On Gaushala Road in Siwan town, everyone knows the home of Chandrakeshwar Prasad alias Chanda Babu. This is the home of the man two of whose sons were drenched in acid, allegedly on the orders of the former RJD MP of Siwan, Mohammed Shahabuddin, and a third son was shot dead last year — also allegedly by Shahabuddin’s men.
The family of Chanda Babu is seen as the most obvious victim and most visible symbol of the reign of terror that Shahabuddin ran in Siwan for nearly a decade and a half before he was jailed in 2005.
A special court on Friday sentenced Shahabuddin and three others to life imprisonment for the two murders by acid. The trial in the 2014 murder of Chanda Babu’s third son is ongoing. The don has already been convicted in five other cases, and is lodged in Siwan jail. He faces another 20 cases.
There was a time when Chanda Babu owned a flourishing wholesale provisions store. The 68-year-old now ekes out a living for himself, his 65-year-old wife, and their fourth son, who is physically disabled, on a monthly rent of Rs 9,000 that he gets from six small shops that he owns on Gaushala Road.
A few plastic chairs, two wooden cots, and a glass box that was once an aquarium are all the furniture that Chanda Babu has. His and his wife Kalawati Devi’s lives revolve around the three pictures of their dead sons that sit inside the glass box. Just inside the door hangs from a black thread a lemon and some green chillies, along with a small copper plate with the words, “Buri nazar waale tera munh kaala”, an invocation to ward off evil spirits.
Chanda Babu does not believe he got justice from the court — Shahabuddin should have hanged, he says. “But I have to accept the verdict because I do not have the means to challenge it. I have no complaints.”
Chanda Babu hardly ever goes out of the house. He did not attend the trial proceedings at the special court on the jail premises, in part to stay out of the way of Shahbuddin’s supporters, but mainly because he saw no point in going to the hearings. One of the three securitymen originally provided to him by the district administration was withdrawn during the assembly elections. Chanda Babu says he does not fear death: “Death is inevitable. I died when my two sons were killed, and all over again last year when I lost my third son. It now does not matter if God takes me away or Shahabuddin kills me.”
On August 16, 2004, when Chanda Babu was away in Patna, alleged henchmen of the don reached his shop on Gaushala Road and picked up a quarrel with his sons Girish Raj and Rajiv Roshan. “They beat Rajiv and snatched some cash, but dispersed after Girish threatened them with a bottle of acid kept in an adjoining bathroom,” Chanda Babu said. The men, however, returned with several others, and this time picked up Girish, Rajiv, and their brother Satish Raj, and took them to Shahabuddin’s village, Pratappur.
Rajiv was separated from his brothers and kept in a sugarcane field. From there, Chanda Babu said, he watched as Shahabuddin dealt with Girish and Satish. “Rajiv heard Shahabuddin say that since Girish had thrown acid at his men, he should learn how acid hurts,” Chanda Babu said.
As the don’s men allegedly bathed Girish and Satish in acid, Rajiv managed to escape. But on June 16, 2014, barely three days before he was to appear as a witness in the trial for his brothers’ killings, Rajiv was gunned down. He had then been married for only a month. Shahabuddin, then in jail, was named as a conspirator in the murder.
Shahabuddin’s animus against the family allegedly began in the mid-1990s, after Chanda Babu forced a tenant at one of his shops to vacate. The tenant was close to the don, whose word was then law in Siwan. “They wanted Rs 2.5 lakh to settle the issue, but I was not going to just give away my hard-earned money to Shahabuddin,” Chanda Babu said.
The family’s shop, Rajiv Kirana, was closed after Rajiv was killed. The couple’s only surviving son, Nitish Raj, lives with them. Their daughters, Manjari Rani and Priti Rani, are married and have long left Siwan. “They have deserted us,” Chanda Babu says of his daughters, but adds that he is okay with it.
Nitish, a political science graduate, walks with a limp, but looks after his parents and cooks for them. Kalawati Devi broke a bone in her hip seven months ago, and can’t walk.
The family had received both threats and inducements to withdraw the acid murder cases. They refused. Chanda Babu says he will not leave Siwan to escape Shahabuddin’s men. “Where should I go? Why should I go? I have resigned myself to God’s justice now. No one has helped us all these years. I am a cripple, but alive,” he says.
Kalawati Devi, who is a science graduate, can hardly complete a sentence without breaking down in tears. She too says, “I have left everything to God.”
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