AMITABH SRIVASTAVA | 12 JULY, 2020
The One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
While the entire media, social and otherwise, has been focusing on the fare of criminals killed in encounters, there is one VIP killer who is not only alive but also inspiring a biopic.
Two days after killing Phoolan Devi, dacoit turned MP of the Samajwadi Party at her VIP bungalow in 2001, the young and charismatic Sher Singh Rana announced that he would surrender at the Press Club in Dehradun. This while the entire police force of Delhi and Uttarakhand were on his trail.
A day earlier Sher Singh Rana had told the Chief Reporter of Amar Ujala, a Hindi newspaper,that he had decided to surrender at the Press Club because he did not want to be killed in an encounter.
I was posted in Dehradun by the Hindustan Times at that time but before we could reach the Press Club. a journalist from Aaj Tak informed the cops and he was arrested as soon as he reached the Press Club.
It was surprising even then as to how he was able to evade the cops despite the high profile murder. He had contested the elections for the DAV College Students Union a year before, and was not a gangster who even tried to keep out of the public eye. His face was well known and hence the cops seeming apathy was a matter of speculation in journalistic circles in those days.
After his arrest we waited for the police briefing that was postponed for two hours, while the Dainik Jagran and Amar Ujala journalists engaged in a below the belt attack on each other with the former accusing Amar Ujala of harbouring criminals simply because Rana had spoken to the newspaper.
The rivalry was not restricted to the media, but as we learnt later Rana was whisked away to Delhi by the Special Cell of Delhi police and locked up in Tihar jail after a bitter fight over who arrested him --- the Delhi police or the Uttarakhand police. When in actual fact, Rana himself had called the media, saying he wanted to surrender and announcing the venue and the date.
In the case of Vikas Dubey lobbies tried to play the Brahmin card in UP, but despite this the increasing pressure ensured that he and his accomplices were killed in a steady stream of encounters. Leaving no witnesses to spill the beans on his extensive operations and connections.
Rana himself played the Rajput card to the hilt, telling the police and the media that he had killed Phoolan Devi in vendetta for her murder of uppset caste men when she was an active dacoit. It earned him good brownie points clearly.
In 2004 Rana managed to escape from Tihar jail and according to his own admission in his book 'Jail Diary: Tihar Se Kabul-Kandahar Tak' he travelled all over Bangladesh and Pakistan traveling on forged passports to ultimately reach Afghanistan. Here in yet another huge publicity gesture he dug out mud from the tomb of Prithviraj Chauhan, the last King of the Chauhan Dynasty, and brought it backs in sacks to India.
After he returned to India he and his many supporters in Roorkee helped build a huge temple in memory of Prithviraj Chauhan.
It is his exploits in this book that reportedly inspired producer director and actor Ajay Devgn to plan a biopic on him as a tribute to Prithviraj Chauhan. and play the role of Sher Singh Rana.
"What caught Ajay's attention is the interesting life of Rana, who escaped from Tihar jail in 2004, and claimed to have gone to Afghanistan to bring back the remains of the 12th century Indian ruler, Prithviraj Chauhan, before he (Rana) was caught in Kolkata in 2006," said a news report in Mid-day.
Rana claimed high moral ground in his book, insisting that he was not a professional criminal and had never killed anyone except Phoolan Devi. Interestingly, he even sent an impersonator to jail on his behalf. After he was actually arrested a DGP told me in Dehradun that even before he had been arrested Rana had sent a man to jail with his name on his behalf.
"We would not have known this had it not been for an alert inspector who after seeing Sher Singh Rana on TV said that if this was Phoolan Devi’s killer then who was the prisoner lodged in Haridwar jail calling himself Sher Singh Rana,” the police officer told me.
In August 2014, Rana was awarded life sentence and a fine of one lakh after a 10-year trial.
Having made his arrest and trial a matter of Rajput pride, Sher Singh Rana formed the Rashtravadi Janlok Party (RJP) and claimed after contesting the state assembly elections in Haryana recently that his party had scored enough votes in Haryana to stop any party from attaining a majority.
Rana has been continuously on bail and travelling all over the country, addressing political meetings in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi where he put up candidates in alliance with the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal in the recent elections.
In 2018 he was granted bail to get married to Pratima Singh, daughter of a former Madhya Pradesh legislator, at Roorkee in Haridwar. Now he has a one and a half year old daughter.
Today Rana's election speeches are all over U-Tube where he is attacking every party against whom his party has contested.
Having evaded death so far Rana has become God fearing.
Talking to the media after his wedding, he said,"“I have left (my fate) on God, as I have no idea how long will it take the case to settle."