Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group
It is no longer fashionable to become a dacoit. And nobody is complaining, not even Bollywood, which has had more than its due share of the ravines. The profession it seems has gone out of business with the curse of the seventies and eighties set for a quiet burial. Or, has the profession got a makeover?
This indeed is true if one were to go by the official crime record book. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data analysis shows that out of the 28 states and seven union territories in India, 17 recorded a decline in the incidence of dacoity cases over the past three years as per NCRB report, 2011. The overall national incidence of dacoity too declined from 4,586 in 2009 to 4,285 in 2011 registering a fall of 6.5 percent.
The incidence of dacoity made vivid through its capture in Bollywood emerged as a major national issue in the pre-reform era with top Hindi heartland states being the popular base for dacoits. Many among these states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have now shown remarkable decline in the incidence of dacoity. Among the notable Bollywood movies on the world of dacoits included ‘Sholay’ and ‘Bandit Queen’ on the life of Phoolan Devi.
A Zee Research Group (ZRG) analysis of the NCRB data showed that in the year 2009, 654 incidents of dacoity were reported from Bihar; the figure dropped to 644 in 2010 while the latest figure of 2011 stood at 556. Also, 412 incidences of dacoity were reported from Jharkhand in the year 2009, ;he figure fell to 335 in 2010 while for 2011 it stood at 309 respectively.
But experts are skeptical. Prakash Singh, former director general of Border Security Force (BSF), said, “There is a tendency that many crimes do not get registered so one cannot totally rely on these figures.” He should know having served earlier in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Outside of these (Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand) states, the NCRB data showed that states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh actually registered a marginal increase in incidences of dacoity during the last three years. These states served as the breeding ground for many dacoits in India with the ‘Chambal’ ravines being the most feared for being infested with dacoits.
That is indeed a thing of the past but numbers do show that the incidence has not been curbed totally yet. In the year 2009, 365 cases of dacoity were reported in Uttar Pradesh; the figure fell in to 337 in 2010 and the latest figure of 2011 again registered a rise and stood at 379 respectively. Madhya Pradesh did not report much rise in the dacoity incidence since 2009. In the year 2009, 117 incidents of dacoity were reported and the year 2011 reported just one extra case, with the total figure standing at 118.
Sounding skeptical about the NCRB data, former top cop Singh argued, “The method and pattern of crime is changing nowadays. Earlier dacoity was considered a crime when people used to come in gangs of four-five sometimes riding a horse and the dacoits were associated with someone who used to live in ravines. It’s much easier now to kidnap a person and demand a ransom. It is an easier option to fetch more money than dacoity.”
The reason for this ‘makeover’ might also have to do something with governments - centre and state - going after dacoits in a concerted manner. The respective state governments took some initiatives to curb this menace. In the year 1972 with the efforts of the peace mission headed by late Jayprakash Narayan, nearly 550 dacoits surrendered.
The state government of Madhya Pradesh had to enact a Special Law in 1981, the ‘Madhya Pradesh Dakaity Prabhavit Kshektra Adhiniyam’, with special powers to police. Armed with these special powers the police again moved into action and eliminated most of the notorious gangs in encounters. Later, Malkhan Singh, Ramesh Sikhawar and Phoolan Devi surrendered before the then chief minister, Arjun Singh, putting an end to an ear of dreaded dacoits. The special law was repealed thereafter.