INDIA: Dead Man

3 minute read

No man was more carefully respected by his neighbors in the four Indian provinces south of New Delhi than the proud Thakore clansman, Man Singh. Great maharajas and rich, land-owning zamindars came by the score to attend the wedding feast he gave his grandson. Local villagers expressed their admiration for him in reverently hushed voices. Even a government committee set up to examine his affairs in 1952 declared that Man Singh was a man “of no private vices.” Nonetheless, the government of Madhya Bharat province could not overlook a police file which recounted in more than one ton of official documents a gory tale of 185 murders and more than 1,000 robberies committed by Man Singh over nearly 27 years. Man Singh was not only a respected local chieftain, but the fiercest and most feared dacoit (bandit) in all India.

Like Hobin Hood, the once pious Man Singh had become an outlaw first because of a fancied injustice. Like Robin’s, his crimes were said to be aimed only at the rich and powerful. He was always generous to the widows of those he had killed. and he was just in his own rough way. But as the legend of his terror spread across some 8,000 square miles of Indian territory, a price of $3,000 was put on Man Singh’s head. Through the years, the police of four states schemed, connived and risked their lives to collect it, but Man Singh was always too quick for them. Last year, after Man Singh slipped through his fingers once again, Narasinghrao Dixit, the home minister of Madhya Bharat province, vowed to resign if he failed to trap the notorious dacoit within a year.

Relentless in his determination to catch the outlaw, Dixit set a specially trained company of Gurkha police combing the jungle for his quarry. As an added precaution, he himself climbed to a mountain shrine in Amarnath to ask help of the god Siva. One day last week, as Man Singh sat resting under a banyan tree near the village of Kakekapura, Siva answered the prayer. A telephone rang in the New Delhi residence of Jawaharlal Nehru, and over it a jubilant voice crowed to India’s Prime Minister: “Panditji, this is Home Minister Dixit. We have just killed Man Singh!”

“A meritorious achievement,” said Nehru. Meanwhile, far away in Bhind, the riddled bodies of Man Singh and his son Subedar were laid out so the neighbors might look. Forty thousand came.

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