Notorious Gang Brings Development Work to a Standstill, Chitrakoot Residents Terrorised

Dadua's death in 2007 hasn't changed much in Bundelkhand
Dadua’s death in 2007 hasn’t changed much in Bundelkhand

Chitrakoot. On the night of 9 May, residents of Badri village in Chitrakoot barely slept. The morning after, work on a road that was being laid down by the Public Welfare Department, came to a halt. Sources said that the infamous local dacoit Balkhadiya and his gang threatened villagers, telling them that no development work would be allowed in the village till the gang is paid a commission out of the project cost by the Department.

Villagers from Badri village, speaking on condition that they would not be named, told Khabar Lahariya that Balkhadiya and his gang barged into the village at midnight and demanded to meet the mates who were supervising the construction of the road. One villager, Basant Lal, told the gang that the mates Ramhit and Lallu Garg were not in the village, and was consequently beaten up badly with rifle butts. ‘The mates were in the village but the gang was angered by Basant Lal’s response. They beat him up and then burnt the JCB machine which was being used in the road construction. They also broke the tractor that was being used at the work site,’ said one resident.

‘The 2-kilometre road is being made to connect Badri village with other villages. Work started only a week ago and created an employment opportunity for many locals. But now no one wants to work here,’ said Ramhit, one of the mates. ‘We were in the village when Balkhadiya’s gang came, but had to go into hiding. They would have shot us,’ said Lallu Garg, the other mate.

Incidents like the one in Badri are not out of the ordinary for residents of Chitrakoot and Banda, caught routinely between local dacoits, and an equally callous administration, and often unable to distinguish who is more responsible for their grim situation. In November 2014, this gang was responsible for 3 attacks on the remote Gobri Godrampur village in neighbouring Banda district. A road was being laid down in the village and the project was worth 1.5 crore rupees, of which the gang demanded a 25 percent commission. The gang was also named in attacks on labour working at a construction site in Jabrapur and Kalvariya villages. Not only did the gang beat up the workers, they also threw away material worth lakhs of rupees into a nearby river.

‘We are struggling to get hold of Balkhadiya,’ said Gyaneshwar Tiwari, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in Chitrakoot. ‘We have been running an offensive against the group but the terrain and thick forested areas in Bundelkhand provide them a safe haven. The Madhya Pradesh police is also looking for Balkhadiya’s gang but so far our campaign has not been successful,’ he admitted.

In the meantime, hundreds of others like Basant Lal, cut off from the hustle of the closest town, await the perfunctory knock on their doors in the dead of night.

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