kumar. He is asked to keep the STF informed regarding the activities of Veerappan.
The trader informs them that Veerappan’s eyesight has been deteriorating and that he is in need of surgery. Furthermore, Veerappan wishes to move to Sri Lanka, as he thinks he and his family will be safe there.
Veerappan also needs weapons. The STF catches his smuggler and gets him to work for them. Veerappan is led to believe that the weapons have been sent by a man named Mugilan, who has contacts with Sri Lankan Tamils and the LTTE.
It has been Veerappan’s wish to meet the LTTE leaders, and he gets the opportunity to do the same through Mugilan, a man invented by the STF. Veerappan now believes that he can move to Sri Lanka with his family and that the LTTE leader will provide him protection.
On the day he is supposed to leave for Sri Lanka, Veerappan gets into an ambulance, not knowing that it is in fact a police vehicle. A few minutes later, Veerappan and the men who had gotten into the ambulance with him are shot to death by the STF.
However, there are people, including Muthulakshmi, who do not believe the account of Veerappan’s death that was given by the police. They suspect that there is more to Veerappan’s death than that.
What makes Veerappan’s manhunt so different from the others?
After hunting the criminal for years and years, the STF is finally able to close the chapter of Veerappan and his gang; he was killed at the age of 52. Veerappan and his gang were wanted by the police for the deaths of more than 120 people, including 44 police and forest officers.
He and his gang pillaged forest resources worth 100 crores. Additionally, since the time the STF was formed, around 5000 officers were deployed and an estimated 220 crores was spent on the manhunt by the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
On top of that, several lives were lost and destroyed in Veerappan’s name, and not everyone got justice. While Veerappan was a criminal for many, there were also people who saw him as a hero, even at the time of his death.