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Grand welcome for ‘Sultan of Siwan’

The colour of Siwan on Saturday was green. Green arches, green posters, green balloons, green confetti — and green bandanas that young bikers wore to welcome their “Saheb” Mohammad Shahabuddin, who was released from Bhagalpur jail after 11 years. Green also happens to be the colour of Rashtriya Janata Dal, the party which he had represented once in the Assembly and four times in Parliament.

A huge welcome arch with a large cut-out of the RJD leader, who has been known as the ‘Sultan of Siwan’ for many years, welcomed people at the entry of the town. Inside the town such arches occupied nearly every nook and cranny.

The road which led to his village Pratappur, 5 km away from the town, was decorated with rows of green balloons and posters and even band-parties played welcome tunes at every corner.

On the road only motorbikes with youths riding triple and SUVs packed with sturdy men could be seen plying with menacing speeds. Rooftops are crammed with people waiting to have a glimpse of Mohammad Shahabuddin.

At Pratappur, the atmosphere is like that of a lavish wedding. Hundreds of people — some of them even from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh — have gathered and waiting impatiently for the man they call “Saheb”. Every second man is busy on his mobile phone receiving updates about his arrival.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for the last 11 years. This is a special day in our lives. Now Siwan has got new energy,” Irfan Khan, a villager told The Hindu.

Inside Shahabuddin’s ancestral home, his wife Heena Sahab was unable to contain her excitement. Clad in black salwar-kameez and wearing dark brown henna (mehandi) on her hands, she said,

“Today is my Bakrid, my Id, my all other festivals…I’ve been waiting for this day for the last 11 years. I had always faith in Allah and my prayers have been answered today,” she told The Hindu. She had prepared her husband’s favourite roasted mutton with very little spice for dinner. The house was full of relatives who had come from different places to celebrate the occasion.

Happy homecoming

Outside the house, nonagenarian Mohammad S.M. Hasibullah, father of Shahabuddin, sat on a wooden cot wearing a vest and lungi.

“We are happy that he is coming home after several years of imprisonment...we will celebrate Bakrid together,” said Mohammad Hasibullah. Among the people surrounding him was his eldest son Mohammad S.M. Gyasuddin, a contractor, who said: “It is one of those rare occasions when we all three brothers will be together.” The second brother, Mohammad Samsiuddin, lives in the village and is into agriculture.

According to the family, food for over 6,000 people would be prepared tonight for those who have come from far-off places for a glimpse of their leader.

The man of the moment, however, was yet to reach the town from Bhagalpur. On his release from Bhagalpur jail on Saturday morning, Shahabuddin reiterated his loyalty to RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, saying: “Lalu Prasad is my leader and will always remain my leader.” What about Nitish Kumar? “He became Chief Minister because of circumstances,” he replied.

Asked whether he was going to change his image as the “terror of Siwan”, he retorted, “Why should I? People have accepted me the way I am for the past 26 years.”

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 10:00:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Grand-welcome-for-%E2%80%98Sultan-of-Siwan%E2%80%99/article14640186.ece

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