Land that turned Phoolan bandit, still eludes her family

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Kanpur, Jan 9 (IANS) More than 40 years after she picked up the gun and turned into a bandit, following a dispute over four bighas of land with her cousin Maya Din, Phoolan Devi’s family in her native village in Jalaun district is still waiting to reclaim that elusive piece of land.
The land was initially owned by Phoolan’s father, Devi Din Mallah and after his death, her mother Moola Devi, 90, became the owner.
However, Maya Din, son of late Devi Din’s elder brother allegedly grabbed the plot and did not allow Phoolan’s mother to till the land. Maya Din claims the land was passed on to him as legacy.
Moola Devi says, “My daughter Phoolan fought with Maya Din for this land. Maya Din and his men ridiculed her and hurled abuses at her. She got together some girls from the village and staged a dharna on the land.
“The village elders tried to remove her from the land but failed. Then Maya Din hurled a brick at her and she fell unconscious. After this, she became a ‘baaghi’ (rebel).”
It is said that Maya Din ‘sold’ her off to Lal Ram and Shri Ram — heads of a Thakur gang of dacoits — who not only raped her but also held her captive.
A few years later, Phoolan Devi fell in love with another dacoit Vikram Mallah, who was later killed by the Lala Ram and Shri Ram gang.
To avenge the wrong done to her by the Thakur gang, Phoolan Devi gradually built up her own gang.
On February 14, 1981, she went to Behmai village that had a dominant Thakur population, lined up 22 Thakur men and shot them dead.
She surrendered to the Madhya Pradesh government in 1983 and later in 1994, the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh withdrew cases against her and she walked free.
She joined politics and served as MP for two terms before she was assassinated in Delhi in 2001.
Now as the verdict in the Behmai case is waiting to be delivered next week and the focus has turned back on Phoolan Devi and her family, Moola Devi says, “If I do not get back the land in my lifetime, the sacrifices that Phoolan made for the family will go in vain. Sab bekar ho jayega.”
When contacted, district officials in Jalaun said that they will go through government records to ascertain the factual position regarding ownership of the land and then ensure that justice is done.
Till then, Moola Devi waits for justice.

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