GAPS surface in statement of Phoolan murder accussed

Saturday, July 28, 2001 (New Delhi): Crime branch officials are interrogating Sher Singh Rana, the man who has confessed to killing Phoolan Devi. They've been questioning him at different undisclosed locations in the capital since he was brought here early this morning from Dehradun where he had surrendered yesterday. Rana is likely to be produced in the Patiala House courts later this afternoon.

Police are now on the lookout for what they believe is a third accomplice -- Shekhar, a neighbour and friend of Rana's. Shekhar's parents say he's been missing since Tuesday -- that's the day before the murder and the only information they have is a cryptic note left behind by him saying he's going to Dehradun for two days.

Late last night, the police arrested two brothers of Ravinder, the accomplice named by Rana. Ravinder is still missing. Police teams have been sent to Meerut, Bulandshahar and Khurja in search of more evidence.

Who is Rana?

The dramatic arrest and confession of Phoolan Devi's alleged assassin, Sher Singh Rana is evidently far from an open and shut case and actually raking up more controversy. One of the big unanswered questions is whether Phoolan's murder was really the result of a Thakur's revenge or a more complex political plot -- the answer to which could lie in the questions being asked about Sher Singh Rana's identity.

Rana confessed before a battery of policemen and then again before an army of reporters his motive to kill the woman he says was responsible for killing upper caste Thakurs in Behmai. "To save the honour of the Thakurs, it was essential for her to die. When I could finally manage it, I did it," said Rana.

But this testimony is not entirely acceptable to the Uttaranchal police who arrested him at the Dehradun Press Club on Friday morning. "We're not completely convinced because there is not enough evidence," said AK Sharan, DGP Uttaranchal.

Sher Singh Rana's house in Roorkee is locked and his immediate family is reported to have disappeared. Local residents confirm that he is a Thakur, he owns a green Maruti and that he studied in DAV college in Dehradun. But there's no link between Rana and Phoolan Devi, except the one he provided himself.

The Behmai massacre took place in 1981 and Rana, now 25, would have been a five-year-old boy then. Behmai is at least 600 kms away from Roorkee and no links have been established so far between the Thakurs of that village and Rana's family. "No kinship, ties or links have ever been established or known so far between the Thakurs of Behmai and Roorkee. The possibility of them being related is very unlikely," said Prof V K Sisodia, Head of Department, Sociology, DAV College, Dehradun.

Besides, Rana's history of fabricating evidence has raised doubts about how reliable his testimony really is. While he was in college and standing for elections, a case was registered alleging that he had been kidnapped. But people in college and police believe it was a false case. "People believe he had this case built up to get sympathy and attention of students," said Dr J P Nigam, former principal, DAV College, Dehradun.

Rana's only possible link to the Bandit Queen seems to be through Uma Kashyap, the local activist of the Dalit Eklavya Sena, a political group started by the former MP.

I do not know Uma Kashyap: Umed

In a new twist to the case, Phoolan Devi's husband Umed Singh, has denied he ever met Uma Kashyap, the woman who was a close associate of Phoolan and who is being seen by the police as a crucial link in the murder case. She was the one who had brought Phoolan to hospital after she was shot and had also met her on the morning she was killed. "I do not know Uma Kashyap. I have never met her. Thousands of people come here everyday," Umed Singh said.

Phoolan Devi's younger sister Munni Devi has however refuted Umed Singh's claim that he did not know Uma Kashyap. "He knows Uma Kashyap very well. She used to come here regularly. Whenever she came, she would meet everyone. Of course, he used to meet her," she said.

Umed Singh, a Samajwadi party worker, has demanded a CBI enquiry into the matter and has alleged that Phoolan's killing was politically motivated. He also adds that he had advised Phoolan Devi to stay away from politics on several occasions. He has however refuted charges that he is joining politics although he says at one point of time he had thought of contesting the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. "I won't contest elections. I have nothing to do with politics," he maintained.

Umed Singh has also denied that his relationship with Phoolan Devi was estranged although Phoolan Devi's lawyer Kamini Jaiswal has categorically said that Phoolan Devi had wanted to keep Umed Singh out of her will.

Question on Uma Kashyap

Adding more twists to the case was the revelation today that Uma Kashyap was involved in a murder case in June 1999 in which she is alleged to have murdered a 22-year-old boy from the Balmiki Scheduled Caste. A case was registered against her two months after the alleged murder. She was jailed for a brief period before the High Court issued a stay and she was let out on bail.

Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party in Rourkee is speaking in two voices on whether Uma Kashyap is a member of the party or not. Some SP workers have said that Uma Kashyap was at one point of time the head of the party's women's wing in Hardwar. Another group of workers say she was never part of the party's official activities but did take part in demonstrations and party functions.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: July 27, 2001
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