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What makes a legend...

VeerappanOur local "outlaw", Veerappan, kidnapped Dr. Rajkumar the popular movie star, who is some sort of demi-god to Kannadigas world over. Violence erupted in the Silicon City of Bangalore bringing it to a grinding halt. Schools and colleges closed for two weeks, bars and pubs were shut down and cinema halls stopped screening movies resulting in a colossal loss of revenue to the exchequer, even as the general atmosphere was one of fear.

Two Southern States - Karnataka and Tamilnadu - got drawn into negotiation parleys to secure his release. One person, who has eyeball-to-eyeball contact with the kidnapper, was roped in as an emissary. Millions watch and wait for the climax.

This mustachioed, self-styled legend Veerappan, held us all to ransom. Just who is this man and where from does he derive this power to have two major Indian States go down on their knees and dance to the tunes of laws of his own creation?

The history of our times has provided us with a generous sprinkling of legends. Myths, stories and sagas of immensely popular figures have carved their names in a new kind of tragic-heroism. They have shaped our institutions, our values and philosophies that even the so-called outlaws, considered vulnerable and doomed, eventually became legends. In the Wild West of America, these legends have captured the imagination of the World. Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, Geronimo, the leader of the Apache. Then of course, we have the symbol of freedom against tyranny, Robin Hood, King of Sherwood Forest. Legends who are part of National Heritage and their stirring deeds find place in history books as part of school curriculum.

So, where does this leave our local hero, Veerappan? Will his deeds and actions be etched in history and qualify him as entry into the Hall of Fame? Is he truly "our Robin Hood" who can be conferred with the honorable title of "King of the forest"? Does Veerappan's philosophy position himself on the same pedestal as the revolutionary Che Guevara, with whom Veerappan compares himself these days? Do his antics put him ahead of "noble outlaws" such as Jesse James or Billy the Kid? Is Veerappan's unexplained cause more dignified than that of Wyatt Earp? Veerappan's perception stems from the fact that as one who carries the tag of "outlaw" and since he too "robs the rich to feed the poor", he's therefore entitled to be part of this elite group.

Nothing could be more ludicrous. Here is a man who killed people ruthlessly, butchered elephants for their tusks. He razed to the ground sandalwood tress and smuggled the precious wood to be sold. He abducted people and blackmailed for ransom. He mocked at civilized life to profit for his personal greed. His recent outbursts talk of a "people's cause".

It's sad that Veerappan has to be pitched against great legends, just to prove a point. At the same time it's also important to understand what makes a legend. And whether Veerappan fits the bill?

Does Veerappan have the "grades" to compare with any of the following legends?
Robin Hood - King of the Sherwood Forest
Jesse James - America's most famous outlaw
Billy the Kid - young, daring and ruthless
Wyatt Earp - the "deadly" US Marshall
Revolutionary Che Guevera
Veerappan, the damned

Next page... Robin Hood

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