29 Apr - 5 May 2016 #806

An interval in Janakpur

Some organised crime dons are more equal than others in the Tarai
Navin Jha
Navin Jha
FAIR TRIAL: Supporters of MP Sanjay Sah who has been serving a jail sentence for allegedly masterminding the 2014 bomb attack in Janakpur organise a fast-unto-death demanding his release.

Last Tuesday, I was sitting at a tea shop in Janakpur just as a group of political activists were moving up the street asking shops to shut.

It soon became clear that they were supporters of Sanjay Sah, the elected MP from this area, who has been serving a jail sentence for allegedly masterminding the bomb attack two years ago on a group demanding a separate Mithila Province at Janakpur’s Ramanand Chok that killed five and injured 32.

A month ago, police arrested a local gang leader who told them that Sah was also behind the murder of Janakpur publisher Arun Singhaniya in 2010. Sah claims he is clean, and that he has been framed for both crimes.

The Sanjay Sah story is the talk of the town in Janakpur today. People are divided about whether Sah is indeed the culprit. There is some resentment against the government and police for hounding an innocent man, but others are happy that Sah is in jail.

The plot thickens now with the fact that all this may have more to do with rival organised crime outfits than anything else. Sah is opposed to another local don by the name of Jibnath Chaudhary. If Sah is in jail, so should Chaudhary, many here think. In fact, they say Chaudhary is more of a criminal than Sah and should be the one behind bars.

Ram Yadav, a young Janakpur businessman, says the town is overrun by organised crime figures who prospered during the blockade. “This is an interval in the politics, things will hot up again after it is over,” he said, sipping tea, and pointing outside at one group trying to close the market on behalf of Sah, and the other one trying to keep it open on behalf of Chaudhary.

After his alleged role in the Singhaniya murder was exposed by police, Sah and his family have been trying to gain public sympathy by portraying him as a victim of political vendetta.

A well-known civil society member here told me on condition of anonymity that when Sah was arrested two years ago, Chaudhary threatened him and others to sign affidavits proving his guilt. The source said he refused to sign, but many others did.

The public in Janakpur is caught between the two gangs, but there is growing disenchantment with the police for keeping Sah in jail while Chaudhary is free to roam around threatening people.

Sah’s wife, Rangeli has already started a hunger strike to seek his release. “If both are mafia dons, why is only one of them arrested?” asked one relative. Local intellectuals and civil society leaders say that police should treat all criminals equally, and if both were curbed Janakpur would be back on track.

Sah is the only elected MP of the Sadbhavana Party that was on the forefront of the recent Madhes movement. Even as other Madhesi leaders held talks with the Big Three in Kathmandu, the Sadbhavana Chief Rajendra Mahato led street protests. Interestingly, after India hinted at lifting the blockade, Mahato was the first Madhesi leader to publicly admit that their border-centric protest was a failure.

Mahato and other Madhesi leaders have now formed a broader alliance with Janajati parties. The Federal Alliance is preparing to bring in thousands of people from outside the valley to lay a siege on Singha Darbar, and giving a reason for the main opposition NC to demand PM KP Oli’s resignation.

Madhesi leaders know that creating just two federal provinces covering the whole Tarai is not possible, and they are now preparing a new strategy to join hands with the NC and topple the government. But they are also cautious about a possible backlash from their constituencies.

Read Also:

Thou shall not lie, Anurag Acharya

Lording over the grassroots, From the Nepali Press

Front regrets failed blockade

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