Born as Paan Singh Tomar (1932 – October 1, 1981) in Bhidausa district Morena in Madhya Pradesh, Paan Singh Tomar was an Indian athlete and a seven-time national steeplechase champion during the 1950s and 1960s. His brother was Harsh Singh Tomar and father Havaldar Singh Tomar. He represented India at the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan. Tomar also served in the Indian Army, and it was in the army where his talent was first recognized. After premature retirement from the army he settled back in his native village. Later he gained notoriety as a Chambal Valley dacoit when he resorted to banditry after a land feud in his village.
He was killed on October 1, 1981 in a police ambush. A biopic, Paan Singh Tomar, was released in 2012 to much critical acclaim.
He is survived by his second son Souram Singh, a 53-year-old retired Army Subedar and his 75-year-old wife Indira who lives far from Chambal Valley for fear of being killed by Paan Singh Tomar's old enemies or the police.
Paan Singh Tomar was born in village Bhidausa (Morena, Madhya Pradesh) in a Tomar Rajput family. Hailing from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, He eventually became a seven time national steeplechase champion during the 1950s and 1960s. He created the national steeplechase record in the 1958 National Games in Cuttack with a timing of 9 minutes and 12.4 seconds. Later he broke his own record in the 1964 Open Meet in Delhi with a timing of 9 minutes and 4 seconds. His record in the 3,000 m steeplechase stood for almost a decade. He is considered a legendary sports person in India.
According to Joginder Singh Saini, former chief national coach, the 6 foot tall Tomar could cross water jump in a single movement, whereas other athletes stepped on the obstacle to regain balance.
Tomar dropped out from school after 5th grade. He could not pursue his studies further due to lack of money. Evidence shows Tomar lost his father at the age of 6. Tomar had to join the army to fulfill his financial duties towards his family. At the time when Tomar joined the Indian Army, the monthly wage of a soldier was Rs. 9.75.
In his native village Tomar was involved in a land dispute with his relatives over ancestral property for many years. Despite his fame as an athlete he was provided with little or no assistance from the police and local administration. After many incidents of harassment, heated arguments and death threats from his relatives he eventually turned to banditry and became a dacoit in the Chambal Valley.
Some suggest it was after he fearlessly gave an interview to a local newspaper in Gwalior that the administration started to take his case seriously, having considered this an act of defiance. At the time he had a reward of 10,000 rupees on his head. As per an interview he gave, he did not want to kill the eight gujjars whose family tip off lead to the killing of his elder brother Matadin, but he could not stop his nephew Balwanta who was Matadin's son. During the entire interview, he was toying with the bullet. During the initial years of his career, he was not into steeplechase running. He was national champion in steeplechase for seven years. His national record of nine minutes and four seconds in steeplechase 3000m remained unbroken for 10 years. He was not allowed to fight 1962 and 1965 wars as he was a sportsman. His career in sports ended in 1972.
Years after Retirement
After taking premature retirement, he went to his village Bhidausa. There arose a land dispute between him and Babu Singh who was the head of a 250 member family and had seven licensed guns. To solve the dispute a panchayat was held with a collector. Paan Singh Tomar was asked to give 3000 rupees to Babu Singh for his own land, and he obliged. However, his nephew retaliated as he was paying money for his own land. The collector promised to come after 15 days. In the meantime, Babu Singh came to his house and beat his mother, who was 95 years old. His mother asked him to take revenge by morning if he was born out of her womb. Balwanta and Paan Singh Tomar went to the fields. Paan shot Babu after which he ran for about a kilometre and fell down. A conversation ensued between Paan and Babu, after which he was let off, but Balwanta killed him with another shot.
According to newspaper reports it was reported that Paan Singh was shot when he was alive and was asking for water: "Any Rajput here who could please give me some water"; Hawaldar Tribhuwan Singh started walking towards Paan Singh with some water but the Circle inspector shouted at him: "Tribhuwan, dacoit has no caste". However, the police have denied this.