Mohammad Shahabuddin is one such name which every child in Bihar is acquainted with, especially those living in Bihar’s Siwan district, the fiefdom of four-time Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Mohammad Shahabuddin aka Saheb (as Shahabuddin is referred to in Siwan), who has ruled Siwan with fear, especially during the days of Lalu Yadav’s Jungle Raj.
This is why, for those who have lived or even for that matter visited Siwan, the area where the dreaded gangster’s writ still influences the way of life, it’s almost impossible for them to be unaware of Shahabuddin’s ancestral bungalow located in Pratappur’s Terdighat. It is said that there can be no count of how many people have been killed and buried in the backyard of the Siwan’s strongman’s ancestral house.
Siwan: Pratappur encounter and Mohammad Shahabuddin
Apart from this ancestral house, a huge white bungalow greets visitors at Muslim Tola. The house, known as “Saheb ka bungalow”, is built on about 4 acres of land belonging to the family. Shahabuddin used the bungalow as his office when he was not in jail. On March 15, 2001, something happened in this white house, that took the country by the storm. People remember the incident as the infamous Pratappur (Siwan) gunfight.
On March 15, 2001, Shahabuddin’s bungalow was raided by a police team headed by then Siwan police chief Bachchu Singh Meena, resulting in a fierce gunbattle in which 12 people, including two policemen, were killed. In a way, it was an encounter between RJD- the then ruling party of the state and the state police. The police had then suffered major losses with two of its men being killed in the shootout along with the supporters of the don. Ten others were also killed while several police vehicles were burnt down. The police recovered three AK-47s from the spot. But they could not catch hold of Shahabuddin. He had fled. The police filed several cases against him.
RJD chief-Lalu Yadav was then busy in building a front against the BJP because whenever the BJP comes to the centre, the opposition parties start suddenly working on their ‘secularism’ image. However, when this incident happened, the then de-facto Chief Minister of Bihar and RJD supremo Lalu Yadav who was to leave for Delhi to hold talks on the formation of the People’s Front, had to cancel his trip.
Following the Pratappur (Siwan) gunfight, the district’s atmosphere had become very hostile. As tensions ran high in Siwan, the Bihar Mounted Police, three columns of the Central Reserve Police Force and one column of the army moved in from Ranchi in neighbouring Jharkhand and other places to assist the police to maintain peace and step up their offensive to arrest Shahabuddin. Prohibitory orders were also clamped in the district.
But even before the police could know, the MP had reportedly fled the district. But this had not come as a surprise as Shahabuddin was known to be the right hand of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. Since he was Lalu’s beloved, he became a law unto himself and was free to do anything in the state. Siwan soon turned into a bastion of murder, rape, extortion and kidnapping and was leading all big and small districts of Bihar. Many people were disappearing every day from the Siwan district, of which Shahabuddin was the unchallenged ‘ruler’.
What led to the infamous Pratappur encounter
Pratappur village was 17 km from Siwan and Mohammad Shahabuddin used to run a parallel administration in the district, carrying out all his illegal businesses freely from there. Pratappur had in one way become the crime capital of Siwan. The district was out of bounds for the police. The dreaded gangster ran his own “kangaroo courts” to settle family and land disputes in the area. He gave two hoots to the police and administrative officials. He thrashed them on a regular basis. He would even shoot at the policemen and get away with it.
In 2001, one day, Shahabuddin’s men attacked Siwan DSP Ashwini Kumar. In a few days, Siwan Sadar’s DSP Sanjeev Kumar was at one of matriculation exam centres. Sanjiv Kumar had come with a force to comply with a warrant against local RJD chief and a wanted criminal Manoj Kumar Pappu. Shahabuddin and his supporters were also present. Shahabuddin had come to provide “assistance” to one of his ‘boys’ taking the exam. When DSP Sanjeev Kumar tried to nab Manoj Kumar Pappu, in the presence of ‘MP Saheb’, the infuriated Shahabddinu slapped DSP Sanjeev Kumar in front of the public. This news was not covered in the media because of the terror of the mafia don.
One can imagine how close was Shahabuddin to Lalu Yadav from the fact that he was the only person in Bihar, who would sit alongside Bihar CM with a pistol tucked to his waist. No one could have dared to touch Shahabuddin.
