In MP village where kids are hired by Delhi thieves, some choose to say ‘no’
He was 11 years old when his parents were first approached by a gang of thieves with an offer. They promised the kid good clothes, food, good money and a “bright, comfortable future” in exchange for his services. His job would be to sneak into weddings in Delhi and other cities to steal cash and jewellery for the gang. No body would suspect an 11- year-old to be a member of a band of wedding thieves.
JP Chayal, who grew up in a village Kadiya in district Pachor, around 300km from Bhopal is now a high school teacher. He is preparing for the civil services and does not regret his father’s decision to turn down the gang’s offer.
Residents of Kadiya village are notorious for ‘renting’ their children to ‘Band, Baja, Barat’ gangs that steal from weddings in metropolitan cities such as Delhi. Investigations in various cases have led police to the village, where parents sign bondage agreements with the gang members to send their children in return for an annual fee of Rs 2-5 lakh, that too under the panchayat’s watch.
Over the past four months, 86 police teams from different states have visited Pachor to trace suspects and arrest gang members who hire them. In April, the Delhi Police attributed 34 thefts at lavish weddings to minors, including those from Pachor. The latest case was reported on July 3, in which a minor allegedly stole a bag containing gifts and Rs 8 lakh cash from a wedding venue in southwest Delhi. Investigations show that over 11 minors left the village in the last three months with the gangs for “job training”.
As a child, while most his counterparts whiled away time, he hid in his field behind a well and spent his entire day reading about Subhash Chandra Bose, Martin Luthar King, Nelson Mandela and BR Ambedkar. He now teaches history and social sciences to children and no longer lives in village Kadiya. “I could have been a thief too. But I did not take the easy path. I saw my friends leaving to join the gangs. They would return with fancy clothes, but all that never attracted me. I was focused,” he says.
Though Chayal agrees that most people from his tribe join hands with gangs in Delhi who train teenagers to steal at weddings, he blames the government for not providing them opportunities to come in the mainstream. Chayal says the outside world paints a wrong picture of his tribe (Sansi).
“We were once a criminal tribe but not any longer. Our parents may be involved in crime but they want their kids to study and have a secure future. There are people who are still running these gangs, but they are doing it to secure a future for their kids. With the money they ‘gather’ from the rich, they put that in educating their children. This is not loot. There is nothing wrong with it,” he says.
He has a list of youths who have dared to take the path less travelled. All he now requests is support from the government. “At present, there are around nine youths from Kadiya village who have cleared IIT entrances and are studying engineering, nine are MBBS doctors, 21 are in the police department, 35 are teachers, six are in banking, nine in the forest department and also kids who are representing out country in international games,” he says.
“We are trying hard to rub off this title of a criminal tribe provided we are given some assistance. Why would someone want to commit crimes if they have a good job? A vocation? It is for the government to engage us in jobs so that we do not get attracted towards crime,” he adds.
Jitendra Sisodia, another from the tribe, who now works with an NGO, Neev Social Welfare Association, recalls how he was approached several times for his children but refused to send him with the gangs.
“My father was approached and years later even I was approached. These gang members asked me to send my kids with them. They told me that they will give my kids good clothes, food and money. When I refused saying I wish to educate them, they said education will not pay them as much as this job would,” he says.
He adds, “It was difficult turning their offer down as they are our fellow men, so I left the village and shifted to the town. Today both my kids are studying in a convent school. Had I not left the village in time, they would have indulged my kids in some crime for sure.”
To wean away the members of the tribe from crime, the MP police have begun vocational training programs. “The purpose is to divert their mind from committing crime and channelize their energy to do something constructive. We identify adults interested in training and then train them to further convince more people. Many women in the past have joined the group. The efforts are on but a lot still needs to be done,” SP, Rajgarh, Himani Khanna says.