KANPUR: Rajaram Singh, the main witness of the 1981 Behmai massacre by Phoolan Devi’s gang, has died at his native village, his last wish to see the accused hanged unfulfilled.
The 85-year-old, who was suffering from a prolonged illness, died at his native village in Kanpur Dehat district on Sunday.
Twenty men were gunned down on February 14, 1981 allegedly by dacoit Phoolan Devi and her gang seeking revenge for her rape by upper caste men in Behmai village, less than 100 km from Kanpur. Seventeen of the dead were Thakurs, the dominant caste in the village.
Rajaram Singh’s younger brothers Banwari Singh and Himmat Singh, cousin Naresh Singh and nephews Dev Singh, Hukum Singh and Dashrath Singh were among those allegedly killed by the Phoolan Devi gang.
Singh once told a journalist that he wished to see the accused hanged for their crime.
"But God only knows whether I will be able to witness it as I am suffering from chronic liver ailment. I will get peace only when the killers are punished in my lifetime,” he was quoted as saying.
A Kanpur court framed charges in the case in August 2012, three decades after the massacre.
Out of the 23 accused, 16, including Phoolan Devi, are already dead.
Charges were then framed against the four surviving accused, and the court issued non-bailable warrants against the three absconders among them -- Maan Singh, Ramkesh and Vishwanath alias Ashok.
A special court (dacoity) had initially fixed a date in January 2020 for pronouncing the verdict. But it was adjourned several times as the original case diary was reported missing from court records, and a probe was ordered.
The court has to give its verdict on the role of the four surviving accused -- Posha (75), Shyambabu (70), Bhikha (65), and Vishwanath (54). While Posha is still in jail, the rest are out on bail.
In the years following the massacre, Phoolan Devi went on to surrender and later become an MP. She was gunned down outside her official residence in New Delhi on July 25, 2001.