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The life and times of Phoolan Devi - India's Bandit Queen

Updated on: 10 August,2019 06:00 AM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |

On the 56th birth anniversary of Phoolan Devi, here a quick recap of her life

The life and times of  Phoolan Devi - India's Bandit Queen

In a file photo, India's "Bandit Queen" Phoolan Devi unveils plans for a non-political organisation to fight social tyranny and uphold the rights of the poor at a news conference in New Delhi. Pic/AFP

On the 56th birth anniversary of India's famous Bandit Queen, we put together the early life and times of the dacoit turned politician Phoolan Devi

  • Phoolan Devi was born on August 10, 1963, in Ghura Ka Purwa, a small village in Uttar Pradesh. She was the fourth of six children but only she and one older sister survived to adulthood.
  •  Phoolan was feisty right since her childhood. When she was 11, her cousin sold their only asset - a neem tree on their small land. Furious Phoolan staged a sit-in on the land and did not give way when the family elders tried to use force to drag them home.
  • At the same age, she was married to a man in his 30s who raped her days after her wedding. Her health deteriorated to such an extent that she was taken back to her home but when she regained health, she was forced to return to the marital home. She was finally freed after her husband took to the second wife.
  •  At the age of 18, she was gang-raped by high-caste outlaws after the gang she belonged to was attacked by rivals. She was locked up in Behmai, and for three weeks, she was gang-raped every day.
  • As a result of this incident, Phoolan became a gang-leader in her own right and sought revenge. In 1981 Devi and her gang returned to the village where she had been raped. She recognised two men who raped her and sought whereabouts of the others. When they refused to divulge details, she rounded up 22 Thakur caste villagers, including two of her rapists, and executed them.
  • The Behmai massacre provoked outrage across the country catching the attention of political leaders of that time. A large-scale police manhunt was launched but failed to locate Phoolan Devi. The media dubbed her Bandit Queen at this stage.
  • She went absconding for two years compelling the government to negotiate a surrender. Her demands included land to be given to her, her gang members were not to be sentenced to death but were to offer 8 years of jail and be free thereafter.
  • Phoolan was charged with 48 crimes, including 30 charges of dacoity (banditry) and kidnapping. Her trial was delayed for 11 years, during which time she remained in prison.
  • In 1996 after 2 years after her release, she stood for election for Samajwadi Party from the Mirzapur area in Uttar Pradesh and ultimately won the election and served as an MP.
  • On 25 July 2001, Phoolan was shot dead by three masked gunmen outside of her Delhi bungalow. She was hit five times - three shots to her head and two to her body. She was taken to a nearby hospital but was declared dead. The prime suspect, Sher Singh Rana, allegedly claimed to have murdered Phoolan Devi in revenge for Behmai massacre.

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