Last witness in Behmai massacre dies waiting for verdict

The last surviving witness in the Behmai massacre case of 1981, Jantar Singh, passed away in a hospital in Lucknow following prolonged illness.

Jantar Singh, who died on Thursday, had suffered a gunshot wound during the Behmai massacre case in which 21 Thakurs, were shot dead by bandit queen Phoolan Devi and her gang on February 14, 1981.

District government counsel Raju Porwal, who is involved in the Behmai trial, said, “Jantar Singh was critically ill and was admitted to SGPGIMS, Lucknow. With his death, his 40-year wait for the court verdict in the case has also ended.”

Porwal further said that after the death of complainant Rajaram, Jantar Singh was pursuing the case. However, his death would not make any impact on the case as his evidence had already been recorded by the court.

On February 14,1981, Behmai village had shot into limelight when Phoolan Devi and her gang raided the village, situated on the bank of Yamuna River to avenge her humiliation and murder of her paramour Vikram Mallah.

Phoolan and her gang rounded up all the men in the village and shot them dead. A couple of villagers had also been injured in the incident.

Witness Jantar Singh had also suffered gunshot injury but had survived since he hid in a haystack. He was the main witness of the prosecution.

“Rajaram, a villager of the same village, had lodged an FIR of the case. After his death, Jantar Singh was pleading the case and used to reach court on every fixed date,” Porwal said.

Around half a dozen alleged dacoits, including the main accused Phoolan Devi, have died in the past years and cases against them have been abated. One of the alleged dacoits, Posa, is in jail while accused Shyam Babu, Vishwanath and Bheekha are on bail. The case had twice reached the stage of final verdict, but judgment could not be delivered due to some technicalities.

Before delivering the judgement, the court had summoned the original case diary from the prosecution, but it was found to be missing.

Porwal said, “Though the original case diary was not traceable, a Xerox copy was on record.”

Meanwhile, the presiding officer of the anti-dacoity court was transferred. Now, as per law and rules, the new presiding officer will have to hear the fresh arguments of the case. The arguments are likely to start soon.