Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) Feb 15 (IANS) It has been exactly 40 years since 20 villagers were lined up and shot dead by once bandit queen Phoolan Devi in Behmai village.
The incident took place on February 14, 1981 and the families of the victims are still awaiting justice even though the main accused Phoolan Devi was shot dead in 2001.
Rajaram Singh, the main witness of the 1981 Behmai massacre and the plaintiff in the case, also died after prolonged illness at Behmai in December last year at the age of 85.
Rajaram’s two younger brothers, Banwari Singh and Himmat Singh, cousin Naresh Singh, nephews Dev Singh, Hukum Singh and Dashrath Singh were among those killed by the Phoolan gang.
“The killing of my husband Lal Singh and 19 others by Phoolan and her gang left us in agony for life. The failure of the system in delivering justice is hurting even more,” said Munni Devi, who was just nine-year-old when she had been married.
“I had never seen my husband as the ritual of ‘gauna’ was not held by then. My life was completely jolted when the news of Lal Singh’s death came. I had lost my parents and was being raised by my siblings. My brothers sent me to Behmai the next day to participate in rituals as a widow,” she recalled.
Sumitra, widow of another victim Ram Singh was doing household chores when the gang arrived.
“None of the men at home were spared. My husband and others were asked to stand in a queue. The dacoits then started firing from all sides. People did not have time to run away. Some fell prey to bullets immediately. There were no medical facilities nearby, so many injured died later,” said Sumitra.
Among the 20 killed, there were 17 Thakurs, one Muslim, one Dalit and one OBC, while six were injured.
The bereaved families got Rs 7,500 from the government as compensation.
A local court of Kanpur had framed charges in the case in August 2012– 31 years after the massacre.
Out of the 23 accused, 16, including Phoolan Devi, are already dead.
Charges were framed against four surviving accused, while the court issued a non-bailable warrant against three absconders–Maan Singh, Ramkesh and Vishwanath.
The special court (dacoity) was scheduled to pronounce verdict in the case in January last year, but it was adjourned several times since the original case diary was found missing from court records and a probe was ordered.
As things stand today, no one knows when the verdict will be delivered and there is no word about the missing case diary either.