Who has not heard the name of Gabbar Singh, the infamous dakait of Chambal region. But in the Chambal, Gabbar was not the only one to whom people know and remember, the list is long, in hundreds and more where groups of robbers lived once and the whole administration and Government of India were too puzzled with all these.
Say it for Phoolan Devi or Nirbhay Gurjar or many others. Chambal area is still too isolated where a river Chambal flows and bifurcate the area among three different states namely Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. This bifurcation was a heaven for criminals.
But the story doesn’t end here. Sometimes we get some facts so powerful that we neglect other facts associated.
Chambal is the same unfortunate region for which probably we can say this. When we meet Suresh Bhai (80-years-old) who was a dacoit decades ago, but got converted to non-violence and surrendered, we find that any kind of transformation is possible.
Since then, he followed Gandhian thoughts and involved in cleaning and sanitation wherever he goes.
A year ago, a picture on social media came from a freelance journalist and researcher Shah Alam, he brought the picture of house of Phoolan Devi where nothing much was available to even eat.
He also brought many more unseen pictures of lifestyle in Chambal, about which people generally know nothing.
Shah Alam didn’t stop his journey, he roamed all over Chambal with his cycle on a special mission to explore Chambal.
His mind and heart was pushing him to know the history of this isolated region and what he received was something wonderful.
He got to know about the unparalleled contribution of Chambal region in India’s freedom struggle. He found old documents of underground organisations of revolutionaries during freedom struggle and many other magazines, documents, all collected by people.
Now, these documents got a place and a ‘Chambal Archive’ has been built. To see his efforts, many hands joined him in helping this Archive taking shape.
Place for the archive was contributed, documents and materials and books for the archive was collected by people and with this a full archive with more than 20000 books and more than 4000 hand written letters are available including few books are as old as of 100 years ago.
There are also collection of postal stamps and coins. Space to build archive and most of the documents was generously contributed by the local activist Kishan Porwal who share this dream of Chambal Archive with Shah Alam.
During this exploration, he also met many people who are carrying the legacy of revolutionaries and he started remembering those through organizing programs and Jan Sansad (People’s Parliament) in Chambal that witnessed presence of hundreds of local people.
Now, on the coming 26 September, when Chambal Archive would be taking its interim shape to get inaugurated, Shah Alam says that the day was decided as it is also birth anniversary of Pandit Sundar Lal, who was a distinguished freedom fighter.
Sundar Lal, after 1947, started working for communal harmony and had traveled to many countries in peace delegations. He was very close to Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh too.
His book, British Raj in India was immediately made banned by British after it was published. Chmbal Archive has two sets of this banned book too.
With this passion in heart, Shah Alam cycled more than 2500 kilometers in Chambal region and brought a new hope to history of this region that was largely ignored.
He explored many untold facts of the region that coming generations will get the opportunity to know about.