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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Bandit Queen suspect 'confesses'
Phoolan Devi's funeral pyre
Ms Devi was cremated on the banks of the Ganges
Police in India say a man arrested in the northern city of Dehradun has confessed to involvement in the killing of the "Bandit Queen" Phoolan Devi.

Sher Singh Rana gave himself up to police earlier on Friday.


I am proud of what I have done

Sher Singh Rana

He is alleged to have driven the vehicle used by the gunmen who shot Phoolan Devi outside her home in the capital, Delhi, on Wednesday.

Phoolan Devi, who spent her early life on the run as part of a gang of bandits before becoming an MP, was cremated on Thursday in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

'Revenge' killing

Dehradun police say Sher Singh Rana said he had shot Phoolan Devi six times.

Sher Singh Rana
Sher Singh Rana gave himself up on Friday

They said that Mr Rana had told them he wanted to take revenge for a massacre in 1981, when she allegedly shot dead 21 upper-caste men.

"I am proud of what I have done. It was in my mind for quite some time," the Press Trust of India quoted Mr Rana as saying.

The news of the arrest - the first in the investigation - came shortly after members of her Samajwadi Party disrupted proceedings in the Indian lower house of parliament.

They accused the government of failing to provide adequate security for Phoolan Devi.

They have also demanded speedy action to identify and punish the killers.

Mourners assemble beside Phoolan Devi's coffin
Mourners queued to pay their last respects

Politicians have questioned the effectiveness of security arrangements as Phoolan Devi's killing took place in an area meant to be highly secure.

The government denies any security lapses, saying Phoolan Devi never asked for more protection.

Symbol

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.

For many poorer Indians, she became a symbol of triumph over the discrimination and abuse inflicted by higher caste members of society.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tim Irwin
"He is now being questionned about the identity of his accomplice"
See also:

26 Jul 01 | South Asia
India's Bandit Queen cremated
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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