The Bandit Queen
Phoolan Devi, known as the Bandit Queen, was born on 10 August 1963 at Gorha Ka Purwa, Uttar Pradesh, India. Aged 11, she was married off to a much older man who, by one account, raped her before sending her back to her family. In the late 70s she was kidnapped by a gang of bandits (Dacoits) whose leader, Baboo, a member of the Thakur caste, was murdered by his deputy Vikram when he tried to rape Devi. She then married Vikram. When the Dacoits raided the village of her first husband she went along, stabbed him and left him to bleed to death.
Devi soon became an integral part of the gang, accompanying them on ransacking and kidnapping raids. An ex-convict, Shri Ram, joined the gang and tensions arose which, in September 1979, led to Shri Ram killing Vikram and kidnapping Devi, imprisoning her at Behmai where she was gang-raped. After three weeks, Devi managed to escape and, with some of Vikram’s cohorts, formed a new gang, which committed violent robberies in north and central India, mainly targeting upper-caste people. On 14 February 1981 she returned to Behmai with her gang, all dressed in police uniforms. She demanded her kidnappers be produced and, when not all of them appeared, she ordered the murders of the Thakur caste men in the village — 22 in total.
A massive manhunt was begun in the wake of the massacre but Devi was not found. In February 1983 the Gandhi government negotiated Devi’s surrender. Three hundred policemen arrested her before a crowd of 10,000. Devi faced 48 charges but it was 11 years before she came to trial, spending the time in prison in ill health.
Saturday 14 February 1981
Devi was released on parole in 1994, married Umaid Singh, her sister’s husband, published her autobiography (despite being illiterate) and launched Eklavya Sena, an organization to teach the lower castes self-defence. In 1996 she was elected to serve in parliament. On 25 July 2001 she was shot dead outside her New Delhi home.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
After every crime Devi visited a Durga temple and thanked the goddess for her safe return.