Dacoit related crime was back in the state late on Wednesday night, when an outlaw gang charred to death 12 persons including 11 members of the family of a former dacoit at village Bichhiyan some 70 kms from Satna.
The gang led by the notorious Sunder Patel opened fire at Betalal, a reformed dacoit with at least eight cases against him, when he was sitting outside his house, surprised by the sudden spurt of bullets, Betalal ran indoors to escape the bullets and locked the house from inside, informed Inspector General (IG), Special Task Force (STF), Sanjeev Singh, speaking to correspondents in Bhopal.
The attackers, a pack of five, including Patel, Ramsingh Goud, Ramchander Goud, Ramnarayan Goud and Suresh Patel – then set the house on fire, killing 12 people trapped indoors, Singh said.
Responding to queries on the possible motive behind the macabre killings, the senior police official said, members of the Kallu gang, of which Betalal was a part, suspected him of being involved in their leader Kallu’s encounter five years ago.
Betalal was released from prison last year after spending around four years in prison, he informed.
11 of those killed in the incident died inside the house, one person died after being admitted to a local hospital.
The fact that Betalal’s family members did not open doors and attempt to escape the fire is an irrevocable testimony to the fact that the attackers stood guard outside the house, a telling comment on the impunity of the gang which is said to be one of the two splinter factions of the notorious Thokia gang formed after the kingpin’s death at the hands of the Uttar Pradesh police.
Media reports identify the dead as Betalal Singh, Mana Bai (48), Ramkali, Hakim, Mamta (30), Kiran (12), one-year-old Prabha, Deepak (10), Veerdev (four), Santkumar and Omkumar (all family members) and Jhanne Khan.
Police say a manhunt has been launched to nab the accused and that the operation would continue till the accused are brought to book or killed.
Revenge killings by dacoits are commonplace in the badlands where these armed vigilante groups with a Robin Hood like demeanour wield extreme power, often requisitioned by leaders to boost their dwindling electoral campaigns.