Photos: Former Chambal dacoits now lead a respectable, quiet life

Updated: Dec 18, 2017 17:53 IST

Former dacoit Balwant Singh Tomar poses for a portrait in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. Once upon a time, armed dacoits or “baaghis” as they were known locally – spelt terror in Chambal. After serving jail terms, they now lead quiet lives as farmers and respected village elders, dispelling myths about their violent past. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

Former Chambal dacoit Munna Singh poses for a portrait as children look on at Bhind District, Madhya Pradesh. After serving time in prison, he now enjoys the company of friends and family in his village and also teaches children at the village school. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

File photo of former Chambal dacoit Malkhan Singh (seventh from left, standing in the back row) . According to a high ranking police officer, the last big police encounter with a dreaded dacoit was 10 years ago. Over the years, many dacoits have surrendered to the police including Malkhan Singh and Balwant Singh Tomar in 1982, Phoolan Devi in 1983, Seema Parihar in 2000 and Renu Yadav in 2005. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

When Malkhan Singh (above) protested against some people usurping land belonging to a temple in the village, he was harassed and implicated in false cases. This led to his becoming a ”baaghi,” he says. He surrendered in 1982. Malkhan Singh objects to the tag of a dacoit and says when he was a “baaghi,” no one dared harass a woman. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

A view of the Chambal river at sunset in Madhya Pradesh. “While crossing the river, we had to be careful of ghariyals (crocodiles). There was also a kind of thorny shrub, the sting of which was more dangerous than a bullet injury,” recalls Malkhan Singh. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

Former dacoit Mohar Singh is over eighty now. Dressed in a dhoti-kurta and Nehru jacket, Mohar Singh is the picture of a respected village elder. But he confides that he had 400 cases of murder registered against him when he surrendered. (Raj K Raj / HT Photo)

Renu Yadav (above) was kidnapped by UP-based dacoit Chandan Yadav and forced to marry him. Soon, she learnt to use arms and joined his gang. After the birth of their daughter in 2005, Chandan was killed by another dacoit. Renu then killed Chandan’s murderer and surrendered to the police. She was finally released from prison in 2012. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

The undulating landscape of Chambal, dotted with mud hillocks and thorny shrubs is spread across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. “At one time the ravines of Chambal were home to many dacoit gangs. We were told stories about them as children. Today there are no dacoits in Chambal,” says the priest of one such temple along the Agra-Gwalior highway. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

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