The Dacoits and the Colonel

In post-independence India, there were dacoits who terrorized and looted at will. There were partial to plundering marriage parties as cash and jewelry were frequently carried in large amounts by the people coming back from a wedding, which was generally the dowry given by the bride’s family. An extremely wealthy businessman from Patiala was getting his daughter married to a family in Sangrur. It was expected that a huge amount of jewelry, cash and other valuables would be a part of the dowry. The informant of the dacoits had conveyed to them that the wedding procession would proceed back in a bus and a car, and that all the valuables would be in the car following the bus. The businessman played smart and diverted the bus and car to the Railway Station and sent the wedding party back by train, leaving the car and bus behind. 

A young, newly married Major of the Indian Army was traveling from Patiala to Sangrur along the route that was supposed to be taken by the wedding entourage. Just by chance, his car was following a bus near Bhawanigarh, the stronghold of the dacoits. The dacoits stopped the car and  pointed guns at the Major, yelling at him to hand over whatever he had, they even dragged his wife out of the car and snatched her jewelry after shooting him in the leg. That was when they realized their mistake and vanished from the scene. The Major somehow managed to drive his car back to his regiment in Sangrur. When his Commanding Officer heard of this, he was infuriated. The Major told him that the dacoits were bragging that they had political connections and nobody could incarcerate them.

The CO, with his men, reached the hideout of the dacoits in an armored tank and shouted for the dacoits to surrender. The dacoits started firing at the army men, not realizing that the tank and its occupants would be unharmed. The dacoits were lying down in a sugar cane field. The CO repeatedly asked them to surrender and warned them that he would take the tank into the fields. The dacoits continued to fire, the CO ordered the tank to enter the sugar cane field. The inevitable happened, the dacoits were crushed and killed. A court of enquiry was ordered against the CO, but no evidence could be unearthed as the local people and the police did not testify. In fact, they were rejoicing at the demise of their tormentors. The CO himself told me about this incident, he had no regrets about retiring at the same rank. He was the one who offered me my first drink of Scotch (I was sixteen years old) when I visited him with my Uncle. They both agreed that a young man should share the first drink with his family.


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