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Mafia rules Bihar

By Ramesh Upadhyaya

PATNA, MAY 14. The writ of the Government no longer runs in Bihar, which is now virtually in the grip of a mafia enjoying tremendous political patronage. Local dailies read like a calendar of heinous crime - murders, mayhem and kidnapping. Almost all sections of society, barring the privileged few who are either part of the power structure or close to it, are gripped by fear.

The gunning down with an AK-47 rifle in broad daylight on April 18 last of a senior lawyer, Raghubir Sharan Verma, and his wife, Madhu Verma, was by no means an isolated incident. The incident occurred in the north Bihar district of Siwan where the RJD Member of Parliament, Md. Shahabuddin, and his crime syndicate run a parallel government.

Earlier, another lawyer, Abhay Kumar Shrivastava, was shot dead in Bettiah town of West Champaran district.

Madhu Verma, in her dying declaration, named the public prosecutor of Siwan as one of the key conspirators. Verma had reportedly incurred the wrath of one of the close associates of Mr. Shahabuddin, against whom he was conducting a case for allegedly murdering his son.

It was only after Patna High Court lawyers launched an agitation that the State Government thought it fit to provide security to Verma's daughter, Ms. Shilpi, who had been admitted to the Patna Medical College hospital in a critical condition. The High Court lawyers at a meeting resolved that henceforth they would not take up the briefs of politically powerful persons accused of murdering their colleagues.

The Bar Councils of Siwan and Bettiah have appealed to the President, Mr. K.R. Narayanan, for a CBI probe into the twin murders.

Murders such as these have sent a chill down the spine of lawyers who take up cases against powerful people. A panic-stricken Mr. Bhupendra Kumar, who as special public prosecutor was conducting the alleged rape case of Ms. Champa Biswas, wife of a senior IAS official, Mr. B.B. Biswas (in which the RJD president, Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav, is among the accused), not only resigned his job but also quit the bar.

In a letter to the President and members of the Bar Council, Mr. Kumar said the dastardly killings of Verma and his wife, and Shrivastava ``had shaken him and prompted him to surrender the licence with which he had been practising law for the last 38 years''. In accordance with judicial procedure he, as a special public prosecutor, had petitioned the special court to summon Mr. Laloo Yadav.

However, according to sources close to Mr. Kumar, the crunch came when an independent MLA, Mr. Surajbhan, issued a statement which allegedly implied a grave threat to Mr. Kumar's life.

Ignoring Ms. Champa Biswas' request to the Law Secretary, Mr. Rajendra Prasad, not to appoint any lawyer as special PP in the place of Mr. Kumar as it would mean denial of justice to her, the Government lost no time in appointing a Patna High Court lawyer, Mr. Suryadev Yadav, as the special public prosecutor.

Ms. Biswas has now written to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. A.S. Anand, requesting him to ensure that justice was done in her case. In her in-camera deposition before the trial court, Ms. Biswas had accused Mr. Laloo Yadav and a former Minister, Mr. Tulsi Singh, of raping her.

That public resentment over the Government's failure to curb the escalating violence was deep and widespread was highlighted by the bandh called by the Bihar Chamber of Commerce along with 40 other business associations in Patna on Tuesday.

That most of these crimes are committed by gangs enjoying political patronage is common knowledge. It is also no secret that in the majority of such cases, no effort is made by the police to apprehend the culprits. And as far as the common man is concerned, the police never register a FIR unless heavy bribes are paid.

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