Muhammad Shahabuddin was elected for four successive terms to the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) between 1996 and 2008. In the 2009 general elections, the RJD party had put up his wife Hena Shahab from Siwan constituency in Bihar, but his long-time opponent Om Prakash Yadav defeated her by 63,000 votes (9%).
In 2004, Shahabuddin's opponents were intimidated against campaigning even though he was in prison during the elections. Immediately after the elections, which he won by a margin of 100,000 votes (16%), nine party workers of the nearest candidate Om Prakash Yadav of Janata Dal (United), were found murdered, allegedly for daring to put up a credible fight.
He has been winning Lok Sabha elections from Siwan since 1996, prior to which he was elected twice to the Bihar Legislative Assembly (1990 and 1995). Few opponents dare campaign publicly for fear; in addition, he is widely believed to have rigged many polling stations in the past.
In May 2007, Shahabuddin was found guilty in a case of "abducting with intent to murder", and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. This may mean that he would be unable to contest any subsequent elections. On 30 August 2017, Patna High Court upheld life sentence of Mohammad Shahabuddin in Siwan Murder case.
Shahabuddin came into the political limelight while at college in the 1980s; he came to be known for his daredevil fighting and his opposition to the growing reach of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The first criminal case against Shahabuddin was filed in 1986. Since then, Shahabuddin has accumulated an extensive criminal record, primarily in the Hussain Ganj police station at Siwan, where he is listed as a history-sheeter type A (a hardened criminal with a history of crime). Type A is taken to indicate criminals who are beyond reform.
In the early 1990s, Shahabuddin came into political limelight, joining the Janata Dal youth wing under Lalu Prasad Yadav. He won the 1990 and 1995 elections to the Vidhan Sabha (state legislative assembly), and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996 on the JD ticket, after which he grew in stature. With Lalu Prasad holding sway over the then state government of Bihar, and the formation of the Rashtriya Janata Dal in 1997, Shahabuddin's power increased dramatically. A report by the People's Union for Civil Liberties in 2001 states:
The patronage and defacto immunity from legal action offered to him by the RJD government gradually made him a law unto himself giving him an aura of invincibility. Since the police turned a blind eye to his criminal activities and allowed him to turn Siwan district into his fiefdom where his fiat ran.... Shahabuddin's reign of terror was so complete that nobody dared depose against him in cases in which he was an accused.
Shahabuddin became extremely arrogant against the police and other govt. bodies, He himself slapped and shot many policemen.
In March 2001 the police were executing a warrant on Mr. Manoj Kumar "Pappu", the president of the local RJD unit, when Shahabuddin objected and slapped the arresting officer Sanjiv Kumar, while his men beat up the police. The police then re-grouped in strength and a pitched battle was launched on Shahabuddin's house, with help being sought from other police units in the vicinity, including one from Uttar Pradesh.
In the extensive fire exchange that followed, two policemen and eight others were killed, with three AK-47s and other weapons being found near several of the deceased. Shahabuddin and his men escaped, setting fire to three police jeeps, and firing continuously to cover their movements. Neither Shahabuddin nor Manoj Kumar could be arrested. After this episode, several more cases were filed against Shahabuddin; however he could not be arrested.
By the early 2000s, Shahabuddin was running a parallel administration in Siwan, holding "kangaroo courts" to settle family and land disputes, fixing doctors’ consultancy fees, and arbitrating on marital problems.
Vivid descriptions of Shahabuddin's style of operation were reported in the media in the runup to the 2004 elections.
In late 2003, eight months before the 2004 general elections, Shahabuddin was arrested on charges of abducting a CPI(ML) worker in 1999, who was never seen again. Instead of staying in prison, he managed to get himself shifted to the Siwan hospital on medical grounds; there, a complete floor was set aside for him. Here he conducted meetings organizing his elections, and anyone could walk in to meet him, subject to checks by his bodyguards. Every afternoon at four, he held audience for his subjects, who arrived to meet their Saheb (boss), and to get their problems resolved. One petitioner turned out to be a policeman seeking a promotion; Sahabuddin called up the police bosses on his mobile phone and arranged things on the spot. For another petitioner, he called up a minister in Delhi. Another petitioner, wishing to resolve a land dispute, brought him a rifle as a gift, right there in his prison.
Although the elections saw little activity by the opposition – every shop carried a photograph of the Saheb, and according to a BBC report:
There is almost no sign of the opposition campaigning in the constituency. One villager, pleading that his identity should not be disclosed, said: "Do you want to get us hanged by telling you what we feel about elections here and who we would like to vote for?"
In fact, several phone booth owners and other businessmen were killed after putting up banners or posters of opponents.
A few days before the election, the Patna High Court directed the state government to ensure that Shahabuddin was properly jailed, instead of the hospital floor.
