Daku Malkhan’s tryst with politics in UP’s Dhaurhara

Special task force of Uttarpradesh police patrols, at the Chambal ravines near Etawah, 325 kilometers (203 miles) south of New Delhi, India, Friday, July 7, 2006. India's once-powerful bandits are fast disappearing, hunted by aggressive police commanders, denounced by the villagers they once claimed to defend and pushed into ever-more-hidden corners by the spread of the modern world. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Lucknow: His long hair, thick moustaches that merge into his sideburns, a long red ’tilak’ and piercing eyes are all remnants of the life he led in the ravines of Chambal in the seventies and eighties.

Malkhan Singh, better known as Daku Malkhan Singh, is now a pale version of his original self. His body may be weaker but his spirit is strong as ever.

“If I win the election, I will clear my constituency of all small and big dacoits that rob people’s money. I still have a lot of fire left in me and I can say that my tenure will prove to be a milestone in the history of this state,” he said in his baritone voice after casting in the fourth phase in Madhya Pradesh.

Malkhan Singh is contesting for the Dhaurhara Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh by the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP) and is pitted against former Union minister Jitin Prasada of the Congress and the sitting BJP MP Rekha Varma.

Interestingly, in the 2014 general elections, Malkhan Singh had campaigned for Jitin Prasad but this time, he is a candidate himself.

Malkhan Singh’s journey into the ravines began in 1964 when he was just 17.

“I was picked up by the police and booked under Arms Act. I was pushed into the dark alley of life and had no option but to pick up the gun. It took me 18 years to build up my own gang and gain respect in the ravines,” he recalls.

At one point of time, the Malkhan gang had 94 police cases, including 18 cases of dacoity, 28 of kidnapping, 19 of attempt to murder and 17 cases of murder.

“I was a ‘baaghi’ (rebel) and not a dacoit. There is a major difference between the two because a ‘baaghi’ never targets the poor and fights against the system,” he explains.

Malkhan himself carried a bounty of Rs 70,000 on his head when he finally decided to surrender in 1982 in Madhya Pradesh. A few years later, he was released from jail and given land to start life anew.

Talking about his plans if he wins elections, Malkhan Singh said: “If the farmers support me, I will make sure that their sugarcane dues are paid within 10 days.

“I know very well how to get things done. Security of women has always been my priority and will continue to be. I hold the ‘key’ to solutions for all problems.”

The ‘key’ incidentally is the symbol allotted to the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party.

Malkhan Singh, at present, is the centre of all attention in Dhaurhara. Women are intrigued by his personality; children are amused to see a ‘real life dacoit’ in their midst and the media makes a beeline for him.

Rahul Gangwar, a businessman in Dhaurhara, said: “Strange are the ways of democracy and you never know if this one emerges as the proverbial dark horse.”

Dhaurhara goes to polls in fifth phase on May 6.