In a first in the country, the Karnataka forest department has restored the jeep that Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer P Srinivas, killed by dacoit Veerappan, drove on duty and built a memorial around it.
Srinivas, a Keerti Chakra recipient, worked as a deputy conservator of forests in Chamarajanagara and was also the assistant commander of Special Task Force (STF) formed to nab Veerappan.
The jeep was abandoned at Karnataka Range forest office in Palar along the Tamil Nadu border.
“We spent around Rs 1.1 lakh to repair and restore the vehicle. We have now put it up in the museum in a forest guesthouse named after him. The museum contains photographs, clothes and other memorabilia of Srinivas. We thought this was the best way to honour him,” said V Yedukondalu, deputy conservator of forest, MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.
A shed is constructed for the jeep which is now on Kollegal forest department office premises.
WORSHIPPED BY VILLAGERS
Born on September 12, 1954 in Rajamundry of East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, Srinivas joined the IFS in 1979. He was appointed the forest officer of Chamarajanagara in 1990-91, when no forest or police officer was willing to serve in the district, fearing Veerappan.
A Gandhian at heart, he decided to take local villagers into confidence. He met every family of Gopinatham village where Veerappan was born and offered help and support. He included locals in the search team. He was also the first man to arrest Veerappan, who later escaped from custody. Later, Veerappan invited Srinivas alone, saying he would surrender.
On November 10, 1991, when Srinivas went to meet Veerappan, the dacoit tortured and beheaded the officer in a hamlet few kilometers from Gopinatham.
Srinivas was loved by villagers of Gopinatham dearly. He got several houses built for poor villagers. His photo can be seen in almost every house of the tribal village even now. He got a temple of Mariyamma, the village deity, built. Till date, the villagers offer prayers to his picture along with Mariyamma in the temple.
Tribals have built a temple at the spot where he was killed by Veerappan.
Originally published at www.news18.com