However, a sense of anger and desperation was prevailing among the police officials of Siwan. The Manoj Kumar Pappu episode had enraged the police to another level. That time Bacchu Singh Meena was the SP of Siwan, under whom the police showed unbelievable courage and decided to raid Shahbuddin’s house in Pratappur.
The MP’s supporters were already sitting prepared. The police didn’t even imagine that so many people would start firing with AK-47 and assault rifles at them simultaneously from inside the MP’s house. It is known that Shahabuddin was also leading the attack and firing at the police.
Besides the Bihar Police, teams of Uttar Pradesh police from Deoria were also deployed on SP Meena’s request. After a 10-hour long gun battle and more than 4000 rounds of bullets fired, 3 policemen and 8 of Shahabuddin’s accomplices were shot dead while several police vehicles were burnt down. When police eventually entered the gangster’s home, to their shock, they found a considerable amount of weapons, including Pakistan-made assault rifles, AK-47s, grenades, several 9 mm pistols, and ammunition in Shahabuddin’s home.
The immediate fallout of this episode was the transfer of SP Bacchu Singh Meena, and the DM the very next day. The matriculation exams were postponed for three days. Siwan came to a standstill.
The RJD MP managed to escape and reappeared from nowhere a few hours later and declared: “अगर बच्चू सिंह मीना को राजस्थान तक भी दौड़ा कर मारना होगा तो मारेंगे, लेकिन मारेंगे ज़रूर” (I’ll kill Bacchu Singh Meena even if I’ve to chase him to Rajasthan. No one can save him now.) The next of the encounter, he was seen giving interviews to news channels. Shahabuddin had infact, told star news that his men fired in self defense and he was not going to surrender under any circumstances.
Police claimed to have recovered an AK-47 rifle, a 9mm pistol and some hand-grenades from the MP’s house. The then Director-General of Police RR Prasad and other top police and administrative officials had then camped in the village. Chief Secretary Mukund Prasad had then confirmed that two columns of the army from Ranchi and one column from Danapur (Patna) had been deployed in Siwan. Besides, three companies of central paramilitary forces had also been rushed there. According to official sources, the state government had also deputed four additional district magistrates and four executive magistrates in Siwan.
Mohammad Shahabuddin synonymous with terror
However, this was not the stand-alone episode when Shahabuddin and his gang had open fired at policemen.
In 1996, a day after polling for the Lok Sabha elections concluded in Siwan, Shahabu– as Mohammad Shahabuddin was also popularly known, along with his supporters had opened fire on the vehicle of the then Superintendent of Police (SP) SK Singhal in the heart of Siwan and forced the police officer to run for his life. Singhal, then SP of Siwan, had escaped a murderous attack on him by the henchmen of Mohammad Shahabuddin, while he was investigating a complaint against him during the parliamentary polls.
For the uninitiated, SK Singhal is currently the DGP of Bihar. The post became vacant due to Gupteshwar Pandey’s early retirement and joining politics, for which DG Homeguard SK Singhal became the first choice of the Bihar government.
The 1996 incident was said to be the first public display of Shahabuddin’s terror that was stamped in the minds of the people of Siwan. This incident is also remembered because it was the first time Shahabuddin was seen standing opposite Lalu Prasad. By this time his relationship with RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav had strained and Sahabuddin was seen hobnobbing with rebel leader Ranjan Yadav.
Shahabuddin was the Janata Dal MLA at the time from Jiradei constituency, was contesting the Lok Sabha election from Siwan seat. In 1996 he was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time. It is said that during the elections in Siwan, then Shahabuddin’s opposition candidates were not even allowed to put up their posters, such was Shahabuddin’s terror in the district at that time.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Shahabuddin, furious with the Pratappur encounter, had vowed to kill Siwan’s SP Bachhu Singh Meena and also threatened policemen from the surrounding districts with the help of whom his house was raided. Some traders started leaving the district while some refused to open their shops out of fear. It is said that the then Siwan’s DM, Mohammed Rashid Khan had provided tactical support to Shahabuddin in all his misadventures which had greatly miffed the police officiers in Siwan.
