Siwan’s strongman Shahabuddin is behind the bars again. The Supreme Court, after a long debate, decided to cancel the bail granted to him by the Patna high court, with immediate effect.
The apex court also ruled that the murder case against Shahabuddin be heard urgently. On the surface, it appears to be a victory for the Bihar government. But if one delves deeper, one realises that in the light of numerous lapses during the hearing, the judges were compelled to express their displeasure.
The state government also got another jolt on Friday. The Patna high court struck down the state government’s pet project of a strong prohibition law in Bihar.
Coming back to Shahabuddin, does he care about going back to jail?
Perhaps not. If it wasn’t the case, a person having expressed his total faith in the judiciary wouldn’t have responded in such a callous manner. When a journalist asked him his reaction to late journalist Rajdeo Ranjan’s wife Asha Devi approaching the apex court to get his bail cancelled, he wouldn’t have responded with: “I don’t care”. Why should he care? After all, the 49-year-old spent 11 years behind bars. Whether he is in the prison or outside, it doesn’t appear to affect his notoriety or his political influence.
When Hindustan journalist Rajdev Ranjan was shot dead in public view on May 13, Shahabuddin was in prison. Ranjan’s wife kept on saying that she suspected Shahabuddin’s hand in her husband’s murder, but the police could not find the “evidence”. But they did arrest three suspects in the case. We have seen this before.
The case is now before the CBI. The agency has taken Laddan Miyan, a suspect, on remand. Mohammad Kaif and Sonu Kumar Soni, two other suspects in the case, sought the protection of the court as soon as the CBI came into the picture. Before this, Kaif was seen in full public view during the procession organised to celebrate Shahabuddin’s release from jail. How was he roaming free despite the police presence? The answer is obvious.
Shahabuddin has 45 cases registered against him — this is in addition to the nine he has been convicted in. According to the law, he cannot contest elections, but he plays an important role in every election. That’s why Lalu Prasad made him a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal working committee even when he was in jail. Political posts are doled out only when it benefits a party.
Did you know that Shahabuddin is an MA in political science and even has a bona fide PhD from Muzaffarpur’s Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar University? In the 1990s, if he is so willed, as a professor somewhere, ‘Doctor’ Shahabuddin would have been teaching the fundamentals of social contact theory as formulated by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This theory says that if in a particular time period anarchy reaches its peak, people become thirsty to kill each other. Exhausted by this bloodshed, they come to a compromise under which they surrender all the rights of their lives to others, provided others did the same.
This tenet of social contract theory challenged the sweeping powers bestowed on the king. Some scholars even credit this theory for the French Revolution of 1789. Shahabuddin would have read this in political science textbooks, but he chose a path that ran opposite to this.
The first case against him was registered in 1986. Four years later, Shahabuddin won his first election from Siwan’s Ziradei Vidhan Sabha seat. Ziradei is the birthplace of our first president, Rajendra Prasad. He was re-elected from the constituency in 1995. The next year, Shahabuddin filed papers for the Lok Sabha and won. During the same period, there was talk of him becoming the minister of state for home in the Deve Gowda government. But it could not reach fruition in the face of heavy criticism.
He was elected to Lok Sabha in 1999 and 2004. By now, the gentrified Shahabuddin had realised that getting a share in government is better than getting political patronage.
His opponents call him a synonym for terror, but his supporters call this perception nonsense and ask if that was the case, how do 55% of votes polled go in his favour?
Is this person, with his disdain for Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, inspired by Mario Puzo?
High on a cocktail of muscle power, money power and people power, this man, standing on the precipice of 50 years, knows that he has become indispensable in the region and that he cannot be overlooked.
That is why, on September 10, right after his release from jail, he said that Nitish Kumar was the chief minister of circumstances, that his leader was Lalu Prasad and on his own, Nitish would not win 20 seats. Perhaps his statement proved to be costly for him.
Shahabuddin may or may not care if he is in prison, but this is also true that youngsters in Bihar have to leave their homes as there are no employment opportunities in the state. For jobs we need industries, but no industrialist wants to set up business in Bihar. Why?
Siwan, where Shahabuddin was born and grew up, is around 90km from Champaran. The Mahatma launched his Satyagraha against the British oppression from here. If Bapu was reborn, he might have been forced to initiate his second battle from here. He would have had another reason for this. Bihar is full of such people who are inflicting harm upon its land and its people. The land that made the world come face to face with democracy is living a distorted caricature of its history.
Shashi Shekhar is editor in chief, Hindustan and tweets as @shekharkahin