Saturday, August 10, 2002

Gangu Daku’s unusual transformation
A.N. Aggarwal

IT has been said that between a genius and a madman the difference is only that of a hair's breadth. One Gangu Daku (dacoit) was hounded by the police. He was a dreaded criminal during his time. But if we examine his character with a little care, we will find in him the same qualities — fearlessness, undaunted courage, capacity to organise, self-reliance, an indomitable will daring and pluck — that go to make a great general of an army. And he would have been a general but for one small circumstance that wholly changed the course of his life. He was a handsome, tall young man. When barely 20 years of age he, with a couple of his village friends, decided to join the army. Wearing new clothes and with stout bamboo sticks in their hands, they left their village for Gurdaspur, their district headquarters, where they planned to enlist.

However, fate had ordained something else. As he was passing a police station on road to Gurdaspur, he saw the Station House Officer sitting on a cot under a banyan tree investigating a case. A man was being mercilessly beaten. Drawn by the cries of this man, the boys foolishly turned in that direction, though they had no business to go there.


The boys found that the man who was being beaten was a low caste sweeper of their own village. He was lying face down on the ground. Two men were standing on his hands and two on his legs, and two were belabouring him with iron-shod shoes and police batons. Gangu committed the indiscretion of inquiring: "Why is this poor man being beaten?"

The police officer replied in an abusive way, "Is he your father or grandfather? You appear to be his confidant." Addressing a constable, he said, "Take him. We will 'question' him also."

When the constable advanced towards him, Gangu gave him a swirling blow on the head with his iron-shod bamboo stick and told the sweeper, "Get up, you fool! Why are you letting yourself be beaten like a dog?" These words acted on the sweeper as if a doctor had injected into him a powerful elixir. He knocked down the already unnerved policemen, and taking a big cudgel from the hands of one of them, hit the head of the SHO. with it. The constables made themselves scarce. The SHO. was left as dead and there was now no question of Gangu and his comrades going to the army for enlistment. They had no choice but to go underground, and thus a life of great glory and honour was wrecked by a single rash act.

Here ends the story as told by Professor Jagmohan Lal (a disciple of the Great Master) but his story would be incomplete if I failed to mention the circumstances under which Gangu died, and how boldly he faced his death. Gangu had met the Great Master and given up by his criminal ways. Most probably he hid himself in some uninhabited hilly tract after the breaking up of his band of dacoits. But this much is known about him — that he gave good time to meditation and attained great success in it.

Soon after the passing away of the Great Master, Gangu came out of his hiding place. With his Master gone, he felt that life was no longer worth living. As a consequence, he gave himself up to the police and was accused of a number of dacoities, murders and other offenses, and was ordered to be hanged. He filed no appeal against this order. Gangu was then removed to Ambala jail for execution. The Inspector-General of Prisons who happened to visit the jail at this time, while passing in front of his cell, cursorily inquired, "And who is this prisoner?"

"He is Gangu, the bandit, now sentenced to death," replied the jailer.

"My God!" exclaimed the Inspector, "He escaped three times from Lahore Central Jail, and you are keeping him here in this cell. Transfer him immediately to the condemned prisoner's cell, and take care that you put a double guard on him."

Gangu was about to say something but kept quiet.

"Have you any request to make?" asked the Inspector.

"No, nothing. Hang me as early as possible," Gangu replied.

When the Inspector had left, the jailer came to transfer him to the other cell. "Khan Sahib! Listen to me," said Gangu. "You may transfer me or not, as you wish but I will not escape now." He removed three of the iron bars of the back window of his cell from their sockets and said, "See I had made every arrangement for my escape a couple of nights back, but my Great Master appeared before me and stopped me from doing so. He said that my time to depart from the world had now arrived." Three days later he was taken to the gallows. During this time he had been continuously engaged in bhajan and simran. In the morning, when the jail doctor examined him, he was found to have increased in weight by two pounds. They asked him if he had any last request to make.

"Only this, that my dead body be sent to Beas to be cremated and disposed of at the Feet of my Great Master," Gangu replied.

He ascended the gallows as though he was going to ride the horse for his marriage procession. When the hangman delayed in adjusting the rope, Gangu took it from his hands, put it round his neck himself, and helped the hangman to tie the knot. He embraced death with a great glow of spirituality on his face.