The legend of Natwarwal

Muhammad Asif Rashid
August 5, 2017 OPINION 199 Views
The legend of Natwarwal

This world has always been filled up with two types of people:- First Type — who has the art of befooling the others and Second Type — who has the habit of getting befooled by the First Type. The First Type is known as CONMAN. A Conman is a man who cheats or tricks someone gaining their trust and persuading them to believe something that is not true. In history there have been a number of conmen who have really stood out for either the wealth they amassed or the ease with which they tricked people but if we have to look for a man like them in recent past then we don’t need to go anywhere as we have the Greatest Conman of All Time who happened to be born in India — Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava popularly known as NATWARLAL.
Born in Bihar in 1912, Natwarlal earlier a lawyer by profession is considered to be the Greatest Conman of India ever who with his cleaver shyster and sly ways repeatedly sold the TAJ MAHAL (more than 03 times), the RED FORT, the RASHTRAPATI BHAVAN and also the PARLIAMENT HOUSE of INDIA along with its 545 sitting members by forging President Rajendra Prasad’s signatures, besides duping hundreds of people of crores of rupees. He was a master of disguises and used novel ideas to cheat and was also a master in forging signatures of famous personalities. He is also said to have cheated number of industrialists including the TATAS, the BIRLAS and also DHIRUBHAI AMBANI taking from them huge money in cash, posing as social worker or needy person. He had also duped many shop-owners with lakhs of rupees, paying them by cheque and demand drafts, which were later found to be forged.
Natwarlal discovered his incredible skill when he forged the signatures of his neighbour who would often send him to deposit his bank drafts. By the time the neighbour came to know about the duping, Natwarlal had already fled Bihar for Calcutta with Rs.1000. In Calcutta, he tried his hands at a failed cloth business after which he got into stock broking. He was first caught by the Calcutta police when he sold 9 tons of iron belonging to the Government, using forged documents. He served a rigorous 6 months in prison. After being released, Natwarlal started with something that came to be known as ‘prostitute poisoning’. He would dope the prostitutes with drugs and eventually flee with their money. He was caught again but never faced jail time. He then began to do small-time con jobs at railway stations, mostly issuing fake Government documents, release orders and cheques to vanish the goods. His immense success in textile conning in the 40’s earned him the name ‘Natwarlal’. The name stuck and soon became synonymous with cheating in the country. The 50’s and 60’s saw the exponential rise of Natwarlal. He was moving throughout the country, conning jewelers, watchmakers, traders, bankers, and of course, the Government. He duped countless rich watch-sellers in Delhi and U.P., often posing as the secretary of a famous politician. Even a vague estimate of how much money he made off watchmakers alone ranges in lakhs.
He was wanted by 10 State Police Departments in more than 100 cases and was sentenced to 113 years in prison in total by different courts but has hardly spent 20 years in prison. He made daring escapes from different jails. He was arrested nine times in his life but every time he was able to break out of jail and run away and his 1957 escape from the Kanpur jail is rated to be one of the most famous jail-breaks in the world. He had a sub-inspector’s dress smuggled into his cell. He got his cell guards to open the door by handing over them a suit case filled with money and he walked out wearing the sub-inspector’s uniform. Thinking he was a police officer, the guards at the gate saluted him and let him out. He got into a car, drove away and disappeared but when the jailor opened the suit case they found it to be full of newspapers instead of money. The last time he was arrested was in 1996 and was 84 years old at that time. But on 24 June 1996 he again managed to give the police a slip at New Delhi railway station despite being on the wheelchair using octogenarian while being transported from Kanpur jail to AIIMS for treatment under police escort after which he was never seen again by anyone. Till date there’s no confirmed information about his family, the only bit of information being that his daughter is married and settled in the U.S.
Often when Natwarlal was not on a run or duping the rich, he would visit his village and distribute clothes, free food, and sometimes even cash. The people of his village still look up to him as a Robin Hood who looted the rich and fed the poor. In fact even now his village thinks he has done nothing to defame them. They even say that he did not commit violence. He has not harmed anyone, he robbed only the rich. He was a twisted genius. They take a pride that he belonged to their village and have decided to put up a statue of him as his monument, at the place, where his house once stood. In fact, they say that Bihar has produced three famous people — Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash Narayan and Natwarlal.
Like his life, his death is also interesting and full of mystery. He conned people even in his death. In 2009, his lawyer requested that more than 100 charges pending against Natwarlal be dropped claiming that Natwarlal died on Saturday July 25, 2009. However, Natwarlal’s brother Ganga Prasad Srivastava subsequently claimed to have cremated Natwarlala himself in 1996 at Ranchi which was 13 years before the lawyer made his announcement. How did the conman revive to die again, is a question that remains still unsolved. Thus the actual time and year of his death is yet uncertain so in the typical Natwarlal tradition, it won’t be wrong to say that Natwarlal is STILL on RUN, living up to his LEGEND.
With each passing day, the Legend of Natwarlal has grown more and more and over the years myths about his daring deeds have mixed with facts making it even more difficult to piece his criminal history together. He has attained the status of an icon and as a conman he is unmatched in the annals of Indian crime. For more than five decades Natwarlal’s name had become synonymous with cheating in India. His exploits are often compared with Frank Abagnale and Victor Lustig and many fraudsters say they got inspired from his life. He was also the inspiration behind the making of 1979’s Blockbuster Hindi Film Mr. Natwarlal starring Amitabh Bachchan. JURM — a popular weekly crime based television programme aired by Aaj Tak, made episodes on his life and story in 2004.
He had so confidence even at the age of 84 when he was last time arrested before he disappeared forever that he told the police officer, “There are hundreds of thieves who pose as me. But I’m the real Natwarlal. Leave me free for an hour and I will get thousands and thousands of rupees from the same street where I took money, and the people would give it to me willingly.”
Love or Hate, the Natwarlal was a legend and probably the sharpest conman ever lived not only in India but in the whole world, who stands out for his amusing ways and notoriousness in the history of conmen.

Related articles