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MP PHOOLAN DIES BANDIT'S DEATH 

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FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH   |   Published 25.07.01, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, July 25 :    New Delhi, July 25:  At 1.05 pm, Behmai paid sanitised Delhi a visit and Phoolan Devi lay in a pool of blood, shot in the head and body right in front of her MP's bungalow on Ashoka Road, a few hundred yards from Parliament where she had just been. One square kilometre of Delhi that decides the fate of India was going about its business, unaware that the badlands of Uttar Pradesh had crept up to its doorstep. Twenty years after the massacre of 23 upper-caste men in Behmai, for which she carries the rap in spite of denials, Phoolan fell to the bullets of three masked men who, police said, were waiting at a corner of the gate of her house. A Maruti 800, in which they made the getaway, was parked a few yards away on the same kerb. They opened fire as she stepped out of a Tata Sumo - a Samajwadi Party colleague was dropping her home for lunch - at 44 Ashoka Road. Phoolan was declared dead when she was brought to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Her personal security guard, Balwinder Singh, who fired back, was shot in the arm and waist and was fighting for his life. The assailants fled in the dark green Maruti with a fake number plate, CIM 907. The car was found abandoned on Pandit Pant Marg, a kilometre away, the killers having made their escape in an autorickshaw. A bullet-mark was found at the bottom left corner of the rear glass of the car. A mask and two revolvers were also found, one a Webley Scot and the other country-made. A file containing documents of Eklavya Dalit Sena, a party floated by Phoolan, was also lying in the car. Her sister Uma heads the party in Uttaranchal. The Uttar Pradesh border has been put on high alert and police do not rule out the role of local gangs avenging the murders of 1981 and political groups. The police also hinted at a family dispute sourced to political rivalry. In 1994, Mulayam Singh Yadav had withdrawn all cases against her and she was freed from prison, more than 10 years after her surrender, to get married to Umedh Singh and convert to Buddhism. She never had any children because her uterus was removed without her knowledge while she was in prison. Congress leader Najma Heptullah, who had gone to Phoolan's residence to convey her condolences to the family, asked the question that the government would have to answer in the coming days. 'How can an MP be killed in broad daylight in a high-security area? ' The Samajwadi Party, for which Phoolan became an MP twice from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, is already gunning for home minister L.K. Advani over the murder 'right under his nose' as the Centre is in charge of security in the capital. Umedh and the Samajwadi Party are alleging that Chambal's dasayu sundari, or the beautiful bandit's security was downgraded and she was left with only one guard and that too had been sought to be taken away. 'She would have been alive had they not removed the security cover for her,' Umedh said, wailing over her body draped in a white sheet. The home ministry, however, denied the charge. 'The present security arrangements were considered commensurate with the threat perception to her security,' it said. Samajwadi leader Mulayam is expected to kickstart his campaign for the Uttar Pradesh elections at Phoolan's cremation in Mirzapur tomorrow. The murder took place in a high-security zone with the Election Commission, All India Radio and Gurdwara Bangla Sahib - apart from Parliament - being close to her house. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh's residence is only three houses away. All the houses on Ashoka Road have security guards on duty at the entrance, except Phoolan's. Uma, Phoolan's sister, said she rushed out of the house on hearing shots and saw Phoolan lying at the outer gate. Dr Seema Wasnik, emergency control room officer at the hospital who was present when Phoolan was brought at 1.40, said: 'Phoolan's sister was screaming that her sister had been killed.' 'Phoolan was first attended to by casualty medical officers. Neurosurgeons and a team of cardiothoracic surgeon were also called. Her head had multiple bullet injuries and 11 firearm injuries were found all over her body,' Wasnik said. Phoolan's body was kept in a mortuary. Mulayam was the first to visit the hospital. Home minister L.K. Advani, BSP leader Mayavati, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar were the others. Another former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, said: 'There were threats to Phoolan Devi in the past. Why was her security cover removed?'    


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