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Bandit ‘dead’ for third time

Bhopal, April 17: Madhya Pradesh police today claimed to have got third time lucky in felling a notorious bandit whose death has been announced twice in 10 years.

Rambabu Gadaria, the “Veerappan of Chambal” with a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head, was reportedly “killed” in an encounter in the Amkho-Buxanpur forest, about 70 km from Shivpuri, inspector-general A. K. Soni said. His body hasn’t been recovered.

Rambabu’s elder brother Dayaram was also “killed” in August last year, but there was no body to verify that claim, either.

Buoyed by today’s “success”, director-general of police A.R. Pawar boasted of having eliminated all major dacoit gangs in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh.

“The killing of the dacoit leader (Rambabu) was a sterling success as no major gang was operating at present,” Pawar said.

Congratulating his colleagues for the “success”, he said the police personnel who were involved in the “encounter” would be suitably rewarded.

But Soni and Pawar aren’t the first to claim credit for a feat not proven. In 1999, when Digvijay Singh was chief minister, he promoted Ashok Bhadoria for having “killed” Rambabu.

Months later, when Rambabu began striking at will, he suspended the officer. Only a month ago, Gwalior inspector-general Sarabjit Singh claimed the dacoit was “killed” in an encounter.

Rambabu was considered the last of the legendary dacoits, in league with Man Singh and Malkhan Singh, who ruled the Chambal region for decades. The area is on the borders of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Rambabu has hundreds of cases against him. In 2004, he mastermind Bhanwarpura massacre, mowing down 17 Gujjars he believed were police informers. In November 2006, he and his brother Dayaram struck again, killing five Gujjars in Karyara village of Shivpuri.

Police officials believe that in recent months, the Gadaria gang had switched to abductions (called “pakad”). The targets, local businessmen and government officials, were released in exchange for hefty ransoms.

Rambabu also loved to flaunt his disdain for the police. Almost a year ago, he sent letters to media announcing “cash rewards” on police officials chasing his gang.

On another occasion, he sent the authorities a letter in which he set conditions for his surrender. The demands included luxury cars and accommodation. And if that wasn’t enough, he asked for five litres of milk daily. He made it clear he wasn’t paying for the supply.

Rambabu’s family has also dabbled in politics. In the recent Gwalior Lok Sabha byelection, his sister, Ram Shri, contested as a candidate of Samanta Dal, a local outfit, pulling in over 72,000 votes. Her ability to draw votes sent shockwaves through the Congress and BJP camps. The BJP’s Yashodhara Raje Scindia won by 35,000 votes, but her supporters blamed the “Rambabu” factor for the slim margin.

Raj Shri apparently got votes on caste lines, mostly from villages that are sympathetic to Rambabu. Her campaign theme was that her family and the Gadaria community were being hounded. She promised members of her caste that she would work for social justice.

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