Bachchu ka Kuwa is a colony of dusty streets, low, kuchcha dwellings and open sewers in Vatva, an Ahmedabad neighbourhood where migrant labourers, mainly from Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh live.
There, in a shanty close to a smelly drain, behind a piece of blue tarpaulin that serves as a door, lived a man for whom a team of UP policemen came last week. The man they took away was Surendra alias Dhara Singh, an alleged Chambal dacoit with a Rs-85,000 bounty on his head, a fugitive who had been ferrying packing cases for Amul ice cream from Mumbai while hiding out in the shanty for the last three years.
Dhara lived with his brother Raju and his family, in a cluster of shanties known as Madrasi Chali because several migrants from Tamil Nadu live there.
Raju, who has made a living driving an autorickshaw for the last 22 years, has two sons, one 20 years old and the other 12. “Yes, my brother’s name is Surendra Singh. He is my elder brother,” the thin man of about five feet said when approached on the street outside his shanty. “But I don’t know who Dhara Singh is,” he added, as a few curious neighbours and bystanders began to gather.
Later, inside his home, Raju began to speak more freely. “My brother worked as a driver and did loading and unloading jobs for a transport company in Vastral,” he said. “He lived here for at least two-three years. He earned good money too.” Raju claimed he had no idea that his brother was accused of being a dreaded Chambal dacoit.
“I have been living here for the last 22 years. I was 15 or 16 when I came from our home in Auraiya in UP, and began working as a labourer. My brother continued to live in UP and then went to Madhya Pradesh, but I did not know that he was a dacoit,” Raju said.
“I was not in touch with him all those years. He seldom spoke to his family let alone to us, but sometimes visited me. When he came the last time, he said he now wanted to live in Gujarat.” What he did know, however, Raju said, was that his brother was wanted in several cases of murder, attempt to murder, dacoities, loot and kidnapping, and that the police of three states — MP, UP and Rajasthan — were hunting for him. But he said he did not know there was a prize on his brother’s head.
On January 31, a team of the Special Task Force of the UP Police swooped on Dhara at a tea stall not far from where the brothers lived. The police had been tipped off that he was living near Vastral vera canal in Ahmedabad. “Dhara was working for a transporter in Ramol (near Vastral), driving trucks that brought in packing cases from Mumbai for Amul ice cream. He was working there for quite some time. He is now in judicial custody. The STF will continue investigations in Gujarat on the possible links he might have developed during his stay in that state,” Additional SP, STF (Agra), Shailendra Srivastava, said.
Ramol Sub-Inspector S A Pargi, who aided the STF, said, “We had no information about Dhara Singh’s stay in Ahmedabad. The industrial area from Vastral to Vatva and Naroda and beyond is huge. We were not given any information.”
Raju said Dhara and he were sons of farm labourers who lost their father when Raju was barely five years old. “My mother worked in the farms and households of Thakurs. Several people we knew in UP and Bihar were then living in Gujarat, so I decided to join them to earn a living here.”
His new autorickshaw, Raju said, was about a year ago. “I pay a rent of Rs 1,500 for this shanty, and even taxes to the government. I have never committed a crime in my life, but my brother probably wanted money fast.”
He is not upset that the police took Dhara away, Raju said. “He was hardly a brother.”
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