There was a time when we used to hear tales about how dacoits used to rule the Chambal valleys and how they struck terror in the heart of every Indian. We have seen movies too – Paan Singh Tomar and Phoolan Devi. There were so many of them… wonder what happened to all of them and where are they now?
Today Chambal is dacoit-free. The last encounter was in 2007 - Rambabu Gadariya. Vinoba Bhave, in 1960 could persuade 20 dacoits to surrender. In 1972, Jayprakash Narayan got some 100 dacoits to surrender and after than in the 2000’s many of the “bigwigs” surrendered. Phoolan Devi laid down her arms in 1983.
After serving prison time, majority of them have reformed, living a life of retirement or are farmers; they were all farmers to begin with. And most of them scoff at the version of a dacoit in Hindi films – they say they rarely had a horse, it was always on foot. And most dacoits say they became what they became because justice was not delivered, where land dispute was the main cause. Harassment by the rich and influential was also cited as one of the top reasons to taking to this ‘profession.’
“Business” for the dacoits became difficult once roads were built into remote villages, giving quick and easy access for the police to rush and then the advent of mobile.
Today, the Chambal valley has become a picnic spot where villagers go and sit on the bank of the river; yes, the Chambal valley has become safer than the dark alleys of our cities.
These dacoits from Chambal might have disappeared and turned into a new leaf but we now have licensed dacoits in the Parliament. Who will save us from them?