During the elections, largescale rigging and booth capturing were reported from as many as 500 polling stations and re-polling was ordered by the autonomous election conducting body, Election Commission of India.
When the election results were announced, it turned out that although Shahabuddin won comfortably, his nearest Janata Dal (United) opponent, Om Prakash Yadav had managed to get two lakh votes, about 33.5% of the electorate. In the 1999 elections, JD(U) had polled only 7.5% of the vote, so this was a huge gain for them.
Within days of these results being announced, nine party workers of the Janata Dal (United) were killed, and a large number were beaten up; it is widely believed that this was a retaliation for daring to put up a credible fight.
Harendra Kushawaha, the mukhia (chief of Panchayat or village council) of the Bhanta Pokhar village where Om Prakash Yadav had a strong majority, was shot dead at a government office.
After several bullets were fired at Om Prakash Yadav's house, the civil authorities assigned him a posse of eight armed policemen as bodyguards.
Well after the elections, a case was filed against Shahabuddin that he had lied in his electoral declaration; whereas he had said he had been named in 19 cases, at the time, there were 34 cases pending against him.
Despite being the elected representative of the region, he was extended from Siwan for months in 2005, since he was perceived as a security threat.
In April 2005, a police raid led by then Siwan S.P. Ratna Sanjay with the support of D.M.Siwan C. K. Anil on Shahabuddin's house in Pratappur helped recover illegal arms such as AK-47s, and other military weaponry authorized for possession only by the army, including night-vision goggles, Laser-guided guns, etc. Some of the arms had the markings of Pakistan ordnance factories, and the then Chief of Police (DGP), Bihar, D.P. Ojha alleged in a report that Shahabuddin had ties with the Pakistan intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Subsequently, eight non-bailable warrants were issued for arresting Shahabuddin.
However, his party was part of the United Progressive Alliance headed by Manmohan Singh, and clearly he had considerable clout. Thus, although he was living in his official assigned quarter in Delhi, and attending parliament, the Delhi police and a special team sent from Bihar could not arrest him for over three months. However, a team from Bihar, without informing anyone, was finally able to arrest him from his official residence in New Delhi in November 2005. Subsequently, he was refused bail by the Supreme Court of India, where he was asked at one point:
By virtue of being an MP, are you entitled to keep these weapons, including a night vision device, when even the police, CRPF and other security agencies do not have it and only the army possesses it?
In May 2006, Nitish Kumar's National Democratic Alliance government set up a number of special courts for trying criminal-dons including Suraj Bhan Singh MP, and MP Prabhunath Singh from Nitish Kumar's own party, Janata Dal (United).
However, Shahabuddin claimed to have suffered a slipped disc, and was not in a position to appear in court. Medical reports however, indicated that he was fit to walk. In any event, two special courts were set up inside Siwan Jail to try the cases pending against him.
There were more than thirty criminal cases pending, including eight of murder, and 20 of attempted murder, kidnapping, extortion, etc. Of these, charges were initially framed in eight cases.
Besides these police-registered cases, many other crimes are unreported. These include a large number of "disappearances" from Siwan; reports in the media allege that as many as a hundred bodies may be buried on the grounds of Shahabuddin's well-fortified Pratappur palace, the venue where the entire Bihar state police had to retreat after a fierce firefight while attempting to serve a warrant in 2001 (the three policemen killed in this battle also figure in the list of cases against him).
In July 2006, one of the session judges trying the cases, V.B. Gupta, was threatened by lawyer Mahtab Alam, who initially offered "allurements" for "rescuing" Shahabuddin. When this did not work, he threatened to eliminate the judge. Subsequently the Patna High Court ordered that a charge be registered against the lawyer Mahtab Alam.
In August 2006, while undergoing treatment in New Delhi, some supporters of Shahabuddin were prevented from entering by the Assistant Jailor of Patna's Beur Jail Vashisht Rai, then on deputation at the ward in AIIMS. Apparently Shahabuddin told Rai:
Your family lives in Baniapur (near Chhapra, Bihar). No one will survive.
Bahut din se tum logon ki pitai nahin hui hai. Bail hone do peet ke rakh denge
(you people have not been beaten up for a long time. Let me come out on bail and I will thrash you)"
The very next day, he again threatened jailor Sanjeev Kumar:Tadpa tadpa ke maarenge
(I will torture you slowly to death).
Both these incidents were formally registered as First Information Reports relating to criminal intimidation, and deterring a public servant from discharge of his duty.
Shahabuddin is possibly the most prominent criminal-politician in India today; his is the standard to which other criminal-politicians are compared.
Consequently, the Nitish Kumar government felt it important to bring some convictions against this noted criminal, thus re-inforcing its clean image.
