Infamous Indian bandits who struck terror

Updated: Aug 10, 2019, 10:10 IST | mid-day online correspondent

On Phoolan Devi's birth anniversary, we look back at some of the notorious Indian bandits who once struck terror in their region

Phoolan  Devi in a file pic from AFP
Phoolan Devi in a file pic from AFP



Koose Muniswamy Veerappan was born in Karnataka's Gopinatham village in a Tamil Vanniyar family of cattle-grazers. He started as an assistant to his relative Sevi Gounder, a notorious poacher and sandalwood smuggler and began his career in crime in 1970. Veerappan started off as sandalwood and ivory smuggler, killing elephants for ivory poaching but later started killing those who opposed his activities. His first murder was committed at 17 years of age. Over the years Veerappan's victims included forest officials, police officers and informers. Veerappan defied the state governments of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the Border Security Force for over a decade. He was wanted for killing approximately 184 people, poaching about 200 elephants and smuggling ivory worth 2,600,000 dollars and about 10,000 tons of sandalwood worth approximately 22,000,000 dollars. A reward of 50 million rupees was offered for his capture, yet he dodged arrest for 20 years until killed by police on October 18, 2004.

Also Read: Remembering the notorious forest bandit Veerappan

Phoolan Devi

Phoolan Devi also known as the Bandit Queen was an Indian dacoit turned politician. At the age of 18, she was gang-raped by high-caste outlaws after the gang she belonged to was attacked by rivals. She was locked up in Behmai, and for three weeks, she was gang-raped every day. As a result of this incident, Phoolan became a gang-leader in her own right and sought revenge. In 1981 Devi and her gang returned to the village where she had been raped. She recognised two men who raped her and sought whereabouts of the others. When they refused to divulge details, she rounded up 22 Thakur caste villagers, including two of her rapists, and executed them. Phoolan was charged with 48 crimes, including 30 charges of dacoity (banditry) and kidnapping. Her trial was delayed for 11 years, during which time she remained in prison. She was shot dead by three masked gunmen outside of her Delhi bungalow. 

Also Read: The life and times of India's Bandit Queen - Phoolan Devi

Daku Man Singh

Daku Man Singh was a dacoit to some while Robinhood to others. He was born in a royal family of Rajput and lived in the village of Khera Rathore in the Chambal which sheltered generations of outlaws in deep ravines and scrub forests since the 13th century. He is believed to have committed 1,112 robberies and 185 murders, including the killing of 32 police officers. He was shot dead in 1955 while sitting under a banyan tree. For some, he was a people's man and also has a temple in his honour in Khera Rathore. Local inhabitants of Chambal, especially the Rajput Community of Chambal Vally, referred to Singh as 'Chambal Ka Sher'.

Also Read: As a youngster, Big B was in awe of dacoit Man Singh

Nirbhay Singh Gujjar

Nirbhay Singh Gujjar was one of the last much-feared dacoits in Chambal. He started from being a petty thief to being a master of a band of dacoits. With as many as 205 criminal cases registered against him, Gujjar carried a cash reward of Rs 2.5 lakh on his head announced by Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) police. He was given the moniker 'WWW' due to his love for wine, women and wealth. So fond he was of women, that his colourful life was always surrounded by them. The story also goes that he was responsible for many women to become bandits. He was almost like the Bollywood villain of the 70s with A.K 47 rifles, armed jackets. One story also goes that so dreaded was his personality that mothers used his name to put their unruly children to sleep. He was once married to Seema Parihar, another bandit then but now reformed. She had even appeared on Bigg Boss Season 4. Nirbhay Singh Gujjar was shot dead by the Special Task Force (STF) in Cheetapur ravines under Ajitmal police station of Etawah.

Manya Surve

Manya SurvePic/YouTube

Far from the traditional definition of 'dacoit and 'bandit', Mumbai too had a dacoit which was more urban than the rest. Manohar Arjun Surve popularly known as Manya Surve was an infamous urban dacoit and gangster in the Mumbai underworld. He was also educated and was not forced into dacoity, unlike others. Manya Surve's criminal activities were not only confined to heists and robberies. He was also involved in narcotics trafficking, as the profits were considerable. His rise in the Mumbai underworld was so prolific in just top years that even Dawood Ibrahim, another underworld don felt threated by him. It is generally believed that it was Dawood who tipped off the police about Manya's whereabouts after which he was killed in a police encounter. His death in 1982 during an encounter with the Maharashtra police became known as the city's first recorded encounter killing.

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