Phoolan Devi

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Phoolan Devi (Phūlan Devī, Hindi: फूलन देवी) (10 August 1963 – 25 July 2001), popularly known as "The Bandit Queen", was an Indian dacoit and later a politician. She was notorious across India during her time as a bandit.

Contents

Early life

Phoolan was born into the lower mallha (boatmen) caste,[1] in the small village of Gorha ka Purwa in Uttar Pradesh, India. She was the second child in a family of four girls and a boy. Her father owned an acre of land near G.B. Road and a huge Neem tree on it. The valuable timber that could be derived from the tree was, effectively, the family's nest egg.

When Phoolan was ten years old, her cousin, Mayadin, became the head of the family. He sent workers to cut down the Neem tree and sell the wood, intending to keep the proceeds for himself. Although her father saw no use in protest, Phoolan confronted her cousin. She taunted him, publicly called him a thief, and with her older sister staged a sit-in on his land. Even after violence against Phoolan—knocking her out with a brick—she wouldn't relent. In an effort to rid himself of the little nuisance, Mayadin arranged to have her married to a man named Putti Lal, who lived several hundred miles away. Putti Lal was in his thirties; Phoolan was eleven.[2] Devi claimed in her autobiography that he was a man of "very bad character".

There are conflicting reports as to the events of Phoolan's life after this point.

Some accounts say that she feared her husband and refused to live with him. He was already married, so Phoolan was relegated to household labour. Miserable, she ran away to her village, much to the horror of her family. In the day, it was believed a wife simply cannot leave her husband. Phoolan's mother, Moola, was so ashamed that she told her daughter to go to jump in a well and kill herself.

Other accounts say her husband raped and mistreated her, but that she did not know what was happening. They further claim she became seriously ill and her father came to take her to the hospital. Her parents publicly declared the marriage ended in front of the villagers. She did not see her husband for two years, until she was 13. This account claims he then came and took her back to his house where he was living with his "second wife", an older woman. The "second wife" beat Phoolan and treated her like a slave, restricted Phoolan's food, and made her sleep in the cow-shed. Eventually, the husband decided to take Phoolan back to her village and family.

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