92-year-old Mohar Singh, charged with over 400 murders and 650 kidnappings for ransom in Chambal region covering UP, MP and Rajasthan died at Jaura on Tuesday. He was a contemporary of Madho Singh – another Chambal dacoit.
I had visited their re-settlement colony at Shyopur-Kalan in 1997.
Malkhan Singh, another veteran in the field invited me to join the Baarat of his grandson to Mainpuri in UP the next day. They were good hosts – they even offered buttermilk. The Madhya Pradesh government had also given them land for farming at Palpur-Kuno, where the second home for Asiatic Lions is planned.
Madho Singh, the 6.5 feet tall, former compounder in the Indian army had deserted the Force and joined the Ravines along with Mohar Singh,who had even kidnapped Meena Kumari during a shooting.
He stayed in the ravines for 11 years and decided to give up arms after 13 of his trusted members in the gang were eliminated in an encounter in March,1971.
He stayed at Patna for three days impersonating Ram Singh, a contractor from Bhind to negotiate with JP for surrender.
When JP finally agreed, he revealed his genuine identity. His surrender along with 550 others was arranged by JP in April, 1972.
I met Madho Singh at Mahila Charkha Samiti, Kadamkuan in Patna during the time of the Janata government. He had resorted to the dubious art of group kidnapping. Once a team of businessmen had gone for picnic and he kidnapped them claiming that he was a police officer and wanted to interrogate them at the police station. He even had the police uniform.
Instead of the police station, they were taken to the Ravines.
Once, an international notorious thief of antique idols was lured to Gwalior by the gang on pretext of buying the stolen antiques. The thief was taken to the Ravines and released only after paying Rs 26 lakhs as ransom.
Madho Singh who died in early 90s told me in an interview at JP house in Patna: "Now, the situation had changed. They (passengers) even abuse me in the buses as I am too tall and sometimes touch them innocently. I cannot speak or protest since I have taken oath for peace."
His daughter was then studying for MBBS.
Mohar Singh was president of the Nagarpalika and Malkhan Singh headed the Zilla panchayat too. When I met him in the colony, his son was Deputy SP at Indore.
Two contemporary (then) SPs, Vijay Raman and Rajen Chaturvedi deserve credit for their surrender.
Chaturvedi was treated like brother by Phoolan Devi (she tied rakhis to him).
Arjun Singh rehabilitated them in the mainstream society.
Now, they and their families are well settled in the mainstream society.
My encounter (via pen) with the once dreaded outlaws at JP's Mahila Charkha samiti and Shypur Kalan will be remembered for ever.