Romance of ravines dying out for India’s bandits? (Feature)

July 12th, 2009 - 1:36 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rajat Rai
Lucknow, July 12 (IANS) The sloping, forested ravines along the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border are part of Indian folklore, igniting popular imagination with stories of the cruelty and daredevilry of the outlaws who infested them.

But many recent and bloody battles with police suggest that the bandits are fast moving base to cities like Lucknow and even Mumbai, preferring them to the “unsafe” Chitrakoot and Chambal ravines.

“Due to the increasing operations of police in the ravines of Chitrakoot district and adjoining Madhya Pradesh, the bandits have started looking for other options,” a senior police officer posted in the region said on condition of anonymity.

Police have for some time now been suspecting that the bandits - dacoits as they are better known in India - now find cities safer than the ravines.

Rakesh Kewat, a close associate of bandit Ghanshayam Kewat, was the fourth member of his gang to be shot dead by police here in the past few months. Wanted in over 20 criminal cases, including murder and abduction, he was shot dead a week ago in Lucknow.

“After receiving information that two people had snatched a motorcycle from a student and were moving towards Gudumba, we were successful in surrounding him and eventually, he was shot dead,” Deputy Inspector General of police N.K. Srivastava said.

Police investigations have now revealed that Rakesh Kewat had rented a house in the suburban Para locality of the city a couple of months ago.

“He used to communicate between Chitrakoot district and Lucknow quite frequently along with other gang members. As far as we can make out, he was trying to develop a base in Lucknow after Ghanshyam’s death,” inspector Sanjay Rai of the Gudumba police station told IANS.

Ghanshyam Kewat himself died a bloody death last month. After battling over 400 heavily armed police personnel for more than 50 hours in Suruwal Rajapur village in Chitrakoot, he tried to escape by jumping off the roof of a house under siege and was shot dead.

According to police records, while another gang member, Lotan Kewat, was gunned down here Feb 20, two others, Luvkush Kewat and Moolchand Kewat, were killed Dec 19 last year.

All of them were successful in renting accommodation in the suburbs of Lucknow and were also in the process of coordinating with local criminals to start their activities in the city.

There are several instances suggesting that many of the bandits from the ravines either tried to form a base in the city or enter the mainstream.

Shiv Kumar Patel alias Dadua, killed by the Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh Police July 22, 2007, was an infamous dacoit operating in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in recent years, carrying a cash reward of Rs.500,000 on his head.

Dadua, 56, was active for over 32 years and was wanted in nearly 100 cases, including for murder and abduction. “He was the most wanted Indian bandit after the slain Veerappan,” says Additional Director General of Police Brijlal.

One of the most famous bandits who met a bloody end despite entering mainstream politics was Phoolan Devi. Phoolan belonged to the Mallah (boatman) community and was abducted by the Baboo gang in 1979 when she was only 16 years old.

She surrendered before police in February 1983 and served nearly 11 years in jail during the hearing of her case. Her political career began in 1993 when she was elected an MP on the Samajwadi Party ticket. Phoolan was shot dead outside her official residence in New Delhi.

Another famous bandit who ruled the ravines was Ambika Patel alias Thokiya.

The STF shot dead Thokiya in a fierce gun battle Aug 4, 2008, in Silkhori village of Chitrakoot district. He carried a cash reward of Rs.600,000 on his head.

“I remember when we started operations against Thokiya, he went underground and later, after his encounter, we came to know that he went to Mumbai and stayed there for over a month. There also he started criminal activities with local goons but soon returned to take charge of the Dadua gang,” said a senior police officer.

(Rajat Rai can be contacted at rajat.r@ians.in)

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