Chandrakeshwar Prasad — Chanda Babu to everyone in his native Siwan — and his wife Kalawati Devi had named their four sons Rajiv Roshan, Girish Raj, Satish Raj and Nitish Raj. They were particularly proud of the connotations of brightness and royalty in the names they chose for their boys.
Today, Rajiv, Girish and Satish are dead. Nitish, 24, has been an invalid since he was a child. 67-year-old Chanda Babu’s once flourishing wholesale provisions business has been reduced to a small, struggling shop. Kalawati Devi hardly ever speaks any more. Chanda Babu tries to ensure she does not come across pictures of their dead sons in the house.
For the fate his family has suffered, Chanda Babu blames “Shahabuddin raj”. The rule of Mohammad Shahabuddin, four-time RJD MP and uncrowned king of Siwan, and possibly India’s most infamous criminal-politician. He had stood up to Shahabuddin, Chanda Babu says, and the don had responded by ordering a terrible retribution visit the family.
On June 16, Rajiv, the couple’s eldest son, was shot dead by killers on a motorbike who drew up alongside as he rode home after collecting dues from retailers in his business of mobile phone spare parts.
From some distance away, Chanda Babu saw his son fall off his bike and die from a single bullet that entered his temple and exited through his mouth. Rajiv, 35, had been married for only 20 days.
In his FIR, Chanda Babu accused Osama, Shahabuddin’s 20-year-old son, of Rajiv’s murder. Osama was at the time in Siwan on vacation from Noida, where he is studying for a law degree. Chanda Babu also named Shahabuddin, accusing him of criminal conspiracy.
On June 19, three days from the day he was murdered, Rajiv Roshan was to record his statement as eyewitness to the macabre killings of his brothers Girish, 23, and Satish, 20, in August 2004. Girish and Satish were allegedly drenched in acid before being shot. Rajiv too had been abducted, but he had managed to escape his brothers’ fate. The bodies of Girish and Satish were never found.
Shahabuddin is the only one among the accused in the ‘acid murders’ who did not get bail. The ex-MP is currently in prison, serving
out multiple sentences, including a life term.
Chanda Babu says he can recognise Rajiv’s assailants if he sees them. “I have not seen much of Osama, but I believe it was him. If the police bring them before me, I can surely recognise them,” he said.
Chanda Babu’s FIR says, “When my son reached DAV Mod around 8.30 pm (on 16 June), three persons came on a motorcycle. Mohammad Shahabuddin’s son Osama, who was one of the pillion riders, had a pistol in his hand. He shot my son from close range in the temple.”
Chanda Babu also said in the FIR that he had seen the faces of the other two men by the light of the street lamps, and would be able to recognise them if they were produced before him.
Sitting in his home on Siwan’s Hospital Road this week, Chanda Babu said police had raided Shahabuddin’s home after Rajiv’s murder, but had not questioned Osama yet.
“Police have been lackadaisical. I have lost my three sons now. Shahabuddin wants my family to leave Siwan. But why should I leave my home, especially now that I have nothing left to lose? What wrong have I done?” he said, fighting back tears behind thick glasses.
Manjari Rani, the older of his two daughters, said, “Osama has been following in the footsteps of his father. He comes to Siwan very often.
The police must discover the truth.” Manjari and her sister Pinki Rani, both of whom are married, have been staying with their parents in the aftermath of Rajiv’s murder.
Investigating Officer Sanjeev Kumar said, “It is too early to say anything on the alleged involvement of Osama in the murder. We have conducted raids at the former MP’s house but have no concrete leads so far.” The police do not know if Osama is still in Siwan.
Chanda Babu’s family had not even got the pictures of Rajiv’s wedding to neighbourhood girl Ankita from the local photographer when he was shot. They have felt no inclination to get the album afterward. Rajiv’s most recent picture shows him wearing a kurta cut in a style known locally as “prince cut”.
Chanda Babu fell foul of Shahabuddin in 1996, after he bought his Hospital Road house. There were seven shops in the building, the tenant of one of which, Nagendra Tiwari, had sub-let the shop to one Madan Sharma, who refused to vacate the premises. After failing to persuade Sharma to leave, Chanda Babu, who was at the time a prosperous businessman, locked up the shop.
“This was when Shahabuddin’s men started troubling me. They asked for Rs 2 lakh, and began to threaten me.”
There were attempts at a “compromise”, and Chanda Babu once invited Shahabuddin, who was then an MP, for the inauguration of one of his shops. But the matter was not resolved, and in the same year that Chanda Babu’s two sons were burnt with acid, alleged Shahabuddin henchmen ransacked, looted and torched his shop, causing him a loss of Rs 60 lakh.
The terror of Shahabuddin was all-pervasive in Siwan through the 1990s, when he was an MLA of Lalu Prasad’s party, and was subsequently elected to the Lok Sabha. By around 2000, he was running a parallel administration in Siwan, ruling on disputes, deciding fees for services, and handing out “justice”.
“There was a time when every shopkeeper here had to hang a picture of Shahabuddin in his shop as a mark of submission to his authority,” Chanda Babu said.
Shahabuddin has been in jail for several years now. His wife Hena Shahab was the RJD candidate from Siwan in the Lok Sabha election, and lost to the BJP’s Om Prakash Yadav.
But such has been Shahabuddin’s terror that few in Siwan are willing to talk about him openly even now. Most say they do not know if Osama killed Rajiv, but they would not be surprised if the police established his involvement. The legend of Shahabuddin endures: several residents recalled the days when they wouldn’t dare to urinate facing one of the don’s many posters around town, even if it was so far away that they could barely see it.