Phoolan Devi

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The story of Phoolan Devi

PHOOLAN STORY - From margins to the headlines

Subodh.Ghildiyal New Delhi:

The Times of India Aug 09 2014

From abandoning her husband as a volatile underaged wife to being the dreaded Bandit Queen to becoming the mascot of empowerment, fortune conjured up a roller-coaster of a life to make Phoolan Devi a face in the faceless crowd.

It was about fields, crops, ravines, guns, rapes, raids. And even Parliament-from running away from law to becoming a lawmaker. It was about the transition from being on the margins to occupying the centre-stage.

The Phoolan saga started in Sheikpur Gurha hamlet on the banks of Yamuna in Jalaun as a minor protest of a little sister against cousin Maiyyadeen who had an eye on their land, resulting in her first brush with cops. The year was 1979, starting a tale that ended in the ravines.

Her mother Moola Devi still says that but for Maiyyadeen, Phulwa would not have become Phoolan.

It was a life made big by the poor girl stretching the defined frontiers of behaviour. Just like she stunned her society by leaving her husband, Phoolan raised eyebrows among dacoits as the “morhi“ (girl) wielding guns. Yet, it would not have been so grand but for the dimensions she gave to her actions.

The Behmai Massacre in 1981, the cold-blooded murder of 22 Thakurs--made to line up and shot at point blankturned her into Bandit Queen. The raid was in search of the Thakur dacoit duo of Lala RamSri Ram who led her gangrape for resisting their advances and escaping with her paramour Vikram Mallah.

Was it a lower caste Mallah who killed the feudal Thakurs, or was it a dacoit who avenged her humiliation by fellow outlaws who happened to be upper castes? The caste angularity to sexual assault defined Phoolan in her post-outlaw life when she joined politics under Mulayam Singh Yadav to become the face of Mandal commission for OBCs. That was in mid-90s. Her first introduction to caste came to caste came in the badlands. It was not a world with bandits bonding over guns and loot. Caste was as pernicious there as in the mainstream. Vikram joined hands with fellow Mallah Phoolan to challenge the depraved Lala Ram-Shri Ram. Her education in caste was as real as flesh. Behmai etched it in blood.

As Phoolan stomped Chambal like her kitchen garden, her legend grew “lady Robinhood“.

Behmai put UP on the edge. But no amount of search and raids could net her, no amount of ratting by envious rivals could trap her. She hung her rifle but on her own terms.

February 12, 1983 gave the world an iconic picture -of a pint-sized woman, sporting red bandana, holding a gun over her head and surrendering to law at a public function.

In jail for 11 years, then UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav played the catalyst in her evolution in the Mandal heat. He withdrew cases against her and used the prize catch to spread his appeal among Mandal castes.

In no time, the Mallah dacoit became the face of empowerment, winning Lok Sabha elections in 1996 and 1999 from Mirzapur.

It was in the shade of a settled life and an ever-growing legend that Phoolan, on July 25, 2001, was killed by Sher Singh Rana, a Thakur claiming to avenge Behmai.

The bullets brought to end a life that was already largerthan-life. And 13 years later, it beats human imagination that a story , so integral to the world of make-believe, walked in flesh and blood.

The murder of Phoolan Devi

How Rana drew close to Phoolan

Phoolan Devi: the plot and the murder. Chart: The Times of India
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18-MONTH WAIT - He had wormed his way into Phoolan's circle New Delhi:

The Times of India Aug 09 2014

The July 2001 fatal attack on Phoolan Devi was not the first time Sher Singh Rana tried to kill her. Police say a conspiracy had been afoot for at least one and a half years and Rana had checked into a CR Park guesthouse, close to where Phoolan lived, in 2000. He traced her routes and attempted to kill her for three days but failed, crime branch ACP Suresh Kaushik, who investigated the case, said.

