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Phoolan Devi
The Modern Day
Robin Hood

"'The rich are the real enemies of the poor! You've made life miserable for these poor people, now we are going to make you pay!"

Family background
She was born on the 10th August 1963 in Uttar Pradesh, India. She was born to a fisherman family of the lowest caste and the second of four daughters. At this time having a daughter in India was extremely unlucky let alone having four. When she was 10 years her father lost his 15 acres of land to his brother and Phoolan was determined to reclaim the land.
Early Life
Phoolan was married to a widow in his thirties when she as eleven years old in exchange for a cow and after a few months of beatings and rape she left her abusive husband and returned to her village. Leaving a husband was thought of as sinful and her mother tried convincing her to commit suicide.
Because she had left her husband as she grew older she got a reputation for being immoral and to often have affairs with people in her village. There is no evidence suggesting that these rumors are correct but the people in her village often avoided her.
She was arrested for a month because of her interference in the case concerning her father's land and in this time she was once again beaten and raped.
When she was released a month later from prison she was kidnapped by a group of outlaws led by a man named Gujar. It was suspected that her cousin was the reason that she was kidnapped but there was never any evidence to prove it. In this time she was tortured for two days by Gujar until his second in command, Vikram, killed him and then made Phoolan his lover as well as second in command.

Influences
Her main influence was her determination to reclaim her father’s land and she continued her case and even argued in the High Court. Even after she became a bandit she continued to fight for the land her father had loved. Her rival and cousin, Maiyadin, had a lot of influence and convinced the police to arrest and jail her for one month because she was always fighting for the land.


She was strongly in support for the oppressed ad poor people in India, from her experiences as a child she was determined no make sure others did not have to suffer like she did. In particular Phoolan was furious when her family exchanged her hand in marriage for a cow and this was where her rebellious nature began.


Being abused and raped as many times as she had been made her bloodthirsty for revenge and she determinedly trained and eventually became very strong and powerful.

Career/Occupation

Her first recognition was in 1979 when she became the second in command in a gang of bandits with her lover, Vikram Mallah as the leader.


In 1981 she then became the leader of a gang whose sole purpose was the assistance of the poor.


She became a member of the Indian Parliament in 1983.

Major noteworthy achievements

-
The villagers loved Phoolan and her gang as they had defeated another gang that had stolen food and raped their women. However, Phoolan and her gang were determined to help the villagers and instead of stealing from everyone they followed a strict honour code and only stole from rich upper class people who were highly disrespectful of their servants.

- She personally shot the 22 men who had gang raped her into unconsciousness. This day was known as the Valentine’s Day Massacre.

- A holy man claimed that Phoolan was the incarnation of Goddess Kali “...Then he opened his eyes that burned like coals in that white face and spoke to me ‘You have vanquished the demon, you are the incarnation of Kali the goddess herself!...”**[1]**

- She fought strongly for any young girls being forced to marry and often killed any men married to young girls. She often left warning notes behind to dissuade them.

- Whenever the rich people did bad things her gang would make them pay for it.

- She launched a group that aimed at teaching the lover-caste people self defence

- She published her own book (The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Women’s Amazing Journey From Peasant to International Legend)


Her LegacyPhoolan Devi’s legacy was that she was a powerful and strong woman in a time where this was not normal. She was considered the incarnation of the warrior Goddess Kali. Not only was she a highly vocal woman but she refused to conform to society’s norms and fought for low-caste people’s rights.