In March 2007, Magistrate V V Gupta in a Siwan court (held inside the prison) sentenced Mohammad Shahabuddin to two years imprisonment for the assault on the CPI-ML offices in Siwan on 19 September 1998. Shahabuddin and his armed supporters had bombed the premises and assaulted office secretary Keshav Baitha, who was brutally beaten up and suffered splinter injuries from the bomb blast. The court has also fined him Rs1,000 (about USD 20. Indian fines follow antiquated laws, and are often very paltry in today's terms).
In May 2007, he was convicted of the abduction of the trader and CPI(ML) worker, Chhote Lal Gupta, in February 1999, who was never seen thereafter and is widely presumed to have been killed.
While it could be established that Shahabuddin with his gang had kidnapped Chhotelal (an witness could identify him), the dead body was never recovered, so charges of murder could not be upheld. Justice Gyaneshwar Srivastava sentenced him to life imprisonment under Section 164 (abduction with intent to murder).
The verdict has been challenged in Patna High Court; some of the points noted are that the conviction relied on a lone witness, who identified Shahabuddin in court, after a gap of seven years, without the benefit of a prior identification parade.
Under Indian law (section 8(3) of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951), a person is disqualified from contesting elections if sentenced for more than two years. However, Bihar Home Secretary Afzal Amanullah has stated that this conviction needs to be after all appeals are exhausted, but it is likely that the Election Commission may have considerable latitude in this matter.
Thus he may be barred from the 2009 elections; however, he continues to be a member of the present Parliament.
Subsequently he has been convicted in a number of other criminal cases, including a ten years rigorous imprisonment for attempted murder on the then Superintendent of Police, S.K. Singhal, in 1996.
Mohammad Shahabuddin is married to Hena Shahab twice lost to the BJP's Om Prakash Yadav in Lok Sabha elections. Hena graduated from the college of Siwan. In college, Hena was the only girl who used to wear a burqa. After graduation, Hena was married to Shahabuddin. Hena Shahab has a son Osama and two daughters- Hera Shahab and Tasneem Shahab. Elder daughter Hera Shahab (born 1996) is a student of medicine in Hyderabad. His son Osama is doing LLB in England, while youngest daughter Tasneem has completed her schooling. His son, Osama Shahab is accused in witness murder case.
Meanwhile, other trials are progressing in eight other cases in Siwan where charges have been filed, these cover the following sections of the Indian Penal Code:302 (punishment for murder),
307 (attempt to murder),
364 (kidnapping or abducting with intent to murder),
365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent to secretly and wrongfully confine a person),
379 (punishment for theft),
147 (punishment for rioting),
148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon) and
324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means)
In addition, charges are yet to be taken up in another 23 cases.
Simultaneously cases are also under trial in other parts of the country, including a triple murder case in Jamshedpur.
One of the important trials is in regard to the abduction and murder of CPI-ML activist Munna Choudhary in 2001, in which witness Rajkumar Sharma, himself a criminal, has surrendered to the police, and is said to have recorded a statement identifying Shahabuddin:
Sharma said on 6 January 2001, he was roaming around on a motorcycle with his friend Munna Chowdhary in Vishunpur village when Shahabuddin, accompanied by his goons Rama Chowdhary, Manoj Das, Jawahar Chowdhary, and Pappu Srivastava arrived in three separate cars and opened indiscriminate firing at them.
One bullet struck the tire of the motorcycle causing them to hit the ground. Shahabuddin then fired one shot at Munna Chowdhary's leg and then dragged him into one of the vehicles and fled, Sharma told the police.
"Later, I learnt that Munna was killed and dumped into an abandoned chimney," he said.
If Sharma stands by this testimony, perhaps more verdicts will be coming up against Shahabuddin (witnesses are often bumped off, even inside court premises, or may be induced to change their statements, e.g., see the Manu Sharma or Sanjeev Nanda trials).
Following these verdicts, it appears that some of Shahabuddin's clout may have weakened.Contrary. to the situation in April 2004, he is in a real prison now, and several mobile phones have been recovered from him and his henchmen in the jail by police officials. This resulted in yet another case being lodged against him for violation of jail rules, and two police constables being suspended.
On September 11, 2016, Shahabuddin walked out of the Bhagalpur Special Central Jail. Moments after coming out of Jail he jabbed at Nitish Kumar, the person under whose term and directions he was sent to jail. Though Shahabuddin said neither was Nitish instrumental in sending him to jail nor did he help in getting him bail.
Speaking to the media persons gathered outside, he professed his loyalty to RJD chief Lalu Prasad, while making it clear that Nitish Kumar may be the chief minister but he was not his leader. “Everyone knows whom I have been with all these years, and whom I will remain with. Nitish Kumar paristhitiyon ke neta hai (a leader born out of circumstances),” he said, replying to a question.
On 30-09-2016 Mohammad Shahabuddin's bail was cancelled by SC. On 15 Feb 2017 the Supreme Court directed that he be transferred from Siwan Jail in Bihar to Tihar Jail in Delhi.