The past few days have been quite traumatising for Bihar’s political machinery as it struggles to keep up with a clean image in the wake of the release of the state’s most feared criminal turned politician, Shahabuddin. Popularly referred to as the “Bahubali” of Bihar, Shahabuddin has for long been a symbol of terror in the state. The image he has maintained is evident from the fact that he managed to win a seat in the Lok Sabha for four consecutive terms despite being convicted of multiple crimes.
Born in May 1967 at Pratappur village in Siwan, Shahabuddin received his education in Bihar and went on to earn an MA degree in Political Science and a Phd. The first criminal record against him appears as a 19-year-old college student. By the early 2000s he had been named in around 30 criminal cases, including kidnapping, murder and possessing illegal arms and explosives. In the Hussainganj police station, he has been registered as a history-sheeter type A criminal.
Shortly after he stepped into the criminal world, he made his entry onto the political stage under Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). He joined the youth wing of the RJD in 1990. Shahabuddin’s criminal record and his political success kept pace with each other.
In 1990 he won a seat in the Bihar Legislative Assembly and went on to win it a second consecutive term in 1995. Encouraged by his successive victories in the Assembly elections, he was given a ticket to the Lok Sabha elections for the first time in 1996. Since 1996, Shahabuddin maintained a seat in the Lok Sabha till 2008.
In the two decades of parallel criminal and political successes, Shahabuddin had grown powerful enough to challenge the authority of the administration in Bihar. Such was his terror that despite the long history of criminal record against him, not a single witness was ready to speak up. When in 2001, the police tried to arrest the local part president of RJD, Shahabuddin and his men beat up the police. A fire exchange followed, during which period around 10 police officials were killed by Shahabuddin’s men using AK-47s. Despite the deadly encounter, neither Shahabuddin nor his men got arrested. When the SP of the district filed a case against him, he was immediately transferred.
By the 2000s Shahabuddin had grown powerful enough to run a parallel administration in Siwan and even resolve family disputes. In 2001, when the Editor of Hindustan Times in Patna questioned the District Magistrate of Siwan about the fear that Shahabuddin had created in the region, he responded by saying that for the people of Siwan, Shahabuddin was equivalent to Gandhi. He voted for him out of love and not fear.
In 2003, Shahabuddin was convicted for kidnapping a CPI(ML) worker. However, instead of residing in prison, he was shifted to a local hospital on medical grounds, where he continued running his parallel administration. When elections were held eight months later, Shahabuddin emerged victorious and soon after several members of the opposition party were severely beaten up.
In 2006 under the Nitish Kumar government two special courts were set up in Siwan to try Shahabuddin. The following year, he was convicted to two years imprisonment for assault on the CPI (ML) office in Siwan. A month later, he was given life imprisonment for the abduction of a CPI(ML) worker. In December 2015, Shahabuddin along with three others were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two sons of a businessmen. By 2015, he had been convicted in five other cases and was facing 20 more cases. Earlier this year, a journalist from Bihar, Rajdeo Ranjan was murdered and Shahabuddin is suspected to have links with the case.
On September 11, 2016, Shahabuddin walked out of Bhagalpur prison after a decade in jail. He was granted bail by the Patna High Court and was warmly welcomed by his supporters. Soon after, in a conversation with news channel Times Now, he stated that “there is no direct FIR registered against me in any case.” Hugely embarrassed by his release, the Bihar government is currently preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court against the bail granted to Shahabuddin.