It all started with the assault on a ‘chowkidar’ who had accused him of theft and gambling. With his blood boiling, Tiger, then a hot-headed teenager, pounced upon the guard, leaving him half-dead. The incident, some six decades ago, marked the beginning of his transformation from Fatehnur Mollah to ‘Tiger’— a name that gave sleepless nights to cops all along peninsular India.
The head of a feared gang of dacoits for well over three decades, the 75-year-old Tiger is for some the Robinhood of Bankura now. Be it marrying off young girls in his village, or reconstruction of thatched roofs of neighbours’ houses, Tiger claims he has spent all that he had earned through robbery for others’ good. The man, who has admitted to having beaten up many policemen to rob their weapons, says he can’t bear the pain of a destitute.
Now staying near Bankura’s Punishol, Tiger says he was restless and adamant as a teenager. This resulted in the initial attack on the guard after which the police raided his house. Although they failed to nab him, his mother was very unhappy with the turn of events. “I clearly remember her scolding me and asking me why the police were after me,” reminisces Tiger.
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Soon the delinquent teenager had morphed into a criminal on the run. One day, he met a gang of thieves and decided to join them. “There was no looking back after that,” he says. “My restlessness always caught the attention of such gangs and they agreed to take me along during their operations.”
Tiger soon came to be known as the most infamous dacoit in Punishol and surrounding villages, with his own group and a permanent place in the police wanted list. This also meant Tiger was now always on the move… Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Mysore, Vijaynagar, Nilgiri, Chennai (then Madras) and even parts of Kerala. Cities changed, but his motive remained the same.
This went on for almost three decades until he was intercepted by the police in Cuttack. “They started interrogating me in Odia and I asked them to speak in Hindi. That’s when they called my bluff and I got trapped,” he says. With some arms being seized from his possession, he was awarded a seven-year sentence which was later reduced on plea. That’s when Tiger decided to return to normal life. “An ASI, Bimal Ray, also has a major factor in my transformation to this new life,” he smiles.
Now a family man with six wives, 33 children and an extended family of 250 — he obviously does not know the names of all his grandchildren. But he claims to have never cheated on his wives to marry different women in the course of his travels to different places. “All my wives are from Bankura only. Since I was into anti-social activities, they mostly refused to live with me,” confesses Tiger.
In 2008, he was voted to the Gram Panchayat as a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha candidate. Asked about his thoughts on this year’s Lok Sabha elections, he terms today’s politics “divisive”. “I am busy with my family now,” he says, mentioning that his family has a total of 86 voters.