Phoolan Devi, the outlaw-turned-lawmaker portrayed in the movie “Bandit Queen,” was assassinated yesterday outside her New Delhi home. Forced to marry at the age of 12, Devi fled her abusive husband and then joined a gang of outlaws who robbed from members of the upper castes and protected the lower castes, especially women. After Devi was kidnapped and gang raped in 1980 by the land owners of Behmai, Devi’s gang returned to the village and murdered 22 upper caste men. In 1994, Devi’s story was mythologized in the movie “Bandit Queen.” Her story of fighting gender and caste oppression through brutal crime was controversial.
For the past six years, Devi served in the Indian parliament as a representative of the Samajvadi Party. While some have speculated that her murderers were avenging the Behmai killings, they may have been politically motivated as well. Samajvadi Party leader Amar Singh remarked, “There seems to be a political design behind her killing, as it comes hardly a few months before the elections.”