Pancham Singh - dreaded bandit turned docile spiritual leader !!

Reformed Bandit Pancham Singh Chauhadn
There is a plethora of ''rags to riches'' stories, focusing on a man's humble beginning and how he progresses to become a successful, rich business man with fame and name through dint of hard work, perseverance and sheer guts. However, seldom do we hear stories about men, taken to the life of violence, murder, kidnapping, extortion, etc., at last turning to the path of dharma or spiritual life in order to make amends for his past sins.

Bandit Pancham Singh Chauhadn/spiritual leader
It is a  common sense that nobody was  born a killer or robber. Likewise nobody was born rich unless she or he was lucky enough to have come from a rich family. Humans are shaped and  molded by their  social or family circumstances in the early and adult  stages  and  by their friends, companions and the new and varied circumstances in the later stages. In the case of rags to riches stories, poverty, financial insecurity and commitment  to make money  are the basic driving forces coupled with passion and focus. On the contrary, in the case of people taken to violence, psychological trauma is the key factor. For, in the early and later adulthood, such mentally affected people would have stoically  faced extreme, violence, insults and  intimidation to a greater extent. Having lost the sense of discretion, the only recourse known to them was violence. Such unfortunate people, no doubt, were pushed to the edge of becoming vigilantes in the society.

We are all aware that violence begets violence and there is no room for vigilantism in our civilized society. Obviously it will take us to a blind alley.  Not knowing the pros and cons, driven by revenge, vigilantes  believe that  they can intimidate their enemies by threats and violence. These people, with dagger ever hanging above the head, have no peace  of mind, perpetually living in the grip of fear and there is no tomorrow for them. Is such a life worth living? For a few perpetual killer, a stage  will come when they will say,  ''Enough is enough'' and as a last resort, turn to spiritual life after having surrendered to the  authorities on  assurance of less punishment by higher ups in the government such as ministers or some other senior officials in Delhi.

The late PM Indira Gandhi personally  interfered and helped a fearful bandit turn a new leaf  through Presidential pardon. Here is a brief story of that dreaded bandit  from the Chambal Valley who became a social reformer and an apostle of peace. 

Pancham Singh (81), hailing from Singpura village of Bhind district in Madhya Pradesh in his early stage in 1958, was  mercilessly beaten up and  intimidated by the opponents in the Panchayat union election. His complaint to the police went unheard of.  Enraged, horribly hurt and hospitalized for about three weeks, by the time he came out of the hospital after recovery, he  joined a gang of dacoits led by Mohar Singh. Revenge was his main obsession  and  he took refuge in vigilantism.  He thought pain could be won by inflicting pain on the perpetrators  and over a period he became a changed man - stone-hearted, wielding a gun or a dagger or a bull whip is the only way to deal with people around him.  In the next one and half decades, his tumultuous life was ridden with nothing but violence that resulted in snuffing out 100 souls, numerous  kidnapping, extortion and robberies without any remorse. He carried a bounty  of Rs.2 cores (roughly $ 400,000.00) put up by the Central and Madhya Pradesh governments.

After punishment (his death penalty changed to life imprisonment and finally to 8 years  for good conduct; thanks to leaders like late Indira Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narain)  he became a free bird, and by that time he had become altogether a different person and and joined the "Brahama Kumaris", a spiritual organization to repent for his sins committed during his long mental aberration. Having  shunned violence in 1972, Pancham Singh (81) is now a different person - more spiritually oriented. He met with people and gave talks before groups of people to shun violence and do something for the needy people. Pancham Singh, who once roamed more than 25 districts of part of Utter Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh as an outlaw, has become so good a reformer,  he spends his time  visiting  prisons in the country and telling  inmates how to reform and find peace. He is of the view the holes in the law, abject poverty in certain regions and rampant corruption are the mains reasons for the raise in number of anti-social elements in the society. To him violence will push a man down to abysmal depth, whereas as spirituality and path of righteousness  alone will give help us conquer the real world.

Pancham Singh (81), once a dacoit who struck terror in the Chambal valley of Madhya Pradesh for 14 long years, committing more than 100 murders

                    (minor corrections made June 22, 2015)