Commemorating Phoolan Devi’s Valentine Day massacre of the rapists and those of the upper caste who harbored them at Behmai.
I could probably write a whole book here about Phoolan Devi, an insurgent against institutionalized classism (in her native India the caste system, though technically abolished, was still deeply ensconced in the cultural paradigm). A vengeful killer of rapists. One of the most amazing women who ever lived. As a matter of fact, Devi did write a memoir and I strongly recommend it for women and girls everywhere. But today I’ll just focus on commemorating the massacre.
Apparently a faction of Thakurs (upper caste) within Phoolan and Vikram’s dacoit(bandit) gang conspired against them. Phoolan and Vikram were Mallahs, a lower caste, and there was friction in the gang. After drugging them at a celebration, a Thakur named Sri Ram murdered Phoolan’s lover, Vikram in his sleep and captured Phoolan. He took her captive to the Thakur village of Behmai and framed her for the murder. He and other men of the village raped her repeatedly, beat and tortured her, and made her a slave. Finally she was able to escape with the help of an elderly Brahmin who snuck her out of the village and into the jungle, where she was nursed back to health by a shepard woman. Over the next several months, she formed another gang and plotted her revenge.
Then, on February 14th, 1981, Phoolan stormed the village with her new gang, wearing a wide red bandana to signify vengeance. She demanded Sri Ram and his brother be brought before her. When the other wealthy men of the village (many of who had also participated in or been complacent about her capture and abuse) refused to comply, despite her threatening and assaulting them with the butt of her rifle, she only became more and more enraged, and finally had them massacred.
“Then they’ll pile up the bodies
And I’ll say,
“That’ll learn ya!” – Pirate Jenny, Kurt Weill
Phoolan saw herself as an avatar of Durga, working on Her behalf whenever she heard of a rape, a young girl being forced into marriage, or women (and in one case young boys) otherwise being maltreated. She dispatched of rapists with a bloodlust that unsettled even some of the other dacoits. She was also a champion of the poor and acted on their behalf, later become an advocate for them(and for women’s rights) when she later in life entered the arena of politics. Seen as a threat to the end, Phoolan Devi was assassinated on July 25th, 2001.
A more detailed account of her life can be found at http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/gangsters_outlaws/cops_others/phoolan_devi/index.html
Here in the land of first world problems, February 14th has been manufactured into a day where people are either pressured to qualify the status of their romantic relationships by consumer actions, purchasing specific gifts for their beloved, or if they have no significant other at that point in time, to feel inadequate. The likes of Phoolan Devi probably could have cared less about candy and trinkets from the Hallmark shop, if there even had been such a thing in the jungles of Uttar Pradesh. She wanted revenge, reform, and revolution!