Timeline
v10th August 1963 – Phoolan Devi was born
v1973 – Phoolan’s father lost all his land to his brother and
nephew and Phoolan was determined to get it back
v1974 – At the age of 11, Phoolan was forced into marriage in
exchange for a cow to a man in his 30s
v1975 – Phoolan left her husband after a year of rape, abuse a
nd being locked in a shed
v1979 – Phoolan was arrested because of her interference
in her father’s case and her cousin’s strong influence on officials.
She spent a month here in which time she was often raped and beaten
v1979 –she was abducted by a gang of bandits in which the
leader, Baboo wanted to rape her but she was protected by
his second in command, Vikram. Eventually Vikram
ended up killing Baboo and married Phoolan. She killed
her first husband and left him on the road with a warning
that this was what would happen to any older men who
married a young girl. Phoolan learned how to use all kinds
of weapons and eventually she took part in the gang’s illicit
activities (ransoming rich people and ransacking upper class villages)
v1979 – Vikram was killed by a new co-leader of the gang and
Phoolan was locked up. Here she was gang raped every day
until she was unconscious
v14th February 1981 – Phoolan had acquired a new gang and they went into the village and killed 20 of the men who had gang raped her
(known as St. Valentine’s Day Massacre)
vFebruary 1983 – she agreed to surrender in exchange for not
getting the death penalty, her gang members be released after
8 years, her brother get a government job, her father receive a
plot of land and her family should be escorted by the police
to her surrender ceremony. She was arrested and imprisoned
while there was a crowd of over 10,000 supporters there.
v1994 – she was finally released on parole and launched a group
to teach low-caste people self defence. She married her sister’s
husband. A film was made about her life and Phoolan was
not consulted about it nor was it historically accurate.
v1996 – Phoolan was elected as a member of parliament
v1999 – Phoolan was re-elected as a member of parliament.
v25th July 2001 – Phoolan was gunned down by four men in
front of her house


Source 1
"My main goal is that things that only the rich and privileged have enjoyed until now should also be given to the poor: for example, drinking water, electricity, schools and hospitals... I’d like there to be seats reserved for women in government posts. Women should be educated in schools. And people should not be forcing them to get married at a very young age...the most important thing is equality. So that people can get employment, they can get proper food and drink, and also to be educated. And especially women – now they are really treated very lowly, like shoes! They should be treated on an equal basis. And like other countries that have progressed and have comforts, I also want my country and people to progress that way."
This source is a comment that Phoolan made to a reporter in an interview after she was re-elected as a member for Parliament in 1999. This source reveals a lot about Phoolan’s career as a politician and her goals for the better good of the people. Her initial drive as a bandit have carried on as a politician as in both circumstances she fought strongly for the poor, low-caste people. This is a major part of her legacy as she was known as the woman who spoke for the uneducated and disadvantages. It also showed that she wanted a more equal society in which everyone had equal rights.


Source 2
“You can call it rape in your fancy language. Do you have any idea what it's like to live in a village in India? What you call rape, that kind of thing happens to poor women in the villages every day. It is assumed that the daughters of the poor are for the use of the rich. They assume that we're their property. In the villages the poor have no toilets, so we must go to the fields, and the moment we arrive, the rich lay us there; we can't cut the grass or tend to our crops without being accosted by them. We are the property of the rich…they wouldn't let us live in peace; you will never understand what kind of humiliation that is. If they wanted to rape us, to molest us, and our families objected, then they'd rape us in front of our families.”
This source is a quote given from Phoolan to a Western Journalist when she was asked by being raped. The year is unknown. This source reveals Phoolan’s feelings on rape as well as some of the experiences of the young girls in the villages. Her language reveals that she is extremely angry about the situation and doesn’t like how the young girls are being treated. She describes the difficulties that many of these girls face on a daily basis and how their families are helpless to rich, powerful people.
Source 3
This is an image of Phoolan that was taken in 1981. It was taken by one of the members of her gang but it is unknown who. This image supports the beliefs that she killed many men and it is highly likely to have been taken on the day of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre as she is wearing the red band around her head. Quotes from her autobiography reveal that she wore it as a symbol of her revenge over the murder of her third husband, Vikram. The fact that she is carrying a gun and wearing a band of bullets shows that she is probably quite dangerous.

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Both the excerpts from the interviews give the perspective of Phoolan as a compassionate and just person. She sounds like a natural do gooder and a fighter for the oppressed. Her personal experiences have had a strong influence on her decision to fight for these causes and they reporter doesn’t sound like they are being biased because this was a quote from her. Although this source is can’t be biased the reporter’s decision to include it reveals their support is towards Phoolan. the photo howevor shows her to be quite dangerous and more like the bandit that many of the high-caste people described her as.


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By Abarna Giritharan



****[1]**** Quote from her autobiography (The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Women’s Amazing Journey From Peasant to International Legend)