Disappointed, Rana went back and drew an elaborate plan to kill Phoolan keeping in mind that she was an MP and had shifted to Ashoka Road, the most secure area in Delhi. He befriended Uma Kashyap, who headed a group called Eklavya Sena in Roorkee and was close to Phoolan. It opened the doors of Phoolan's house to him and he started visiting it often.

A few days before the murder, Rana's father withdrew his surety in a case involving his liquor shop, and a court ordered Rana to be sent to jail. Instead, Rana's aide Sharavan went to jail under his identity , giving him an alibi.

“On July 25, Rana, Uma and her husband Vijay left for Delhi from Roorkee in his green Maruti car (CIM 907). Three of Rana's aides accom panied them in a white Maruti car that had been robbed,“ Kaushik said. Rana reached Phoolan's house around 10.30am when she was getting ready to go to Parliament. She had sent her official car back as she wasn't ready and when Rana offered to drop her she agreed.

He dropped Phoolan to Parliament, came back to her residence and parked his car (907) near the gate and the other car, which was the getaway car, near Gole Dak Khana. He kept a lookout for Phoolan's car but she returned in another MP's car, taking him by surprise. With no time to pull on their `monkey caps', Rana and his accomplice approached Phoolan, and Rana shot her with a country weapon in the head. He then used a revolver to shoot her four more times. His accomplice shot and injured Phoolan's PSO Balinder Singh. The two then escaped with a third accomplice.

Because of the afternoon school rush, they had to abandon their car on Bhagwandas Road and flee in an auto. They met the other conspirators in Kavi Nagar, Ghaziabad and from there escaped to Haridwar. Sharavan, who had impersonated Rana in jail, was bailed out a day later and they went to Rishikesh.

On July 27, Rana confessed before reporters at Dehradun Press Club that he had killed Phoolan to avenge the Behmai massacre and surrendered.

How Rana simply walked out of jail

How wily Rana just walked out of jail with fake cop New Delhi:

The Times of India Aug 09 2014

The winter sun hadn't scaled the jail walls when two men calmly walked out of Tihar on the morning of February 17, 2004. One of them was a handcuffed felon, and the other a cop taking him to court for a hearing. That's what the prison staff thought as they stood by witnessing the sensational jailbreak. Sher Singh Rana, the man accused of murdering Samajwadi Party MP Phoolan Devi, had slipped away with an impostor and wouldn't be caught for two years.

The conspiracy had been in the works since 2003 when Rana sensed that the trial would end in a death sentence for him. Desperate, he found gangsters willing to fund his escape, and a con artist from his hometown, Roorkee, willing to play the part he had in mind. This man, Sandeep Thakur, charged Rs 6 lakh for leading Rana out of jail that February morning.

Sandeep started meeting Rana in jail as his advocate under the name Pradeep Thakur, from January 2004. He bought handcuffs and a police uniform with money provided by Rana's brother, and was told on February 16 to pull off the escape next morning when Rana was due to appear in a Haridwar court.

Wearing the police uniform, Sandeep reached Jail 1 around 7am, an hour before the police team arrived. He filled out the form, submitted a fake warrant, handcuffed Rana and even collected the regulation diet allowance of Rs 40 before leading the prisoner out.

An auto waiting outside the jail brought them to Kashmere Gate ISBT, where they boarded a bus to Ghaziabad and then parted ways. Rana went to Moradabad, then Ranchi, where he picked up a fake passport in the name of a Delhi Police ACP , and escaped to Bangladesh via Kolkata. Later, he travelled to Dubai, Iran and Afghanistan. But Sandeep's arrest in 2004 put the special cell on his scent.

Rana had to visit Kolkata periodically to get his visa re newed, and DCP Sanjeev Yadav, then an ACP , followed his movements. The cops were tipped off in July 2006 about Rana's arrival in Kolkata. After a wait of several days, Yadav's team picked him up from a hotel where he was staying under the Delhi ACP's forged identity .

To ensure he didn't escape again, Tihar authorities made Rana wear red clothes, but a court accepted his appeal against this discrimination and was eventually allowed to wear white like other inmates.

