In the heart of India, there exists a lingering echo of a bygone era, where the names of infamous dacoits like Gabbar, Phoolan Devi, and Dadua still hold sway, not in terms of their formidable presence, but as part of a unique regional naming tradition. As per a TOI report by Amarjeet Singh, the Chambal and Vindhya regions, once notorious as the badlands of Madhya Pradesh, were dominated by the power of the gun, and the names of these dacoits have left an indelible mark in the areas they once controlled.
The Chambal ravines and the Vindhya region bear witness to the persistence of names akin to these legendary outlaws. Inhabitants can still be found with names like Phoolan Devi, Malkhan Singh, and Paan Singh Tomar in the Chambal region, while in the Vindhya region, the name Dadua resonates, with approximately 300 voters bearing this infamous title. Shivkumar Patel, known as Dadua, was a dreaded dacoit who once terrorized the Vindhya region.
Interestingly, the prevalence of these namesakes is confined to the regions where these outlaws once held dominion. For instance, you will scarcely encounter a Gabbar Singh in the Vindhya region, just as there are few voters named Dadua in the Chambal districts. This naming pattern extends to other notorious dacoits as well.
In the past, these dacoits exercised a formidable influence over elections, wielding their authority during the polls. Family members of the feared dacoit Dadua even managed to secure victories in parliamentary and legislative assembly elections in neighboring Uttar Pradesh, exemplifying the extent of their control. Notably, former dacoit Malkhan Singh has made a foray into mainstream politics, joining the Congress party. He actively campaigns for the party and had previously supported the BJP during the 2014 elections.
However, according to former Director General of Police of Madhya Pradesh, Surendra Sinh, who served extensively in the Chambal regions, the persistence of dacoit-related names has nothing to do with a fan following of these notorious criminals. He explains, “There is prevalence of some types of names in some geographies, and it is from years. Names like Paan Singh, Phoolan are such type of names which are popular in the Chambal region. Like I had seen people with names like ‘Latkhor’ during my posting in Chhattisgarh, it was prevalent there, but here it is derogatory. So I strongly feel that the prevalence of such names has nothing to do with a fan following of dacoits.”