dig this one from india

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    The death of India's bandit king has sparked a treasure hunt for his fabulous wealth believed to be stashed in secret caves and tree holes deep inside a forest, officials said.

    Koose Muniswamy Veerappan, accused of killing over 100 people and over 2,000 elephants in more than three decades of banditry, was buried on Wednesday in the southern Tamil Nadu state after being killed in a police trap two days earlier.

    Few dared to venture into the southern Indian forest during the years that the bandit was being hunted by the police, but cowherds and firewood gatherers are once again returning with an eye open for the treasure.

    "Instead of carrying their usual bamboo sticks and pots of rice gruel, these cowherds and wood-pickers are sneaking into the jungle with sickles and crowbars," said a firewood dealer in Salem, close to the bandit's jungle home.

    "Some are even offering special prayers to identity the treasure troves," he added.

    Police officials say the local residents are chasing a wild dream.

    "It is just a figment of imagination," said Pon Manickavel, superintendent of police in Salem.

    "These tribals and wood-pickers can go up to 10 kilometres into the forests and not beyond that for fear of wild animals, whereas Veerappan had operated 30 to 40 kilometres into the deep woods," he added.

    "It may take seven or eight years for any treasure hunter to stumble on the Veerappan trove and by then he would be dead," Mr Manickavel said.

    In the course of nearly 40 years of elephant poaching, sandalwood smuggling and abductions for ransom, Veerappan is believed to have accumulated quite a fortune.

    The kidnapping of southern Indian film idol Rajkumar alone four years ago is reported to have earned him around $US48,000 in ransom money.

    Alarmed by the hundreds of people flocking into the forest to look for Veerappan's buried treasure, forest authorities have issued a warning that they would face police action.

    "We have seen groups of locals venturing into the forests looking for Veerappan's money. We have warned them and turned them back," said Salem district administrator U. Ravindram.

    "This phenomenon may last some days as these tribals and local villagers hope to lay their hands on his treasure. Hopefully, they will lose interest in due course," he added.

    --AFP

    Dave R.
 
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