India’s Chambal valley, which is located south of UP and on the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh bord, famous for its panoramic views, mesmerizing valleys with zigzagged ravines has also been a homeland to the feared dacoits for centuries. From a famous Chinese traveler, Huen Tsang, who was reported to have been robbed here in the 7th century to the several political rebels and outlaws, Chambal valley is infested with professional bandits for whom murder and robbery are a tradition as well as a way of life.
Though, we have little understanding from the films made on bandits of Chambal valley, such as “Paan Singh Tomar”, “Bandit Queen” which reflects the plight of innocents from privileged classes that prompted them to join in these notorious activities. Yet these dacoits captured local’s attention and often regard Bandits as ‘Robin Hood of Chambal’ not as thieves, they pick up the gun to avenge injustice, help the helpless and save oppressed farmers & lower castes from the ostensible upper ones. Thus the exploitation and oppression were one of the main reasons that flee them to take rebel, few of Bandits Paan Singh Tomar, Maan Singh, dayram gadidya and many more were the victim of such disputes.
While women were not left behind in fleeing their revenge against their rapists and tormentors also, Phoolan Devi (also known as Bandit Queen), who was married when a child to a 12 year older man to her who sexually abused her and was raped by 22 men for three weeks, murdered all of them and later joined the politics after surrendering. While, it cannot negotiate that there has been a myth around the valley associated with the ‘chambal river’ whose ancient name was “charmanvati”, meaning the river on whose banks leather is dried. Thus it became famous for its ‘charman’ which means skin, the epic Mahabharata narrates that thousands of animals were sacrificed in the river by the Aryan King, it says
“So large was the number of animals sacrificed in the agnihotra of that king that the secretions flowing from his kitchen from the heaps of skins deposited there caused a veritable river which from this circumstance, came to be called the Charmanwati”
Another myth that prevails there says that Chambal was part of Shakuni’s kingdom and the dice game was played there where Draupadi was disrobed, and she cursed anyone who would drink the water of charmanwati river. Thus it is believed that the curse has helped Chambal to survive unpolluted by man and its many inhabitants have been untouched and it became a habitat to the dacoits making it habitable for them without any external interference.
Not only these associated myths and exploitation solely responsible for giving births to dacoits, some shares that the police, the government officials & politicians are also equally responsible. Souram Singh Tomar, son of Paan Singh Tomar, in an interview with HT says “The Police create dacoits in Chambal: the whole system”, who is now living at Babina in Jhansi away from Chambal for the reason of not getting killed by his father ‘s enemies. Though with the making of films on dacoits have opened eyes of the government and now it is reluctant to reveal what kind of deal it should make with bandits so that they surrender easily without having fear of being shot dead. Further, it is looking at the pest cause of violence and at countering of the desperate poverty that led many of the dacoits to live of violence in Chambal.