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Don’s Day of reckoning

Saturday 26 May 2007, by DAS*Anand ST

Once law unto himself, Mohammad Shahabuddin, the RJD MP from Siwan, is facing the heat from the courts, raising hopes among his victims’ families

Siwan (Bihar)

Brought to heel? Mohammad Shahabuddin

Kamini Bala

‘Everyone knows who masterminded my son’s murder. But the terror stitched their lips in those days,’

says Chandrashekhar’s mother Kaushalya After a 16-year reign of terror during which he eliminated many of his political rivals, the controversial Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP from Siwan, Mohammad Shahabuddin, finds himself at a dead end. The one-time Muslim mascot of Union Rail Minister and RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav has been convicted twice in the last two months on charges of kidnapping.

With Shahabuddin increasingly getting isolated from his henchmen and power patron Laloo, many in Siwan are hopeful that he will be convicted in other cases too. The two convictions — a two-year rigorous imprisonment awarded on March 2 for the abduction of a CPI (ML) activist Keshab Baitha, and the life imprisonment on May 8 for the abduction of another CPI (ML) leader, Chhote Lal Gupta — has provided a ray of hope to other victims’ families.

In Chhote Lal Gupta’s village, Khardara Noniatola, the court verdicts have been greeted with joy. Gupta is still missing and is believed to have been killed by the mp’s henchmen in 1999. His wife Mamta Gupta told Tehelka: “We have heard that my husband was murdered by Shahabuddin. But he couldn’t be tried for the murder because of lack of evidence.”

People are slowly getting ready to tell the story of my son’s murder which took place at Shahabuddin’s house in Pratappur village,” said Dinanath, the victim’s father.

Awadh Chowdhury, father of Munna Chowdhury who was allegedly abducted and killed by the Shahabuddin gang in 2001 when he was just 19 says, “Shahabuddin’s men pushed hot iron rod into Munna’s penis before killing him. But my wife, I and all 20 witnesses turned hostile under threat. The mp was acquitted in the case but we are ready to seek a retrial in the case.”

A. Chandrashekhar, a two-term president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union, Delhi, and Shyam Narayan Yadav, a local CPI (ML) member, were gunned down by Shahabuddin’s men in broad daylight at Siwan’s JP Chowk on March 31, 1997. The accused were arrested and the case was handed over to the CBI. While Shahabuddin’s name was earlier in the accused list, the CBI’s latest chargesheet doesn’t have his name.

Chandrashekhar’s mother, 72-year-old Kaushalya Devi, hasn’t lost hope. “Everyone in Siwan knows who masterminded my son’s murder. But the reign of terror stitched their lips in those days. I am sure, Shahabuddin would be hanged for the murder,” she told Tehelka. “The CBI has been acting at the behest of the current UPA government at the Centre and Laloo. I will get justice only if the case is transferred to the Bihar police and put under a speedy trial.”

The MP, who is facing prosecution in 34 criminal cases has been in jail since August 2003. He is currently lodged in the Siwan divisional jail. Many of his trusted lieutenants like Manoj Singh, Ramji Chaudhary and Dhruv Jaiswal have joined the ruling Janata Dal (United) to ensure their survival. His fortunes took a turn for the worst soon after the November 2005 Assembly poll when the BJP won the Siwan constituency after two decades. Significantly, Laloo Prasad maintained silence during this period. According to CPI (ML) Siwan district secretary, Indrajit Chaurasia, both the “sinking ships” (Shahabuddin and the RJD) no longer worry about losing each other.

Meanwhile, both in Siwan and Patna, RJD leaders are talking about Shahabuddin’s “political death” and there are indications that the party may give the Siwan Lok Sabha ticket to Awadh Bihari Chowdhury, a former minister.

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See online : Tehelka

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