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A dacoit with gun

Dacoity is a term used for "banditry" in Bengali, Odiya, Hindi, Kannada and Urdu. The spelling is the anglicized version of the Hindustani word and as a colloquial Indian English word with this meaning, it appears in the Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases (1903).[1] Banditry is criminal activity involving robbery by groups of armed bandits. The East India Company established the Thuggee and Dacoity Department in 1830, and the Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts, 1836–1848 were enacted in British India under East India Company rule. Areas with ravines or forests, such as Chambal and Chilapata Forests, were once known for dacoits.


The word "dacoity", the anglicized version of the Hindustani word ḍakaitī (historically spelled dakaitee, Hindi डकैती or Urdu ڈکیتی or Bengali ডাকাতি, or Odiya ଡକାୟତି ), comes from ḍākū (historically spelled dakoo, Hindi: डाकू, Urdu: ڈاکو, meaning "armed robber") or Bengali ḍakat (ডাকাত, or Odiya ଡକାୟତି).

In Urdu, ḍākū ڈاکو is singular and ḍakait ڈکیت plural for bandits. The crime of banditry is known as dakaitee ڈکیتی.

In Hindi dacoity (Hindi: डकैती ḍakaitī, Urdu: ڈکیتی ḍakaitī, Bengali: ডাকাতি ḍakati, or Odiya ଡକାୟତି) means "armed robbery". In Tamil Nadu, the crime of banditry is known as "Dakalti".

The term dacoit (Hindi: डकैत ḍakait, Urdu: ڈکیت ḍakait, Bengali: ডাকাত ḍākāt , or Odiya ଡକାୟତି) means "a bandit", according to the OED ("A member of a class of robbers in India and Burma, who plunder in armed bands.") Dacoits existed in Burma as well as in India - Rudyard Kipling's fictional Private Mulvaney hunted Burmese dacoits in "The Taking of Lungtungpen". Sax Rohmer's criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu also employed Burmese dacoits as his henchmen. The term also applied, according to the OED, to "pirates who formerly infested the Ganges between Calcutta and Burhampore".

Indian police forces use "Known Dacoit" (K.D.) as a label to classify criminals.

The dacoity have had a large impact in the Morena and Chambal regions in Madhya Pradesh.


A family of Indian dacoits

India's Phoolan Devi[2] authored an autobiography and the movie Bandit Queen, released in 1994, was based on her life.

Dadua was one of the most infamous dacoits in U.P. and M.P. states, having very strong political links. His son Veer Sing is an MLA and brother Bal Kumar patel is an MP. His nephew Ram Singh is also an MLA.

Daku Man Singh Roopa Pandit committed over 1,000 armed robberies, 185 murders, and many ransom kidnappings between 1939 and 1955.[3] He was involved in 90 police encounters and killed 32 police officers.[4]

Daku Paan Singh Tomar was another infamous dacoit in Chambal. He was an international athlete before he was a dacoit. Other well known dacoits are Jagga Jatt and Sucha Singh Soorma from Punjab.

Veerappan evaded authorities for decades until he was shot and killed in 2004.[5][6] He was active for a period of years in an area covering 6,000 km² in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Chambal dacoit Nirbhay Singh Gujjar achieved national infamy before being killed in 2005.[7]

Other infamous dacoits were Sultana Daku in the Bijnor district, and Dhira, mostly active in present Amritsar, particularly in the Majitha area.

Protection measures[edit]

In Madhya Pradesh State, women belonging to a village defence group have been issued firearm permits to fend off dacoity. The chief minister of the state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, recognised the role the women had played in defending their villages without guns. He stated that he wanted to enable these women to better defend both themselves and their villages, and issued the gun permits to advance this goal.[8]

Popular culture[edit]

As the dacoits flourished through the 1950s–1970s, they were the subject of several films made during this era, beginning with Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Raj Kapoor’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960), and Sunil Dutt's Mujhe Jeene Do (1963).[9] Other films in this genre were Khote Sikkay (1973), Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971), and Kuchhe Dhaage (1973) both by Raj Khosla; the latter inspired the film Sholay (1975), where the character of Gabbar Singh was played by Amjad Khan. Sholay became a classic in the genre, and its success led to a surge in films in this genre, including Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978) once again with Amitabh Bachchan, and Amjad Khan.

Punjabi biopic Jatt Jeona Morh about the noted dacoit Jatt Jeona Morh, was made in 1991; also in that same year came Jagga Daku, based on a noted outlaw and dacoit during the British Raj, Jagga Daku.

A Hindi novel पैंसठ लाख की डकैती (Painstth Lakh ki Dacoity, 1977) was written by Surender Mohan Pathak; it was translated as The 65 Lakh Heist.

Dacoits armed with pistols and swords appear in Age of Empires III: Asian Dynasties.

They frequently appeared in the French language Bob Morane series of novels by Henri Vernes, principally as the main thugs or assassins of the hero's recurring villain, Mr. Ming.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ HereThe genesis of dacoity [armed robbery by a gang] in Chambal valley [north-central India] has been a popular theme too (Bhaduri, 1972; Khan, 1981; Jatar, 1980; Katare, 1972). Again, most explanations have simply suggested feudal exploitation as the cause that provoked many people of this region to take to arms. The fact that many gangs operating in this valley were composed of higher castes and wealthy people appears to suggest that feudalism may only be a partial explanation of dacoity in Chambal valley. (Defined by Arvind Verma, in Jul-Dec 2008) "Anglo-Indian" refers to the language, or linguistic usage. See Yule, Henry and Burnell, Arthur Coke (1886) Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive J. Murry, London; reprinted 1903; see page page 290 of the 1903 edition for "dacoit".
  2. ^ Phoolan Devi; Marie-Therese Cuny & Paul Rambali. "The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend". Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-59228-641-6. 
  3. ^ Staff (5 September 1955) "India: Dead Man" Time magazine
  4. ^ Austa, Sanjay (23 August 2003) "Daku Raja becomes devta" The Sunday Tribune Spectrum section
  5. ^ "Veerappan, the man behind 124 murders". Hindustan Times. 2002. 
  6. ^ "'Treasure hunt' for bandit's loot". BBC News. October 22, 2004. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  7. ^ "The 'Last Lion of Chambal' gunned down by police". www.southasianpost.com. September 20, 2005. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "Indian Women Granted Gun Permits to Fend Off Armed Robbers" LearnAboutGuns.com
  9. ^ "THE REAL LIFE HERO". Screen (magazine). Jun 6, 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Phoolan Devi, with Marie-Therese Cuny, and Paul Rambali, The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2006 ISBN 978-1-59228-641-6
  • Mala Sen, India's Bandit Queen: The true Story of Phoolan Devi, HarperCollins Publishers (September 1991) ISBN 978-0-00-272066-3.
  • G. K. Betham, The Story of a Dacoity, and the Lolapaur Week: An Up-Country Sketch. BiblioBazaar, 2008. ISBN 0-559-47369-9.
  • Shyam Sunder Katare, Patterns of dacoity in India: a case study of Madhya Pradesh. S. Chand, 1972.
  • Mohammad Zahir Khan, Dacoity in Chambal Valley. National, 1981.

External links[edit]