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Bundelkhand’s first bandit queen goes for gun-upmanship

About 35 years after bandit queen Phoolan Devi ceased to call the shots in the Chambal ravines, another woman dacoit chieftain has emerged, the first one to do so in the drought-prone Bundelkhand region divided between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

lucknow Updated: Sep 27, 2018 12:11 IST
Haidar Naqvi
Haidar Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Kanpur
Bandit queen,Bundelkhand,Phoolan Devi
Sadhna Patel, who is in her early 30s and belongs to Madhya Pradesh, has formed an independent gang in the region’s Patha area, notorious for male dacoits.(Representative image)

About 35 years after bandit queen Phoolan Devi ceased to call the shots in the Chambal ravines, another woman dacoit chieftain has emerged, the first one to do so in the drought-prone Bundelkhand region divided between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Sadhna Patel, who is in her early 30s and belongs to Madhya Pradesh, has formed an independent gang in the region’s Patha area, notorious for male dacoits.

“Technically she is the first woman dacoit of Patha,” says a police officer. There is a reward of Rs 10,000 on her capture.

For the last six months, Sadhna has been hyperactive in Chitrakoot, say police officers engaged in anti-dacoity operations in the region.

She made her presence felt in Chitrakoot when she kidnapped a businessman from Nayagaon last month and released him on the UP side of Chitrakoot, the officials say. Recently, she and her gang robbed many people twice in Bharatkoop (also in Chitrakoot).

“Her operations were limited to Nayagaon in MP (earlier); the UP police have begun tracking her movements in Bharat Koop forests on our side (Uttar Pradesh),” says Manoj Jha, superintendent of police, Chitrakoot. “The police are preparing a dossier on her and other members,” he says.

Alok Dwivedi, an expert on dacoits, says, “She is one of a kind; she grew up among the dacoits and took to crime.” Her father Chunnilal was a permanent member of the Balkhariya gang, he says, adding her family was allegedly a sympathiser of bandits in MP

“She formed the gang after her boyfriend Naval Dhobi was arrested in MP and his group was disbanded as a result,” says a police official.

“She gathered some of the associates and purchased new weapons. We do not have their pictures right now but they will soon be available,” he says.

Her gang comprises four permanent members and four casual members, all of whom shuttle between the areas of Chitrakoot falling in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Besides her gang, the only other one operational in Patha is that of the dreaded Babli Kol and there is a reward of Rs 5.5 lakh on Kol’s capture, the official says.

Superintendent of police, Satna (Madhya Pradesh), Santosh Singh Gaur says the gang members have been identified and the inputs have been being shared with UP police.

Over the last 50 years, the Patha area, with its dense forests and hills, has been ruled by male dacoits like the dreaded Kardushan, Rampa, Gaya Baba, Shiv Kumar Dadua, Ambika Patel Thokia, Shankar Kewat, Munni Lal, Pappu Yadav, Balkhariya, Ragiya, Babli Kol and others.

Dadua, the most infamous of the Bundelkhand brigands, called the shots for 30 years before he was killed in an encounter with the police in July 2007.

Unlike the Chambal-Yamuna ravines in the western part of Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand never had a woman bandit till now.

The Chambal-Yamuna ravines produced a number of women dacoits starting with Phoolan Devi, who was shot dead in Delhi in 2001, years after she had said farewell to arms. Over the years, other women dacoits included Kusuma Nain, Seema Singh Parihar, Renu Yadav, Lovely Pandey, Basanti Pandey, Teji and Siyadei.

AREA OF OPERATION

Bharat Koop, Fatehgunj, Majhgavan, Nayagaon. Sadhna and her gang have committed several robberies, targeting traders.

First Published: Sep 27, 2018 12:11 IST