Bandit - Man Singh - Robin Hood of the Chambal Valley - India

Chambal River.
Dacoit means "a bandit", - a member of a class of robbers in India and Burma, who plunder in armed bands." Decoits existed in Burma as well as India for centuries. Thanks to the East India company officials who almost put an end to the menace of dacoits or thugs. To day their numbers have come down considerably, however, the menace does continue even today in some remote places of India.

Man Singh, also known as "Daku Man Singh (Daku meaning robber in Hindi) was born in Agra to a Rajput Family.  His ancestors were famous Rathore Rajput kings of the late 15th century.

He neither carried on the legacy of his  Rajput princely ancestry as past rulers nor their vestiges of power and pelf. That the circumstances or the places of residence will have some bearing on the young minds' upbringing  is true in the  case of Man Singh who became a ruthless bandit instead of a good ruler
. How come he became a notorious dacoit, or bandit, leading a life of violence and looting? The reason being  he was brought up in a remote Indian village called  Khera Rathore that lies in the Chambal region of Central India, known for dangerous and daring bandits. Geographically Chambal Valley area with the Chambal river near- by is  a rugged terrain more or less like bad lands of South Dakota, USA in some parts with innumerable  labyrinthine ravines, deep narrow canyons surrounded by dense scrub forest. It has been a perfect heaven for decoits and outlaws since 13th century. There are several niches and caves hidden in the ravines and absolutely it will be a nightmare for the police force to nab the dangerous armed robbers roosting in the untouched ravines. Most of the robbers  invariably  used  crude  country made effective guns for defense.  Another factor is in the deeper parts, getting a vantage point or place for the cops to watch the criminal activities is a tough job and highly risky. It is  also a perfect and safe hide-out for criminals who are on the lam!!

Living in the shadow of the the Chambal region, covering part of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, no doubt for  Man  Singh, robbery, kidnapping, murder, etc., became his calling. This notorious decoit, and his band, it is on record, had committed 1,112 robberies and 185 murders (32 were police officers) between 1939 and 1955. Being a gang head, he led a gang of 17 hard core criminals, most of them his sons, brother Nabab Singh, and nephews, who were undisputed powerful men in the Chambal Valley.

There were more than 100  police  cases, pending against him and his group, but the police force could not lift their fingers against them. Reason:

01. It is absolutely difficult to find out his place in the rough terrain of the chambal valley where the trails and ravines disappear all of a sudden. No access country roads and the small hills are difficult

Decoit Man
to go up and down through thick forest.

 02.  For the big land owners who had exploited the poor laborers, Man Singh was a terror but, on the other hand, he was nice and kind to the poor people living there. Despite his  popularity or notoriety with a huge bounty on his head, he was humble and respectful.

 03. The government wanted him dead or alive. Never mind, he used to frequent public places, none was willing to betray him, not even whistle blowers. His frequent social  services included, besides helping the poor financially,  adjudicating local  legal issues,  among his people with care and justice. He was terror to loan sharks who used to squeeze  the poor. In a way, he was a sort of modern day  Robin Hood of the Chambal region.

At last he and his son Subedar Singh were shot dead in 1955 while relaxing under a Banyan tree by the Special Gurkha forces in a place called Kakekapura or Bhind, Madhya Pradesh.

You may be surprised to know that this Chambal Valley Robin hood was pushed up to the status of God and, the scores of people benefited by him, had  a temple built in Khera Rathore  for Man Singh. The work on the temple began in 1980  and residents go to the temple  for prayer and worship, besides, there are several folks songs and Noutanki plays on late Man Singh, Chambal ka Sher - lion of Chambal.

A fascinating fact is never in his life had he robbed the poor  people, or women or people walking on the road. In fact there was no indiscriminate robbing or killing. The is no dearth of stories of his  philanthropy or dispensation of fair justice. According to many residents there "They were not decoits. They were bagis (rebels).  They helped us in  times of need," Villagers, however, credited them with virtues like morality, valor and courage. His daring escapades and adventures and the way he gave  nightmares to the police force  were common topics  conversation in and around any  social gathering.

''No man was more carefully respected by his neighbors in the four Indian provinces south of New Delhi than the proud Thakore clansman, Man Singh. Great Maharajas and rich, land-owning Zamindars came by the score to attend the wedding feast he gave his grandson. Local villagers expressed their admiration for him in reverently hushed voices. Even a government committee set up to examine his affairs in 1952 declared that Man Singh was a man "of no private vices." Nonetheless, the government of Madhya Bharat province could not overlook a police file which recounted in more than one.."......    (,9171,893055,00.html#)

Sanjay Austa (August 24, 2003). "Daku Raja becomes devta". The Tribune.