“I did not kill Phoolan Devi. I never said that I killed her. I was under police custody and at that time, even if the police had asked me to admit that I assassinated Indira Gandhi, I would have agreed,” Sher Singh Rana, told FORWARD Press over phone on 24 May.
This is the same Sher Singh Rana who had organized a press conference in New Delhi on 27 July 2001 and publicly declared that he had killed Phoolan Devi. Thirteen years later, when a Delhi court convicted and sentenced him for Phoolan Devi’s murder, he did not retract his claim. Why is he now denying that he committed the murder? Is it because he wants to free himself from the “legal stigma” of being the murderer of an Dalitbahujan icon? As a top Rajput leader is he now considering becoming a fully fledged politician?
Samajwadi Party MP Phoolan Devi was shot at her Delhi residence on 25 July 2001. In the FIR, Sher Singh Rana, who went by the name of Pankaj then and was known to be a frequent visitor to Phoolan Devi’s home, was named the murderer. After taking the credit for Phoolan Devi’s murder at the aforementioned press conference in Delhi on 27 July 2001, Rana absconded.
Prior to Phoolan Devi’s murder, nobody had heard of Sher Singh Rana. In 2014, a lower court in Delhi sentenced him to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on him. He appealed his case in a higher court. Meanwhile, he escaped from Tihar Jail and it is said that he travelled to Afghanistan. Upon his return from Afghanistan he announced that he had brought the remains of Prithviraj Chouhan with him. This enthused the Dwij community to no end. In no time he was crowned the “Hindu Hriday Samrat” – the king of Hindu hearts and the Rajput community embraced him as a leader.
As the new hero of the Dwijs, and a darling of the Rajputs, Rana was bound to be rewarded. And soon enough, a higher court ordered his release on bail. It is pointless to ask on what grounds he was granted bail when the case was still pending in court – pointless because Chandrashekhar Ravan, the founder of Bhim Army, has been thrown behind bars for no good reason under the National Security Act. However, a more pertinent and perhaps perplexing question is why is he now denying that he murdered Phoolan Devi?
Today, no one seems to be interested in a thorough investigation of Phoolan Devi’s murder – not even her own family. The Samajwadi Party has already washed its hands off the entire issue. Previously Phoolan Devi’s mother Moola Devi, elder sister Rukmani and younger sister Munni had demanded a CBI investigation. But recently, at a public function, Munni Devi said that Sher Singh Rana was not the murderer of her sister. Is this U-turn related to a property dispute or is it a new conspiracy being hatched by Sher Singh Rana?
Phoolan Devi’s husband Ummed Singh, and not Sher Singh Rana, are now in the line of fire of her family members. Sher Singh Rana became a frequent visitor at Phoolan Devi’s home only because of his friendship with her husband, Ummed Singh. If all these facts are put together, the haze lifts and the truth comes to the fore. Everybody has their own agenda, their own axe to grind, all in the name of Phoolan Devi.
Phoolan Devi’s family members are sore that her husband Ummed Singh has become the owner of all her properties while her mother and younger sisters Ramkali and Munni Devi are in dire straits. They are working as manual labourers under MGNREGS. This is partly the reason Phoolan Devi’s family members are demanding a judicial probe into her murder – so that they can be legally established as heirs to Phoolan Devi’s property. They have asked time and again “How can Ummed Singh – her husband for a few years – become the owner of her entire property?”
It is difficult to understand why the Samajwadi Party has shown no serious intent to have the murderer of Phoolan Devi punished. When was alive, Mulayam Singh Yadav used to call her his daughter. But after her death, he remained silent and distanced himself from her family. It seems that no one wants to even talk about Phoolan Devi’s murder. They want the incident to be buried and forgotten. It reminds one of how, after the Shabbirpur incident in Saharanpur, no political party spoke out against the perpetrators of violence. They were all afraid of offending the Rajputs.
Sher Singh Rana had begun efforts to become the political leader of the Rajputs immediately after he was convicted. Rana’s picture hangs at the memorial for the 20 people killed by the Phoolan gang in Behmai, Uttar Pradesh. Now the residents of Phoolan’s village are vehemently opposing the construction of a memorial to her in the village.
No community should glorify murderers. Phoolan Devi stood up against her oppression and paid the price for it. The innocence or guilt of Rana should be decided by due legal process. The lower court has already held Rana guilty of Phoolan Devi’s murder and unless and until a higher court reverses the judgment, Rana is guilty of Phoolan Devi’s murder. Phoolan’s sister Munni Devi cannot decide Rana’s innocence.
From all the things that we do know about Rana, it now appears that he is attempting to model his politics along the lines of former army chief General V.K. Singh, who is a now a minister in the Union government. Sher Singh Rana claims that he wants to work for the “welfare of humanity”. But it may be clear to everyone what he has his eye on.
Translated by Amrish Herdenia and copy-edited by Harshvardhan Siddharthan
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