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The Legacy of Dadua, Bundelkhand’s ‘Robin Hood’, Respected but Feared

Dadua is possibly the only dacoit in UP to have guided political careers across generations.

A temple in Dadua's name. Credit: Khabar Lahariya

A temple in Dadua’s name. Credit: Khabar Lahariya

In a land where lawlessness is the law of the land, it is no wonder that a dacoit wins hearts, rules over minds and evokes both respect and fear in people. Respect because he earns it and fear because, well, what’s the emotion that comes to mind when you hear of eyes being gouged out?

It’s common knowledge that gangs and dacoits have always thrived in Uttar Pradesh, it is their karmabhoomi and they’re all sons (and daughters) of the soil. Right from Phoolan Devi to Man Singh, they’ve been curious subjects of investigation, ripe material for books, movie and popular fiction.

But what gives Dadua the dacoit an edge is his legacy – his is possibly the only name in dacoity in the badlands of UP who guided political careers across generations. His brother, his son, his nephew have all been players on the political ranbhoomi of UP.

In a three-part series on Dadua, who was born Shivkumar Patel, Khabar Lahariya explores the oeuvre of his legend and legacy, mapping the picture of a man as complex as the land he was born in. We listened to the Dadua ke kisse-kahaani that have become part of the oral storytelling in Bundelkhand, pored over criminal records and case files registered against Dadua in both UP and Madhya Pradesh, and even paid a visit to a temple instituted in his name in the village of Kabraha, with an actual idol. They say if you visit the temple you can say you’ve actually seen Dadua, because he remained an invisible presence even while he was alive.

In Part 1, we chart out the rigid caste divisions that plague the land, such that even dacoits are not spared. “Patels support Patels” is the atmosphere. And we visit the temple where devotees question us: “You say you’ve seen the case files against him. But have you seen him do any of the things written in those files?” Also Dadua’s son, Veer Singh, confesses he’s never seen his father either!