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Monday, August 14, 2006

Bandit Salim Gujjar killed: He was Hindu or Muslim!

The most colourful of Chambal bandits, who kept the police eluding for decades, ultimately fell to police bullet along with his latest beloved, Gita Jatav, in Uttar Pradesh. Salim Gujjar's death apart, the fixation of people with religion can be gauged with the interest of ordinary people and even media men into the dacoit's faith. Was he a Hindu or Muslim? That's the question making rounds everywhere.

Does it matter that much? He was like the scores of dacoits in Chambal ravines spread over three states (MP, UP and Rajasthan) where no crop is produced. The only crop that comes up is of bandits. For centuries, from the Pindaris to present day Dacoits, the tradition of 'baaghi' remains.

Either you join police or army else the way to 'izzat' is turn an outlaw and become a gun-toting dacoit. Bollywood blockbuster Sholay was based on this lawless Chambal though shot in another location. Ofcourse, Salim lived a colourful life and had a number of women members in his gang unlike other gang leaders who prefer to avoid having women members in gang and rather go to the house of their female companions who live in villages.

In Chambal there have been Muslim dacoits also and one of the most 'respected' bandit Baba Mustaqeem was alive until the 80s and had given Phoolan Devi, the permission to form her gang. Salim hailed from Jalaun in UP. The letterhead on which he used to send letters to traders and millionaires for extortion carried 'Jai Bhawani' but still people insist on knowing why he was Salim.

I have met Abduls, Qadirs and Akbars in Chhattisgarh all of whom are Christians. These are very common names amongst tribal Christians just like Manoj, Ashok, Rajkumar etc. So do I need to solve the mystery about the faith of Salim Gujjar, who was wanted in connection with over 100 crimes, carried a reward of Rs 1.5 lakh on his head and had a mile-long criminal record? He was not a Muslim, Pahalwan Singh Gujjar, who preferred to call himself Salim probably due to romanticism surrounding Prince Salim and Anarkali.