The trial court’s verdict

Rana guilty of killing Phoolan, 10 let off New Delhi

The Times of India Aug 09 2014

Guard's testimony, fingerprints seal fate

Phoolan, [a one-time bandit who later became] a Samajwadi Party MP from Mirzapur in UP , was shot dead from close range by three masked gunmen on Ashoka Road on July 25, 2001.

Thirteen years after the sensational murder of bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi, a trial court on Friday convicted the main accused, Sher Singh Rana, but let off 10 other accused for lack of evidence. The court fixed Tuesday for hearing arguments on the quantum of Rana's punishment and pronouncing the sentence.

Rana was held guilty on charges of murder, attempt to murder and common intention but acquitted of charges of perjury , criminal conspiracy and the Arms Act. Additional sessions judge Bharat Parashar said, “Except Sher Singh Rana, I am acquitting all the accused. Sher Singh Rana is convicted of the offences under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 34 (common inten tion) under the IPC“.

Immediately after the verdict was pronounced in the packed courtroom, Rana, 38, said, “Why have you convicted only me? How can I alone commit the murder?“ The judge replied he had decided the case on the basis of evidence and Rana could challenge the order in the high court. While the detailed judgment is yet to be released, sources said the testimony of Phoolan's personal security officer, Balinder Singh, and forensic reports confirming Rana's fingerprints on the pistol used sealed his fate. Balinder, who was also injured in the attack on Phoolan, had recognized Rana. The testimony of Rana's friends established that his green Maruti car was used in the crime.

While acquitting Rana's co-accused, the judge said the prosecution had failed to prove its case against them beyond reasonable doubt. Dhan Prakash, Shekhar Singh, Rajbir Singh, Vijay Singh alias Raju (Rana's brother), Rajender Singh alias Ravinder Singh, Keshav Chauhan, Praveen Mittal, Amit Rathi, Surender Singh Negi alias Suri and Sharavan Kumar were let off in the case. Proceedings against another accused, Pradeep Singh, were abated after he died in Tihar Jail in November 2013.

For three of the accused--Shekhar Singh, Rajbir Singh and Sharavan Kumar--who had been behind bars all along, the acquittals came 13 years too late. “Who will return our 13 years?“ they were overheard saying to the accompanying constables. The prosecution termed the verdict a setback, and said it would challenge it in a superior court.

…but sister, a witness, says Phoolan’s husband, not Rana, the real killer

Anuja Jaiswal, Phoolan’s sis: Rana wrongly convicted of her murder, May 22, 2018: The Times of India

Munni Devi, a key witness in the murder of her sister, bandit-turned-MP Phoolan Devi, came out in support of her sister’s convicted killer, Sher Singh Rana, and said that he had been framed and the real killer was Phoolan’s husband, Umed Singh.

Both Munni Devi and Rana, who spent 13 years in jail after being convicted of Phoolan’s murder, shared the dais at the national convention of Akhil Bhartiya Kshatriya Mahasabha on Sunday. Munni said, “Rana was the victim of a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by the government.” She appealed to the judiciary to bring “the real culprit” to book and give him exemplary punishment. She also demanded that Rana be compensated for the years he spent in jail.

Munni alleged Phoolan’s husband Umed Singh was responsible for the murder. “He lied to my sister that he was single and got married to her, and later she learnt about his first wife and daughter,” she said, accusing Umed of marrying Phoolan only for her political clout and money.

Interestingly, in an interview in 2002, Munni had given a detailed account of Phoolan’s death and had stated that Rana had fired at Phoolan Devi and she died after one of the bullets hit her in the head.

Rana also claimed that Delhi Police was responsible for framing him. He said, “No one knows why they did that and under what pressure.” He said he would get justice as he had full faith in the judiciary. Recently, Rana, who is the president of Rajput Mahasabha, was also booked for the murder of Sachin Walia, brother of a Bhim Army leader in Saharanpur.

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