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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
India's Bandit Queen cremated
Coffin and mourner
Mourners pay last respects to Phoolan Devi
India's notorious "Bandit Queen" turned politician, Phoolan Devi, has been cremated in a ceremony on the banks of the River Ganges in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state.

Her body was flown from Delhi, where she was shot dead on Wednesday, to Varanesi in Uttar Pradesh before being taken by road to the town of Mirzapur, her parliamentary constituency.

All angles - whether it was political rivalry or personal enmity - are being probed

Delhi police official
One person was killed in Varanesi after angry local supporters exchanged gunfire with police, threw crude bombs and burned buses, said authorities.

There were also reports of trouble in Delhi, including stone throwing and car smashing. The violence has been blamed on activists from Ms Devi's Samajwadi Party.

Party leaders have accused India's ruling BJP party of failing to protect Ms Devi. The BJP has denied this.

Local authorities in Varanesi said that Samajwadi activists had tried to create disturbances by blocking traffic and forcing shops to close.

Five policemen were injured while dispersing the protesters, but officials said the response to earlier calls for a general strike had been sparse.

Last respects

Before being flown home, hundreds of other supporters, grieving relatives and politicians turned out at Ms Devi's house to pay their last respects.

Man and woman with photo of Bandit Queen
Supporters grieve on the lawn of Phoolan's home

Other supporters protested outside the house of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh, who they accuse of withdrawing security from Ms Devi, despite threats on her life.

A senior police official said special teams had been formed to investigate the crime.

"All angles - whether it was political rivalry or personal enmity - are being probed," the official said.

Arms licence

Ram Sharan Das, the leader of the main opposition party in Uttar Pradesh, alleged that the state administration had turned down an application from Ms Devi for an arms licence.

Samajwadi activists burn effigies of leading Indian politicians
Samajwadi activists blame the government for Ms Devi's death

Mr Das also said that her murder might have been the result of a political conspiracy hatched by her opponents in the state's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party ahead of state assembly elections, due later this year.

Ms Devi had just returned to her house from parliament when several armed men opened fire on her.

She was hit several times in the head.

Indian President KR Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee expressed their shock and offered their condolences over the killing.

Legendary life

Born into a poor low-caste family, Phoolan Devi suffered sexual abuse at a young age.

She joined a gang of bandits who established a reputation for violent attacks.

The 1981 killing of 22 upper-caste men who had allegedly raped her made her a household name.

Although she denied leading the killers, she surrendered to the police two years later and spent 11 years in prison without trial.

She later became an MP for the Samajwadi Party.

The BBC's Satish Jacob in Dehli
"The police in Dehli still have to make an arrest"
Poolan Devi International Defence's Vidya Anand
"She wanted to change society in India"
Author Mala Senn
"She said herself that she was born into violence and would die in violence"
Asian affairs analyst Jay Kumar
"It is indeed a tragic story"
See also:

25 Jul 01 | South Asia
Phoolan Devi: Champion of the poor
25 Jul 01 | Film
The on-screen 'Bandit Queen'
12 Oct 00 | South Asia
Analysis: India's criminal politicians
07 Mar 00 | South Asia
Court rules out caste differences
28 Sep 99 | South Asia
Dalits' political awakening
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