Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Phoolan Devi the Bandit Queen of India

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Phoolan often wore a military-style khaki jacket, denim jeans, and zippered boots. Her dark, straight hair was cut short, ending at her neck. A wide red bandana-the symbol of vengeance- was tied around her head, covering her hairline and brows. She carried a Sten rifle and a bandolier across her chest.

Phoolan Devi's father, Devidin, worked as a sharecropper and was considered cursed for having had four daughters.

In her autobiography, I, Phoolan Devi, she recalls that the Neem tree's trunk was so large, she and two of her sisters together could barely encircle it with their arms. The valuable timber that could be derived from the tree was, in effect, the family's nest egg. Phoolan came to love that tree for its beauty and majesty and would often rest under its shade.

After his father's (Phoolan's Uncle) funeral, Mayadin went to his uncle Devidin and told him that he was now the elder of the family and would be accorded all the respect that position deserved.

Vikram took over as leader of the dacoit gang which had kidnapped Phoolan, and he and Phoolan became lovers. It wasn't long before Vikram and Phoolan were as notorious as Bonnie and Clyde.

Phoolan Devi was motivated by the spirit of the goddess Durga, and before and after every raid she would find a temple and pray to Durga for strength and success.

After Sri Ram murdered Vikram he, and other villagers beat and tortured Phoolan Devi for over three weeks until she was rescued by an old Brahmin man.

When Phoolan Devi surrendered she was wearing a khaki uniform and a red shawl. A wide red bandana was tied around her head, covering her brows. She carried a .315 Mauser rifle on her shoulder, a curved dagger in her belt, a full bandolier across her chest, and a small silver statue of the goddess Durga in her breast pocket.

Ultimately the authorities disregarded the terms of the surrender agreement, and Phoolan Devi spent more than eleven years in prison without trial, more than any of her gang members.

After her release from prison in February 1994. Heavier and rounder than she had been when she was known as the Bandit Beauty, Phoolan Devi announced that she would run for a seat in the Indian Parliament's lower house, promising to be a strong voice for women and for the poor.

Police were suspicious of Sher Singh Rana's (he admitted to the murder of Phoolan Devi) connections to Phoolan's last husband, Ummed Singh, who was reportedly upset with Phoolan's threats to cut him out of her will.

Munni Devi, Phoolan Devi's sister

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