Sometimes all it takes is a split second impetuousness to turn one’s life around. And that holds true for many a simple folk, who, when faced with a difficult situation chose the wrong side of law – and learned to regret it in hindsight
Ram Babu Gurjar, a farmer from Dholpur district of Rajasthan, learnt it the hard way. In his early fifties, Gurjar was content to subsist on a small piece of land which he had inherited in the remote Baripur Basaidaang village. A family man, Gurjar’s entire focus was keeping his family of five, which included his wife Angoori, three daughters and a son, happy. But fate changed all that. A scuffle over a land dispute resulted in a serious injury to one of his rivals. A complaint was lodged against him. Gurjar, like most villagers, was scared of the police and being lodged in a jail. Rather than trying to clear up his name, he decided to hide.
He faced many hardships while absconding from the police. He could not meet his family, who suffered in many ways. His land had to be left uncultivated and his family was deprived of food and other necessities.
Gurjar felt helpless and also regretted the plight of his family. Under severe pressure, he started working as an illegal recovery agent in a quarry. He says: “This in turn led me to a gang of dacoits who offered me protection from the police.” For many years, his diktat ran unchecked in the areas between Agra and Chambal and the government announced a reward of Rs 24,000 for any information on him.
Peace in Pieces
During this time, even though Gurjar had enough money to feed his family but the cost was high. While his family lived in the village, Gurjar was on a constant run from the law. He was unhappy as he had lost his peace of mind. He was always wary that the police would catch him, and so couldn’t even take a relaxed nap. Gurjar also worried that sooner or later his karma would catch up with him, and wronging other human beings would have repercussions. He started hating his life as he realised that he was condemned to be a dacoit who wouldn’t be able to spend time with his family. His family too lived under a constant pall of fear. His wife Angoori said: “Police frequented our place to inquire about my husband’s whereabouts. They used abusive language and intimidated me.” Tormented by guilt, Gurjar decided to surrender.
He was tried and sentenced to four years of imprisonment from 2006 to 2010. When he was released from jail after serving his sentence, he saw that his family was in dire straits. His children had stopped going to school and his land was barren. But Gurjar didn’t give up. He started ploughing his land. With time, things improved and he even managed to get his only son Rustam admitted to a private school. Gurjar also became the priest at the Karas Baba temple in his village. He said: “I was in prison for four years, but I still carry the guilt of being a dacoit. Only God can help me in getting out of this guilt. And that is the reason I have decided to devote my life to Karas Baba, the local deity of cattle.”
Even though Gurjar stuck to the straight path, the police continued to hound him. His son Rustam says: “Whenever a crime is committed in the area, the police take my father to the police station, even though he has given up his criminal activities. Sometimes they extort all his money.” The family, which is happy and satisfied to be together, hopes that this too shall pass.
But Gurjar isn’t the only one to have faced and overcome adversity. Daya Ram Meena works with an NGO and vaccinates animal. He is also the sarpanch of his village, Kharoli. The villagers love and trust him, but it wasn’t the always that way for him.
Ten years ago, Meena too was a dacoit. People hated him and were scared of him in equal measure. Meena kept shifting base to avoid being caught by the police. A flicker of sadness crosses Meena’s face when he remembers the hard times. He says: “I had no peace in life and most of the time I was hungry. The police tried to trap us and we were always on the run. Sometimes we didn’t even have water to drink. When I went to one of my relative’s place so that I could get something to eat, they peeped out from the window and ignored me.”
It was cruel fate which forced Meena to become a dacoit. A faint smile lights up his face as he recalls his past life. He said, “I was selected as a constable in 1981. My family and I were very happy.” Suddenly his smile disappeared and tears started welling up in his eyes as he recalls the circumstances which turned his life into hell. Meena’s sister’s father-in-law was arrested by police in a false case and beaten to death. To cover up the murder, the police threw his body on the road.
Meena tried to get the policemen punished but it all came to a naught. A constable, who was initially suspended for the crime, was reinstated. This shook Meena’s faith in law. Greatly angered, he joined a group of dacoits, which also included his brother-in-law. During his 10 years as a dacoit, he was accused of 12 crimes, including kidnapping, murder and attempt to murder. Finally in 2000, the police arrested him. He was jailed for 13 months before getting bail.
Meena then decided to get a grip on his life. He started farming and joined the NGO Manjari. He works as a cattle vaccinator. His love and affection for cattle has made him a favourite amongst cattle rarers. Meena said: “I do this so that no one loses cattle and in turn, their income, and is forced to turn to a life of crime.” People admire Meena and have faith in him, as he is concerned about their well being. This love and affection resulted him in being elected unopposed as the Sarpanch (head) of the village.
Daya Ram Meena and Ram Babu Gurjar say that nothing could be worse than the life of a dacoit. There is a constant fear in whatever you do. “Neither are you at ease, nor get proper food. Even when you sleep, you have to be alert, Gurjar says
“Every second there is the constant fear that the police would apprehend you,” says Meena. They appeal to the youngsters that if they make a mistake, they should surrender to the police. “You will be punished for what you did and the life ahead would be bright. But if you flee, there will be more trouble that you will have to bear,” they insist. Clearly, a small mistake can have serious consequences.
(With inputs from Sandip Sharma, Dholpur)
© 2016 Sulabh Swachh Bharat. All Right Reserved