After three decades, charges framed in Behmai massacre case

Published - August 26, 2012 04:05 pm IST - BEHMAI

Over three decades after the gang of “Bandit Queen” Phoolan Devi massacred 20 persons, including 17 members of the Thakur community at Behmai, a local court in Kanpur has framed charges against the four of the surviving accused. The four have been accused of dacoity and murder. The court also issued non- bailable warrant against three of the absconding accused.

Bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi was shot dead by three assailants outside her residence in New Delhi on July 25, 2001, while eight other accused have been killed by police in separate encounters.

Phoolan Devi and her gang had on January 30, 1981 stormed the village of Behmai in Kanpur Dehat district and rounded up and shot to death 20 caste persons. This was reportedly to avenge the gang rape she had suffered at the hands of the Thakurs in the village.

Ms. Devi, however, never faced trial for the Behmai massacre as she, along with 10 gang members, had surrendered before the Madhya Pradesh government in February 1983. As per one of the conditions laid by Ms. Devi, before surrendering, then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh had ordered her to be kept in Gwalior jail and not sent to Uttar Pradesh.

As a result, summons, warrants and non-bailable warrants of Kanpur court were returned unserved from Gwalior jail.

She spent 11 years in Gwalior Central Jail in Madhya Pradesh and was released without any trial in 1994. Then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav withdrew all criminal cases, including the Behmai massacre case, against Devi "in public interest", a decision challenged by the families of the victims in the Supreme court.

Thereafter, Ms. Devi joined the Samajwadi Party and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996. In 2001, the Supreme Court directed that if Ms. Devi wanted relief from the cases against her, she would have to surrender before the Kanpur court.

However, she was killed before she could observe the Court directive. The prime accused in her shooting, Sher Singh Rana, alias Pankaj, later surrendered and is under trial.

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