How Mulayam Singh brought Chambal dacoits to their knees

Not only did Mulayam’s decision to withdraw cases against Phoolan shock the nation but also his move to field her as party candidate from Mirzapur in 1996 Lok Sabha election earned criticism for him.

Published: 12th October 2022 08:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th October 2022 01:07 PM   |  A+A-

Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav (File Photo)

Express News Service

LUCKNOW: SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav was a man of firm conviction. He had a penchant for dealing with contentious issues with an iron fist be it the order of firing on Kar Sewaks to save the disputed structure in Ayodhya in 1990, issuing the release order for bandit queen Phoolan Devi withdrawing all 55 criminal cases lodged against her in 1994 or ridding central UP of dacoit gangs as UP CM.

Not only did Mulayam’s decision to withdraw cases against Phoolan shock the nation but also his move to field her as party candidate from Mirzapur in 1996 Lok Sabha election earned criticism for him.

Phoolan had shot to infamy when she, along with her gang of 35 dacoits, massacred 22 Thakurs of Behmai village in Kanpur Dehat on February 14, 1981. Two years after the massacre, Phoolan and 25 members of her gang surrendered in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh on February 12,1984. After spending around nine odd years in Gwalior Central Jail, Phoolan was shifted to Tihar in October,1993.

Mulayam’s empathy with Phoolan, the dacoit whose surrender was negotiated by the then Madhya Pradesh CM Arjun Singh on the directives of the then PM Indira Gandhi, took the entire nation by storm and he was given coverage by the New York Times over his decision.

However, despite all the criticism, Mulayam remained firm on his decision which was later struck down by the court of law.

The former dacoit queen was subsequently paroled by the Supreme Court and won Mirzapur for SP in 1996. “Mulayam had promoted Phoolan not only to foil an equally belligerent Mayawati as his party’s honeymoon with the BSP had ended on a bitter note in 1995, but also to woo the Mallah-Kachchi-Kewat (boatmen) votes,” says Prof AK Mishra, a political scientist.

Moreover, the SP patriarch is also known to have played a crucial role in ridding the ravines of Chambal and Yamuna, spread across central UP, from the reign of terror of dacoits.

Mulayam, in collaboration with the MP government, had been instrumental in the elimination of at least a dozen known dacoits active in the ravines of Etawah, Auraiyya, Jalaun districts of UP and Bhind, Gwalior and Muraina of Madhya Pradesh. Mulayam’s approach as UP CM towards the issue in 90s led at least 50 dacoits to surrender in UP and MP jointly.

The drive against the dacoits active in the ravines (behead) of Chambal continued vigorously during the last stint of Mualayam Singh Yadav as UP CM between 2003 and 2007.

In fact, Mulayam, who belonged to Saifai, had the pulse of this region as he had seen the dacoits operating at will with impunity in the central UP since his childhood.

As per an ex-cop Inspector Ramnath Yadav, in 2004, the dacoits, who by then had come to depend mainly on abductions for heavy ransom, had picked up a Kanpur based doctor and took him to Beehad. Mulayam called up the then Etawah SSP Akhilesh Mehrotra and issued the directives to immediately start a vigorous campaign for the elimination of dacoits present in the ‘beehed.’

“Then I was posted in Bakewar in Etawah as Station officer. Beehad starts from Bakewar town. The police action took off and within days, two infamous dacoits – Vijay Singh and Salim Gujjar -- carrying a reward of Rs 1 lakh, were eliminated,” says the ex-cop.

The drive against the dacoits continued leading to the elimination of one of the most dreaded dacoits Nirbhay Gujjar by UP STF in an operation in 2005.

Nirbhay Gujjar’s elimination was followed by the killing of Rajjan Gujjar and it brought the flourishing industry of abduction being run by the dacoits to an end in central UP.

Sensing the threat from law enforcement agencies of the state around 50 infamous dacoits including Arvind Gujjar, Ramvir Gujjar, Shyam Jatav, Neelam Gupta, Renu Yadav, laid down their weapons in Etawah, Auraiyya in UP along with Bhind and Muraina on the other side of river Chambal.

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