Phoolan Devi: The tale of a Bandit Queen

Briti Roy

New Delhi, Jan 18: A Kanpur trial Court on Saturday is expected to pronounce its verdict on the Behmai massacre of 20 people in the Behmai village, allegedly by bandit Phoolan Devi, about four decades ago, on the revenge mission of her rape.

The Court will deliver the judgment against the four surviving accused- Posha, Bhikha, Vishwanath and Shayambabu, while Posha is still in jail and the rest, are out on bail.

Phoolan Devi was shot dead in 2001 in New Delhi outside her MP bungalow.

The massacre

The massacre case of Behmai is about the killing of 20 people of the Behmai village, near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in 1981.

The dacoit of the state, Phoolan Devi and her gang carried out the killings as to revenge her alleged rape by two men- Lala Ram and Sri Ram of the Thakur caste, the then-dominant of the village.

Phoolan Devi raped, murdered accused no more; verdict of 39 years old Behmai massacre today

Who is Phoolan Devi

Phoolan Devi, mostly known as the Bandit Queen was popular for her bravery.

Referred as 'legend' by some, low-caste born Phoolan Devi was married at the age of eleven to a ruthless man in exchange for a cow. She escaped after several years of the marriage and joined a gang of bandits.

The beautiful bandit queen became legendary for the ruthless revenge on her abusers and Robin Hood-like aids to the lower castes.

The 'revenge'

At her 18, she was gang-raped by the Thakur men in Behmai for two weeks and left barren.

The lady named as the Saint Valentine's Day massacre, became the leader of her gang and led a notorious act of revenge on 14th February, 1981. After several months, Phoolan returned to Behmai to seek revenge.

On that evening, at a wedding, Phoolan marched as police officers with her gang and demanded her abusers be produced. As they not being found, Devi shot 20 men to their death.

Phoolan Devi and her gang carried out the killings as to revenge her alleged rape by two men- Lala Ram and Sri Ram, men of the upper caste of the village.

Reaction of the country

The massacre provoked outrage across the country. The then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, V P Singh resigned in the wake of the killings.

A massive police manhunt was launched but failed to locate Phoolan. It was said that the manhunt was not successful because she had the support of poor people in the region.

Devi was began to call Queen, as she was glorified by some of the Indian media and as an undaunted woman who struggled to survive in the men's' world.

Explained: What is the Behmai massacre

Jail term

Two years after the massacre, in 1983, she agreed to surrender to the authorities as she was in poor health and most of her gang members were dead. However, she surrendered to the Madhya Pradesh Police as she said she did not trust the Uttar Pradesh Police.

Also, she insisted that she would lay down her arms only before the pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and the goddess Durga and not to the police.

Phoolan Devi was charged with about forty-eight crimes including dacoity and kidnapping. She remained in prison as an undertrial as the trial was delayed for eleven years.

The MP

In 1995, Phoolan stood for election to the 11th Lok Sabha from the Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, one year after her release.

She contested the election as a member of the Samajwadi Party and won the election and served as an MP during the term of the 11th Lok Sabha.

Assassination

On 26 July 2001, Phoolan Devi was shot dead by three masked gunmen in New Delhi outside her MP bungalow. She was hit nine times and was declared dead when taken to a nearby hospital.

Later, Sher Singh Rana, the prime suspect surrendered to the police and claimed that he had murdered Devi in revenge for the Thakur-men she killed in the Behmai massacre.

On 14 August 2014, the court sentenced Rana to life in prison.

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