Phoolan Devi, known as 'The Queen of the Dacoits', The Bandit Queen, or 'the female Robin Hood
' was born in 1960 in a tiny village in Uttar Pradesh
, the daughter of a low-caste
fisherman. As such, the usual path of her life would have been marriage at 14 or 15 followed by hard labour, many children and subjection to her husband.
Instead she started rebelling at the age of 10, when she staged a sit-in of her family's land, which had been expropriated by her cousin. She was beaten and forcibly married to a much older man from another village, in exchange for a cow. She ran away when she was 12 after some brutal treatment, but her family were horrified, and did not welcome her. She lived alone in the village after that, developing a reputation for promiscuity
(what a surprise) and continuing to fight for her family's land. She argued the case in the High Court at 20, but was arrested on some trumped-up charge. Shortly after, she was kidnapped by one of the local dacoit
, or bandit
gangs. She ended up joining them and becoming the leader's lover.
They robbed and looted, held up trains, ransacked upper-caste villages and homes, dedicating the proceedings to the goddess Durga
and helping local families with the money. Finally her gang was captured by a rival gang, and Vikram, her lover, was murdered. She was captured and brutally raped for days. On her escape she vowed vengeance, formed another gang, and massacred 30 men in the village of the rival gang. Some time after she was caught, arrested and spent 11 years in prison without trial.
During her time in prison she became a legend in India. On her release in 1994, a film was made about her life, Bandit Queen
, which she attempted to have banned in the country. She has since become a politician and stood for local government in 1997. She is now fighting the return of criminal charges against her.