The museum will showcase the gun used by Phoolan Devi, a tape recorder that once belonged to Nirbhay Gujjar, ransom demands, chains used by the dacoits to tie their captives and a host of other traces that will remind of the dark times in the state.
The state government of Madhya Pradesh has decided to build a museum that will have traces of some of the most dreaded dacoits like Phoolan Devi, Nirbhay Gujjar and others that made the Chambal region in the state notorious as a den of violence and dacoity. The museum, which is envisaged to be built in the Chambal river neighbouring Bhind district, will showcase the gun used by Phoolan Devi, a tape recorder that once belonged to Nirbhay Gujjar, ransom demands, chains used by the dacoits to tie their captives and a host of other traces that will remind of the dark times in the state, the Indian Express reported.
Though the state police and dacoits from different gangs shared an antagonistic relationship, the initiative to build the museum is surprisingly being taken by Bhind police only. Talking about the initiative, Bhind Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Singh told the Indian Express that the aim is not to glorify the dacoits but put their crimes in perspective and showcase the countless sacrifices of brave police personnel who ultimately pinned the dacoits down and ended their reign of violence and terror. The police chief of the district also said that the museum will compile and showcase more than 2000 digitised police records and other materials spanning over the last five decades which has information about crimes like murder, loots and kidnapping committed by the bandits. So far, more than Rs 3 lakh has been collected for setting up the museum from over 26 police stations that come under the jurisdiction of the district.
The museum which will be housed at the district police headquarters in Lahar Chungi area will also honour about 28 policemen who sacrificed their lives fighting the dacoits. The museum will also have photographs of other police officials who went on to win the gallantry awards and earn faster promotions due to their exemplary brave actions against the dacoits.
Talking about many films portraying the dacoits and bandits as “baaghis(rebels)”, Kumar said that the museum’s aim is to show how the crimes committed by the dacoits hugely affected the region and especially its youth. Highlighting the fact that over 98 percent of the police records had kidnapping incidents, Kumar said that the dacoits would seek about Rs 2-3 lakh in ransom forcing countless farmers to sell off their land to save their lives.
However the narrative is not as straightforward as told by the state police with many factors involved in the making of a dacoit. Dev Shrimali, a grassroot journalist who has covered the region for more than five decades told the Indian Express that lack of livelihood due to infertile land in the region, rigid caste set-up and other local factors compelled the locals to pick up arms. Holding the topography of the region also as partly responsible for the incidents, Shrimali said that large scale soil erosion in the region easily turned the land infertile pushing people into poverty.
While countless number of dacoits were slain in police encounters in the Chambal region spanning the border regions of the states Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and UP, many towering dacoits also surrendered before the police on the insistence of social activists and leaders like J P Narayan, Vinoba Bhave among others.
Some of the most ferocious and larger than life bandits like Malkhan Singh and Phoolan Devi surrendered before the police in the year 1980s breaking the backbone of the dacoity in the region. Malkhan Singh, a former dacoit when apprised of the museum initiative being taken by the police told the Indian Express that the police kept tarnishing the bandits and rebels according to its choice. Singh further asked if police had any answers to what forced countless people to pick up arms and become rebels. Singh further said that the successive governments also failed to honour the promises of rehabilitation made to the dacoits in return of their surrender.