Almost four decades after the Behmai massacre where 'Bandit Queen' Phoolan Devi allegedly killed 20 people in Behmai village as a revenge of her rape, a trial court in Kanpur, which was expected to pronounce its verdict on the case on Saturday, will now give its judgement on January 24.
The delay in the judgement has been attributed to the main diary in the case which is currently missing. The main-accused Phoolan Devi was shot dead back in 2001 in New Delhi just outside her bungalow. The judgement of the Court will hence, pertain against the other four accused Posha, Bhikha, Vishwanath and Shayambabu.
Popularly known as Bandit Queen for her bravery, Phoolan Devi was born in a low-caste family and was married away by her parents when she was just eleven in exchange for a cow. After a few years of marriage, Phoolan Devi ran away from her home and joined a gang of bandits. As she rose in the ranks, Phoolan Devi became popular for her aids to the lower castes and became to be known as a 'legend'.
Allegedly, Phoolan Devi was gang-raped by the Thakur men in Behmai for two weeks. When she returned back to her gang, she led them to the Behmai village on February 14, 1981, to seek revenge. Phoolan Devi and her gang disguised as police officers marched into a wedding and demanded her abusers to be produced. As they could not be found, Phoolan Devi and her gang shot 20 men to death.
The killings provoked massive outrage across the country. Amid the outrage, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh VP Singh resigned from his post. The police failed to locate Phoolan Devi and her gang. Phoolan Devi was glorified for her act of 'righteous rebellion' by the media and was also conferred with the title of 'Devi' then. It is also said that the massive police manhunt of Phoolan Devi and her gang failed because she had the support of the poor people in the region.
In 1983, two years after the killings, Phoolan Devi surrendered to the Madhya Pradesh Police. She was charged with 48 crimes including dacoity and kidnapping. Phoolan spent the next 11 years in jail, as the various charges against her were tried in court. In 1994, the then State government led by the Samajwadi Party withdrew all charges against her and she was released.
Subsequently, Phoolan Devi entered politics as she contested elections on Samajwadi Party's ticket and was elected twice to the Lok Sabha from Mirzapur constituency. In 2001, she was shot dead at the gates of her official bungalow in New Delhi by former rival bandits whose kinsmen had been slaughtered at Behmai.