India´s ´Bandit Queen´ Assassinated

Catholic Leaders Condemn Murder

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NEW DELHI, India, JULY 25, 2001 ( Catholic leaders condemned the assassination today of India´s «Bandit Queen,» Phoolan Devi, outside her house in the high-security heart of the Indian capital.

Devi, 37, was shot by three gunmen when she got out of her car, Joint Commissioner of Police Suresh Roy told Reuters.

The attack ended a turbulent life that began in poverty and rape, turned into a quest for revenge, and ended up in Parliament.

Father Donald D´Souza, vice secretary of the Indian bishops´ conference, and Sister Mary Scaria, coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Delhi Archdiocese, condemned the assassination and expressed the sympathy of the Indian Catholic community, the Misna missionary agency reported.

Police recovered a pistol and some bullets from an abandoned car near the scene of the crime, Roy told Reuters. He added that the motive for the attack was unclear.

Devi, one of India´s best-known women, was adored by thousands of lower-caste Hindus in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, whose interests she represented in the country´s Parliament.

Devi was portrayed in the 1994 film «Bandit Queen» as a rape victim from a low-caste community of boatmen whose career of crime began as a quest for revenge against her attackers.

Indian President K.R. Narayanan also condemned the «cowardly and gruesome act,» Reuters reported. «Her life was a story of rebellion and successful defiance against oppression and exploitation,» Narayanan said in a statement. «Having braved the prejudices that an orthodox society heaps on a woman: poor, backward and a social outcast, she rose to become a member of Parliament in her own right.»

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