Monday, August 27, 2012

31 years after Behmai massacre, court frames charges against Phoolan gang

BEHMAI (U.P.), August 27, 2012

Over three decades after Phoolan Devi's gang massacred 20 persons including 17 of the Thakur community in this village, a local court in Kanpur has framed charges against four of the surviving accused. They have been accused of dacoity and murder. The court also issued a non-bailable warrant against three absconders.

On January 30, 1981, Phoolan and her gang stormed Behmai in Kanpur Dehat district, and rounded up and shot dead 20 persons, reportedly to avenge her gang rape by Thakurs in the village.

Phoolan, however, never faced trial in this case, as she, along with 10 gang members, turned herself in before the Madhya Pradesh government in February 1983.

As per one of the surrender conditions, the then Chief Minister, Arjun Singh, ordered that she be kept in the Gwalior jail and be not sent to Uttar Pradesh. As a result, summons, warrants and non-bailable warrants of the Kanpur court were returned unserved from the jail.

Released without trial

After spending 11 years in jail, Phoolan was released without any trial in 1994. Thereafter, the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh, withdrew all criminal cases, including the Behmai massacre case, against her "in the public interest," a decision the families of victims challenged in the Supreme Court.

Phoolan joined the Samajwadi Party and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996. In 2001, the Supreme Court directed that if she wanted relief in the cases against her, she would have to surrender before the Kanpur court. However, before she could adhere to this directive, the bandit queen-turned-politician was shot dead by three persons outside her residence in New Delhi on July 25 that year.

The prime accused, Sher Singh Rana alias Pankaj, later surrendered himself and is under trial.
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