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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2007 > July 28, 2007 > Dacoits Rule the Pilgrimage Centre of Chitrakut

Mainstream, VOL XLV, No 32

Dacoits Rule the Pilgrimage Centre of Chitrakut

Sunday 29 July 2007, by Bharat Dogra



[(Since this article reached us sometime back, the dreaded dacoit Dadua has been killed. —Editor)]

In popular perception, the district of Chitrakut (U.P.) is identified closely with the legend of Lord Ram, but at present the villages here and in neighbouring areas are entirely in the grip of terror of dacoit gangs. The leading gangs are headed by Dadua, Thokiya and a few others.

• At about 1 a.m. on August 8 the heavily armed gang of Dadua invaded Garchapa village under Manikpur Police Station. Here they caught hold of two Block Development Committee members who had not followed the dictates of the dacoit gang in local elections. These two elected representatives are Shambhuram and Ram Swayamwar. Both were beaten in the most cruel way. They suffered multiple fractures. Their bones have been broken at several places while part of the skin on the back has peeled off. In addition the kidney of Shambhuram was damaged.

• At about 7 pm on August 8 (the same day) the dacoit gang invaded Laundhoha village (in Kota Kandaila panchayat, under Manikpur Police Station). Here they got hold of Zimindar, a Dalit ex-pradhan of the village and also a social activist who has been known for his commitment to the welfare of weaker sections. He was beaten repeatedly with bamboos till his skin started peeling from near his hips. As if not satisfied with this, one dacoit struck repeatedly in his eyes with a knife as if to try to gauge out at least one of the eyes. He was left in a most helpless state some distance away from his village.

When this writer spoke to Zimindar nearly a month after this act of terror on telephone, he said that despite treatment at some good hospitals arranged mainly by the local MLA, Daddu Prasad (BSP), he still wasn’t sure of his ability to see. Even one month after the incident, his voice trembled as he spoke of the events of that dreadful day.

• On August 11 Munni Lal Mishra and his son Harish Chandra Mishra had left their village to go to Manikpur town to get some diesel. This village had shown the courage to defy the dacoit gang to some extent, and normally villagers were taking the precaution to move out only in groups. On this day, however, the father and son from the Mishra family somehow neglected this precaution. On their way back they were stopped by the dacoit gang and shot dead; then their bodies were burnt with the same diesel they had just bought.

These three incidents in quick succession have shaken up this district which otherwise had got used to the most arrogant display of power by the Dadua gang (and to a lesser extent by some other gangs). During the last three decades of his life as a dacoit in this area, Dadua has firmly established his credentials as the most feared dacoit and gang leader who also enjoys tremendous political clout. His gang is alleged to be involved in between 60 to 100 murders and around 150 kidnappings. This gang has even kidnapped government employees, and successfully obtained ransom from them. It has extorted crores of rupees from the numerous development works taken up in this area, including routine forest work like collection of minor forest produce. Dadua has inflicted the most cruel violence on anyone opposing him, or informing about his activities.

The local MLA, Daddu Prasad, who recently organised a mass protest against the dacoit gangs, has written to the Union Home Minister that he fears danger to himself and to his family members from this dacoit gang. He has demanded better security.

Some senior politicians of the State have attended several functions known to be organised by Dadua. His political alliance, however, may shift according to who is more powerful at any given time.

THE governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have spent huge amounts, estimated to be over Rs. 700 million, on anti-dacoity operations against this gang or companion gangs. This has been largely wasted and there has been no reduction in the terror and plunder by this gang. Police officials who dared to genuinely take action against these dacoits were mysteriously transferred. During the tenure of these honest officials, several instances of official collusion with the dacoits were revealed and some police officials were punished.

In several unsuccessful anti-dacoity operations, dozens of innocent kol tribals and innocent youths from weaker sections were implicated in false cases of helping dacoits and subjected to cruel beatings. They have been caught in the middle of the dacoits and the police and suffer at the hands of both. To escape beatings and imprisonment, even poor families have to arrange payments.

The dacoit gangs of Chitrakut are a far cry from the Robin Hood image which they try to project for themselves. Functioning in a semi-feudal and exploitative setting they not only perpetuate it but also worsen its ill-effects by adding to the woes of the poor and vulnerable people.

What is most shocking is the extent to which leading dacoit gangs have been able to establish themselves as an enduring, dominant pillar of the local power structure. SPs and DMs, MPs and MLAs come and ago, but for 15 to 20 years a single dacoit gang leader retains his dominance over the area of his operation.

Increasingly the trend is to formalise this dominance of the power-structure by asking for a fixed share of development funds. Dacoit gangs may no longer need to soil their hands with robberies and kidnappings as they are assured anyway of big money. However, just to maintain their grip of terror, they may still carry out a few murders and kidnappings, particularly to teach a lesson to those persons who dare to speak against their dominance at the local level. Their supporters will be asked to contest elections and protect their interests.

In the recently held Uttar Pradesh elections the Dadua dacoit gang extended full support to the Samajwadi Party candidates in Manikpur and Karvi constituencies of Chitrakut district. In addition Dadua’s brother contested from a constituency of Pratapgarh district on the SP ticket. The mother of Thokia dacoit Piyariya Devi contested on the Rashtriya Lok Dal ticket from Naraini (Banda).

All this poses a serious danger to the basic tenets of democracy. How can we expect the true voice of people to emerge when voters are pressurised increasingly by the threats of dacoits and how can we expect corruption to be curbed when the utilisation of development funds in a panchayat starts with paying a share to the dacoit gang? Clearly the dacoit menance has to be brought to the centre-stage of protecting democracy in areas like Chitrakut.

In the legends of the Ramayana, it is Lord Rama who provided protection to villagers threatened by monsters. In modern times, helpless people are still waiting for a protector

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