Sabu: a Villain and a Champion
Even if you live abroad, it’s hard not to concern yourself with the strange happenings in your birth place particularly when you grew up there. My birth place is a village in the district of Siwan where I grew up before embarking on the road to life abroad.
I have been visiting my birth place every year for the last 46 years but my most striking visits were during the Jungle Raj. It was the period of unease and terror. The civil society was in disarray and crime common. Who were the perpetrators of the crime was a hush-hush phenomenon but the one name that always dominated the conversation was that of Sabu.
Although Sabu was a legislature, people talked about how many guns and goons he had at his disposal. People were mesmerized by his gun wielding escorts and how many vehicles made up his caravan. According to one plebeian even the sighting of an automobile similar to his was enough to create panic. Unquestionably the psychosis of fear prevailed.
How an individual could be that overwhelming in democracy is the subject of my thinking.
It was purely coincident that I was visiting Siwan during the jungle Raj and Sabu was lodged in jail. Of course he was the talk of the town. Someone told me that Sabu held Darbar in jail to meet people. Flabbergasted by his infamy and having the curiosity to know about him, I made impromptu decision to see him in jail. He was sitting in an armchair to receive people. Indeed it was a Darbar like setting. I gave my visiting card to his handler, which had the address of the USA. He sent for me right away and asked what he could do for me. Instead I asked what caused him to be in the predicament he was in. He paused to think. Although my query was not to embarrass him, it was certainly nerve-racking to get immediate response. However, I found him cool, calm, and collected and, considering the circumstances, he was soft-spoken and exuded extraordinary demeanor. I thanked him for seeing me. As I was about to walk away from him, he asked me to contact him later that I never did.
However, what I learnt afterward was consistent with how Sabu emerged as the villain for some and champion for others. I do not know whether it is true or not but the people told me that growing up he was an aggressive young man recruited by another criminal to be one of his enforcers who was in hiding committing crime through surrogates. But, Sabu was too smart to remain in the shadow of a low level criminal. He broke out and established his own identity. The timing was in his favor. The law and order had collapsed and the influence of Male was on the upswing. The landlords, mostly of upper castes, the businessmen and the rich feared for their life. Such insidious conditions helped Sabu find his niche. His popularity skyrocketed when he took on the Male. It is well known that he charged protection money known as levy from the landlords, businessmen and the rich to maintain his life style but the police claim that he was involved in kidnapping and murder for ransom. Whatever the truth, he arguably popularized the concept of Levy as the most terrifying tactic, which is now used regularly by the criminals in Bihar and elsewhere in India to extort money. If you do not pay the levy on demand, you better pray the God for mercy.
It is obvious that Sabu prospered as the strongman until he caught the eye of Laloo. Laloo nominated him to run on his party’s ticket as legislature and the rest is history. A politician was born whose strength as strongman gave him leverage to become a stronger politician. Sabu dominated both political and criminal worlds with equal strength, and has remained unchallenged since. Ask the people and they will tell you he is as unscrupulous a criminal as he is politician. If he is famous for kidnapping and killing, he is also famous for his political prowess. Laloo will vouch for his political genius and Male will tell you how he eviscerated their leadership.
Here is my conclusion:
When apprehension is fueled by slow pace of justice, delay in prosecution, contradictory testimony of the witnesses and tardiness of the police, too many far out thoughts race through mind. Some are justifiable and some worrisome.