Thursday, August 5, 2010

Contested legacy

ON the wall of Roy Moxham’s flat in Neal Street near Covent Garden, one picture stands out among the old family photos.

It shows the author with his arm around a small, smiling woman swathed in textiles. She is Phoolan Devi, Moxham’s friend, the mention of whose name still sparks anger in some parts of India and admiration in others – even now, nine years after her life was ended by an assassin’s bullet.

Popularly known as “The Bandit Queen”, Phoolan fought for the rights of women and the poor during her time as an MP in India’s parliament.

She came from a poor family and her early life informed her politics. As a youngster she was married off to a man in a distant village who beat and abused her – and when she returned to her family, one of her relatives arranged for her to be kidnapped.

For years she marauded the countryside with a gang of bandits – until she was captured by a group of landowners, who confined her to their village, Behmai, and continuously raped her. She escaped and carried out Robin Hood-style raids that earned her folk hero status. The police offered a reward to anyone who could bring her in, dead or alive.

full report here Camden New Journal 

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