India’s police traced notorious bandit via cell phone signals, then shot him.
By Jason Overdorf/NEW DELHI
(This article appeared in the Globe and Mail on November 10, 2005).
For 25 years, he terrorized the villagers of central Indian and outsmarted police. In the end, though, notorious bandit Nirbhay Singh Gujjar was brought down by his penchant for publicity, as police were able to use cell phones through which he boasted to reporters to trace him to his forest hideout. They killed him this week in a shootout.
“It was an embarrassment for the police, because he was talking to the media,” said Yashpal Singh, director-general of the police force in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. “So we were under pressure from people who were asking why journalists could locate him and the police could not.”
After determining Mr. Gujjar’s location by tracing the signals from the two phones he used, authorities crawled through thick scrub to creep up on a ravine where the bandit was drinking with half a dozen members of his gang.
Alerted by a sentry, Mr. Gujjar’s band opened fire, but police scattered the gang, trapping the bandit and a lieutenant in a canyon.
When police called for him to surrender, Mr. Gujjar tried to fool them into thinking he had been killed, but opened fire again when officers advanced to investigate, said Deputy Superintendent Rajesh Dwivedi of the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force. In the ensuing shootout, Mr. Gujjar was shot in the head.
“This sends a clear signal that we are going after them,” Mr. Singh said. “It will certainly send a frightening message [to other bandits].”
Mr. Gujjar, whose name means “fearless,” was known as “the last lion of the Chambal,” an unmappable labyrinth of ravines in the border area between the modern states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The area is famous for marauding outlaws, called dacoits, and is portrayed in hundreds of Bollywood films.
Married three times and cuckolded as many times by rival bandits, Mr. Gujjar went berserk when his third wife ran away with a man he had kidnapped as a boy and raised as his foster son. Vowing to track the lovers down and exact his revenge, he announced a hefty reward for information about the couple.
He then told reporters he wanted to lay down his arms. All he asked was that a political party from one of the states he terrorized grant him a role in government as a member of the legislative assembly.
But even though politicians with long charge sheets are common in central India, Mr. Gujjar misread the way the political wind was blowing, according to police.
“He didn’t have any connections,” Supt. Dwivedi said.
Copyright 2005 The Globe and Mail