Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen
On February 14, 1981, the then Queen of Thieves, Phulan Devi, shot 20 Thakurs from the Behmai village in Kanpur’s Dehat area in Uttar Pradesh. An episode of revenge, the Behmai Massacre is one of the most gruesome violent attacks in India. Let us gather more about the truth behind this horrifying act.
Phulan Devi, the queen of thieves and politicians, was born on August 10, 1963, to the Mallah family of Jalaun district, UP.
Phulan Devi had to endure poverty during her childhood which was soon followed by an abusive marriage that took place even before she turned into an adult. After her difficult childhood and child marriage, Phulan joined a dacoit gang where again, she was abused and held hostage before being raped by a group of upper-caste dacoits. After escaping, she rallied a gang and killed 22 members of the village who were the perpetrators.
Phulan, with the help of her dacoit gang, led by Ram Avtar, Mustakim, Ramkesh, and Lall, raided a Behmai village on the Yamuna coast, shooting 20 Thakurs in line. More than anything, this was a rebellion against the upper-caste oppressors.
What makes the Behmai Massacre revolutionary is that the Mallahs, a low-caste community, came together to avenge the horrific deeds done to Phoolan Devi. They were ready to avenge because as per them, a woman of their community had ‘lost her honor and dignity’ while it should be considered the other way round. The perpetrator is someone who loses his humanity and dignity. Phoolan Devi openly accused the Thakurs who supported the rival gang members responsible for raping and torturing her.
Aware of the wrongs that needed to be corrected, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Vishwanath Pratap Singh resigned and accepted moral responsibility for the massacre.
Phoolan later reported to Madhya Pradesh State Police and surrendered. This was part of the amnesty struck between the then chief minister Arjun Singh and the bandit queen. She was imprisoned in Gwalior and Jabalpur prisons. Phoolan filed a lawsuit with the Uttar Pradesh Police over the incident and she contested an order from the Kanpur Dehat Court. However, she never appeared for the trial.
Subsequently, Phoolan was elected a member of parliament in the Samajwadi Party elections in 1996. She became a member of parliament and remained one till she was shot at her residence in 2001.
Until recently, trials of the accused in the Behmai Massacre were going on. However, its last witness died, Rajaram Singh passed away in 2020 due to chronic liver sickness. To this day, she is hailed as a valiant queen and a rebel. She is remembered as the most famous gangster who once ruled the Chambal Ravines.