Netas are hi-tech dakus, say ex-bandits of MP
jkupdate.com | 24-Nov-2018 10:37 PM
  • Malkhan Singh (left), a former Chambal dacoit, and Balwant (right), nephew of Paan Singh Tomar.(Picture Courtesy:Times of India)

GWALIOR: When he turned 16, ‘Daku’ Malkhan Singh was already 6 feet 2 inches tall. “My mother would say: The boy doesn’t eat but has a body of steel,” he recalls. Today, the former dacoit, once known as the “terror of the Chambal” is 74 — an upright, gregarious figure complete with booming voice, flowing hair and a blazing red tilak drawn across his forehead. “All my life: no alcohol, no paan, no tobacco,” he bellows, “that’s why I don’t need spectacles or dentures.
Malkhan Singh surrendered in 1982. He now lives a quiet life on his farm in Guna with his family. As MP is swept up in election fever, Malkhan says some of today’s netas are the real “dakus”, that they are “high-tech dakus”.

“We were baaghis, rebels, not dakus. Imaandari ki ladai thi. We fought for the rights of workers and farmers and those humiliated by caste abuse.Today netas have so much money they seem to have machines printing cash in their homes.”

Balwant Singh Tomar, nephew of another infamous Chambal dacoit Paan Singh Tomar, became the sardar of his uncle’s gang after Paan Singh was killed in a police encounter in 1981. ‘Balwantta’ as police called him, is equally disillusioned with politicians. “There is no justice for the peasant as patwaris and thana prabharis have too much power over them. The mandi adhyaksh (farmers markets’ head) is always related to politicians and takes away farmers’ incomes.”

Balwant remains in awe of his uncle, Paan Singh Tomar. Says he: “He was a sher. Even snakes ran scared of his footfall. The police were able to kill him only after a night-long encounter.”

Former IPS officer Vijay Raman was SP Bhind in 1981-82. Raman was the gallantry medal winning dacoit-hunter who not only pushed Malkhan to surrender but also masterminded the 1981 encounter in which Paan Singh was shot dead. Raman, now retired, remembers the Gwalior-Chambal region as a caste-ridden, unjust society, which often turned individuals into dacoits.

Recalls Raman: “Malkhan Singh was a Robin Hood figure, popular among villagers who called him ‘dadda’. Paan Singh was different — more of a daredevil out to fight injustice.” Raman says the dacoit surrenders of 1982 were carried out by the Arjun Singh government for political mileage.Politicians had always used dacoits for their own purposes and maintained close links with some.

Dacoits were put to use to back candidates of their caste, namely the Thakurs. They had a massive support system both in the public and among politicians. Raman points out though that the Anti-Dacoity Act enacted by the then Arjun Singh government in MP gave the police legal recourse to close in on those who supplied the dakus weapons.

On the fateful October night in 1981, Raman led police teams to stake out Paan Singh’s hideout. Bullets flew for 13 and a half hours. Balwant survived by hiding in a haystack for three days. “I admired those bahadur policemen,” he says. Does he admire any politician? He shakes his head furiously but adds, “Gulzari Lal Nanda was good. He lived like a poor man in a rented home. Today’s netas are crorepatis. Win one election, they become tycoons overnight.”

Malkhan and Tomar say they became baaghis because of land disputes and atyachaar by local authorities. Malkhan, an elected panch before he became a dacoit, belongs to the Mirdha caste and was an ardent devotee of Mahakali.

Before he became a dacoit, he owned a patch of land where he wanted to build a mandir. But the village Brahmins kicked down his mandir, usurped his land and abused him for not being a Brahmin. Furious and publicly humiliated, Malkhan took up the gun, determined to have his revenge. The Chambal ravines became his home.

Raman recalls, “Brahmins refused to let him build his Devi mandir because of brutal caste prejudice.” Paan Singh Tomar’s land too was seized by clansmen. Raman recalls Paan Singh knocked on every door seeking justice. Repeatedly denied redress he too decided to become a daku to get his rights.

Malkhan, who’s been a Samajwadi Party candidate, has hobnobbed with RLD and even campaigned for BJP, says there’s too much “chaplusi” in politics. “Kisan khatam ho chuka hai, nobody feels the farmers’ pain. Jaativaad and mandir-masjid talk only divides people. Politicians get sand contracts, road contracts. It’s so easy to become a neta… To become a baaghi you need himmat.” (Courtesy:Times of India)

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