Just five km from Pratappur, the village of Mohd. Shahabuddin, Chanda Babu rues that the bail order “is nothing less than my death sentence.”
Three young sons of 70-year old Babu were allegedly murdered by henchmen of Shahabuddin, former RJD MP from Siwan who has been released on bail in a murder case.
Chandrakeshwar Prasad, as Chanda Babu’s full name goes, lives with his ailing wife Kalawati Devi and a disabled son in a one room hovel in Siwan town.
Mr. Shahabuddin is out on bail in the murder of Rajiv Roushan, Chanda Babu’s eldest son. Roushan was an eyewitness to the murder of his two brothers.
“My sons Girish and Satish were kidnapped in 2004 by Shahabuddin’s men and killed by pouring acid at Pratappur. Rajiv, the elder son, was kidnapped but he escaped. When he returned to Siwan in 2014, he too was murdered,” says Chanda Babu. Rajiv was killed in front of his father just 21 days after his marriage.
“I’ve lost everything. What else is there to fear,” he asks. Once a well-known businessman, Chanda Babu is in penury, with a broken leg and a hand.
“We live on the rent from our shops or we would have to beg,” he says. “This is the property that Shahabuddin’s men wanted to capture and took away my sons,” he says tearfully.
Fears further attack
Does he fear for his property? “Yes, he may get me and my fourth son killed. Who will dare oppose Shahabuddin in Siwan,” he asks.
Shahabuddin dismisses the charges. “If I’m a terror, why are so many from all across society converging here, in a festive atmosphere,” he asks.
In Pratappur, a day after his jail release, a bespectacled Mohd Shahabuddin sat encircled on Sunday by swarms of visitors outside his village home.
In a yellow kurta and beige track pants, he was accepting bouquets and garlands with a smile. He had arrived from Bhagalpur jail the previous night at 9 p.m.
The Hindu spoke to him on the first floor of the double storey house where in 2001, he had an eight-hour encounter with police in which seven people were killed.
What did he miss most in jail? “Mere log [my people],” he said. “I’ve spent my whole life among them but ever since I was sent to jail I missed them. You can see how many of them are coming to meet me since last night.” How does he respond to people viewing him as the “terror of Siwan” and their fear that since his emergence from jail, Siwan would return to its reign of terror?
“If that is the case, why were hundreds of people at the jail to receive me? Why have I been winning elections with huge margins? In fact, it’s love of the people. All these terms are media creations.” He asserts that he would now be “here among my own people.”
Shahabuddin is clear that Lalu Prasad will remain his leader. “I’ve started my political career with him and will end it with him. Whatever decision he takes, wherever he goes, I’ll follow him. For me, he is the only mass leader in the country today, and a natural leader,” he says.
‘Nitish not my CM’
He describes Nitish Kumar as “the Chief Minister of Bihar, leader of the JD(U), leader of the grand alliance, leader of the State Assembly but, not mine.” He became CM as all the secular parties wanted to stop the BJP and agreed to make him CM. “He is CM by circumstance,” the MP says.
On whether he would support Lalu Prasad’s younger son and Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav as future CM, he says: “I’m happy that the second generation is doing well and the way he is presenting himself with his balanced statements is very good”. Shahabuddin is dismissive of the Opposition BJP attack that the Bihar government, under pressure of Lalu Prasad, had made his exit from jail easy, by not following the required judicial process in the Rajiv Roushan murder?
“Who takes BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi seriously? Can someone influence the judiciary? I was sent to jail by the court and got bail from the court”, he declares. “What benefit would I get from Roushan’s murder? Every crime has a motive and he already has given his statement in court before his murder.”
But Chanda Babu is keen to pursue justice for his sons. He told The Hindu that no one, including Nitish Kumar, came to help him. He had fought on for on his own against someone whose utterances were law in that area.“I can’t move around on my own, neither can my wife or my son. In fact, it is we who have been living in jail for so many years rather than Shahabuddin,” he says.