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Gangland hero, trained by the police

As he snatched the constable’s rifle, whirled around and shot him at point-blank range, gangster Ghanshyam Kewat was using skills he had learnt from the Special Task Force.

lucknow Updated: Jun 19, 2009 00:14 IST

As he snatched the constable’s rifle, whirled around and shot him at point-blank range, gangster Ghanshyam Kewat was using skills he had learnt from the Special Task Force.

And on Tuesday, his men fared better than the Chitrakoot police.

After an embarrassing eight-hour gunbattle in broad daylight, the dacoits had claimed one policeman and melted back into the hills. The cops, who had tracked down the dreaded Nan gang following a tip-off, had not made a single arrest.

For 42-year-old Kewat, who led the Nan gang, the climb to the top began four years ago, when rival gang leader Umar Kewat gunned down five Fatehpur policemen.

Desperate to catch Umar, the elite Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force approached his rival, then gang leader Shankar Kewat, for help.

Shankar offered them Ghanshyam Kewat, a junior but extremely talented dacoit.

All the police had wanted, really, was a guide through the dense jungles and treacherous ravines of Chitrakoot and Fatehpur. But in weeks, Kewat had helped the police set up a network of spies in the little villages along the way.

Now a prime target himself, the police decided to train and arm him — effectively giving him an intensive, five-month training course in weaponry and marksmanship from among the best on the state police force.

Kewat finally did track Umar down.

“I remember him firing at Umar, who was walking right up to me. It was his first exposure to real gunfire, but he handled himself like a pro,” said an officer on duty that day, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to the press.

Kewat hadn’t just learned how to fire their weapons, he had also been allowed to sit in on operational briefings during his time as police guide.

“He was a quick learner and nothing escaped him. I am not surprised he killed the cops with such ease,” said the officer. “After all, he got the skills and training from us.”

The honeymoon ended last year, soon after Umar was gunned down, when the STF changed gears and began chasing down Shankar’s mentors, gangsters Dadua and Thokia.

The three joined hands and, with Kewat’s help, looted rifles from the police stockpile and went on the rampage, killing eight villagers in one day and gunning down a constable with the Special Operations Group a few weeks later.

Now known as one of the most audacious dacoits in the Chambal region, Ghanshyam is also believed to be passing on all he has learned to the others in the gang — probably one of the reasons no one was arrested on Tuesday.