Crowds thronged Siwan roads in 2003 when Mohammad Shahabuddin surrendered before court in connection with two cases. Thirteen years thence, on Saturday, the criminal-turned-politician came out on bail to the reception of workers of the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal.
There was a huge deployment of personnel to avoid any untoward incident as the RJD strongman, who faces more than 40 criminal cases, walked out of prison.
The city this time was Bhagalpur, which is diagonally opposite Shahabuddin’s native place on the Bihar map. Thousands of his supporters and hundreds of vehicles were waiting to greet the 49-year-old strongman who was granted bail by the Patna high court in the Rajiv Raushan murder case. Mediapersons jostled to get his quotes and bytes.
“Just keep watching. He is our leader,” said a senior RJD functionary. “Shahabuddin is a member of the party’s national executive. He has come out of jail; he deserves a grand welcome.”
Shahabuddin wasted no time in making it clear that the RJD remained his party and Lalu Prasad his boss.
Despite serving a jail term of over a decade, which snatched the prime from him and the childhood of his son Osama, the leader appeared cheerful, dressed in a kurta-pyjama.
In August 2003, Shahbuddin did secure bail, but he was again arrested. That was in Delhi, in 2005. This time Shahabuddin was to remain in prison for 11 years.
A senior police officer, who was at the helm of affairs in 2003, recalled on Saturday that raids were going on at that time in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and elsewhere to nab Shahabuddin. “There was lookout notice for him at the airports. But a senior politician told me to allow him to surrender, as he would go with over 10,000 people to the court,” he said.
The then Siwan SP apprehended trouble if Shahabuddin was arrested from the midst of a large crowd of his supporters, the police officer said. “He alighted from a train and went to his house and then planned his surrender. It was indeed a scene out there,” he added.
It was on August 13, 2003 that Shahabuddin surrendered, with thousands of his supporters swarming the Siwan court premises and its vicinity. Amid a cavalcade of over 250 vehicles, the leader covered the four-km distance between his native Pratappur village and the city in a cavalcade that had over 250 vehicles.
Cut to 2016. The police were facing a big challenge on Saturday to manage the crowd, as Shahabuddin was set to travel a distance of 260 km—this time with a caravan of 600 vehicles—to reach Siwan from Bhagalpur.
“We have got reinforcement,” said a police officer.” There is police deployment all along the route. We are guarded against miscreants possibly trying to take advantage of the situation.”