Phoolan Devi the Bandit Queen of India
Another St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Slight in build but strong and agile, Phoolan wore a military-style khaki jacket, denim jeans, and zippered boots. Her dark, straight hair was cut short, ending at her neck. By some accounts, she was wearing lipstick and red nail polish. A wide red bandanathe symbol of vengeance was tied around her head, covering her hairline and brows. She carried a Sten rifle and a bandolier across her chest. While she mourned for her lover, she did not want to be treated as a woman. She wanted her comrades to think of her as a man because she wanted the kind of revenge only a man could achieve in
She and her band of dacoits had spent the night in the nearby hamlet of Ingwi. As morning broke, Phoolan, her close lieutenant Man Singh, and Baba Mustakim, a fellow dacoit leader, planned their attack on Behmai. Most of Behmais population was thakurs, the land-owning caste and the second highest in the Indian system. Sri Ram was a thakur, and though he had once been allied with Phoolan and Vikram, he had always looked down upon them because they were mullahs, the fishermens caste and one of the lowest.
Though just a teenager, Phoolan Devi had been victimized by the caste system her entire life, treated as either a servant or a sex object. Because she was so outspoken in her objections to the men who oppressed her, she had been frequently beaten, bound, imprisoned, and raped. A dacoit gang had kidnapped her from her village, but she soon became one of them, showing that she could be as ruthless and bloodthirsty as any man. But unlike the other bandits who infested the northern states of
Dacoit gangs have a long history of preying on travelers and looting villages in the northern states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, which borders on
But Phoolan Devi was unique. She was an idealist who sought to right the wrongs of society. She was also a passionate woman who had never known love or respect until she met Vikram Mallah. She swore never to rest until she avenged his murder. Now, after months of searching for Sri Lam, she had finally found him.
One of her men had learned that he was hiding out in Behmai, and she was determined to capture him there. She and the other bandit leaders decided to split their force into three units. One would take the direct path to the village and attack head-on while the other two would lie in wait on the flanks. When the villagers fled from the frontal attack, the flanking units would intercept them and isolate the Ram brothers. Sri Ram, after all, would not be hard to spot, Phoolan reasoned. He had distinctive red hair, a red beard, and bloodshot red eyes. To her he was the devil incarnate.