Many believe that the Pratappur encounter was nothing but a political gimmick. The incident was then portrayed as an issue of security for Muslims. The rebellions in the RJD camp- like Ranjan Yadav, the once-trusted aide of Lalu Prasad in 1990s who had turned hostile towards the latter, linked the incident to the ‘protection of minorities’. Some leaders also said that it was a ‘conspiracy’ to kill Mohammad Shahabuddin because of his loyalty towards Ranjan Yadav.
The Bihar government transferred Siwan’s district magistrate and superintendent of police and ordered an inquiry into killings of 11 people at Pratappur residence of controversial RJD MP, Shahabuddin. The government’s action followed the submission of a report by a team led by the then Excise Minister Shivanand Tiwari, which made an on-the-spot inquiry and charged the police with being utterly brutal. Tiwari had termed it as ‘cold-blooded murder’ and alleged that the encounter was a fake one.
The kin of the deceased was given government jobs and Rs 2.5 lakh as compensation. In his report, Shivanand Tiwari had, in turn, called the raid as police brutality and claimed that the policemen disobeyed the orders of their superiors. In his report, Tiwari recommended action against the police officials. A case of murder, attempt to murder and possession of illegal arms was also registered against Mohammad Shahabuddin. This action was a grim reminder to the Bihar administration that the state is nothing but an empire of crime.
Mohammad Shahabuddin- the terror of Siwan
The Siwan district, in the 90s and early 21st century, became Shahabuddin’s fiefdom and he was its unchallenged ruler. Shahabuddin entered into politics under Lalu’s shadow as a member of Janata Dal’s youth wing. He got the advantage of his influence through muscle power. He contested on Janata Dal ticket in the 1990 Bihar Assembly elections and won. He also won in 1995. His political stature grew further when he won the 1996 Lok Sabha elections for the first time. He acquired more power with the RJD coming to power in the State in 1997.
In 2009, the court banned the mafia don from contesting elections. But, such was his hold in the party, that RJD instead started giving tickets to his wife- Hina Shahab, for Siwan Lok Sabha seat. However, luck kept eluding her. She lost the 2009 and then the subsequent 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well.
Shahabuddin, known as “Sultan of Siwan”, is now serving life imprisonment in the Tihar jail in connection with several cases including the kidnapping and murder of CPI(ML) leader Chandrashekhar Prasad aka Chhote Lal Gupta in 1999 and a double-murder case. Interestingly, CPI(ML) today is preparing to enter the assembly elections by forming an alliance with the RJD.
In fact, the 2004 double-murder case was one of the most visible symbols of the reign of terror that Shahabuddin ran in Siwan for nearly a decade and a half before he was jailed in 2005. Chanda Babu’s three out of four sons were the victims of Shahabuddin’s atrocities. His two sons – Girish Raj (20) and Satish Raj (25) – were drenched in acid before being killed at Pratappur by henchmen of the mafia don, while his third son Rajeev Raushan, who was the only eyewitness in the double-murder case, was later murdered in Siwan on June 16, 2014.
The four-term former MP of Lalu Prasad’s RJD-Md Shahabuddin had stepped into politics and crime during his college days. The first case against Shahabuddin was registered in 1986 at the age of 19. Thereafter, several criminal cases against him got added to the list. A history sheet was opened in his name in Hussainganj police station and he was declared an ‘A’ category criminal. Interestingly, this ‘A’ category criminal holds a master’s degree in arts and has done a PhD in political science.
Contested from jail
Despite being arrested eight months before the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, he contested the Lok Sabha elections from inside the jail. Over 500 booths were looted on the polling day allegedly on his directions. Despite the re-election, he won the seat. However, Om Prakash Yadav of the JD(U) had then given him a tough fight by securing over 2 lakh (33 per cent) votes. This had hurt Shahabuddin’s ego and after that, the massacre of JD(U) activists begun. Several JD(U) workers were killed. The head of the village, where Om Prakash Yadav had got more votes, was killed and his house was set on fire. Om Prakash Yadav is currently the National Vice President of Bharatiya Janata Party Kisan Morcha and the incumbent MP of Siwan in Bihar.