On January 24 this year, chief minister and Janata Dal (United) supremo Nitish Kumar, indicated for the first time, that he was working towards the release of gangster-turned-politician Anand Mohan Singh from jail.
He was speaking at a function on the occasion of Rashtriya Swabhiman Diwas organised by the Rajput community, from which hails Anand Mohan. As Nitish spoke, the crowd demanded the release of Anand Mohan, who had been in jail since 2007 in the murder case of the then district magistrate G. Krishnaiah, a Dalit Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.
Nitish told the crowd, “Aap log chinta mat kijiye hum log lage hue hain. Aane wale dino mein result dikhega. Unki patni (Lovely Anand, wife of Anand Mohan) se puch lijiye ki hum log kya kar rahe hain (You people don’t worry, we are working on it and you will see the result in the coming days. Ask her wife, what we are doing for this).”
Two and half months after this speech by the chief minister, the Bihar government made changes to the Bihar Prison Manual, 2012, making Anand Mohan eligible to apply for remission. The remission applications are processed by a six-member state sentence remission board, which comprises the home secretary, law secretary, inspector general (prisons), inspector general of police, district and sessions judge, and director of probation services.
On April 10, the home department of Bihar issued a notification to delete Rule 481 (i)(a) of the Bihar Prison Manual, 2012, which also dealt with the “murder of a public servant on duty”. Authorities said Section 432 of the Prison Act, 1973 allowed them to make such change.
The said rule forbade, among other things, the early release of a convict, who had been found guilty of murdering a public servant on duty, before he actually undergoes imprisonment for 20 years including remissions. Now, after the amendment, convicts of other crimes would not be entitled to be considered for premature release except those convicted of murder of public servants on duty.
On April 27, 69-year-old Anand Mohan finally walked out of the jail. Although his supporters had planned a ‘victory march’ and other programmes welcoming him in his Panchgachiya village in Saharsa district, they could not be organised given that he was released at 3 am from Saharsa jail. Mohan didn’t make media appearances, and neither had he attended programmes in his village.
Wife of DM, IAS association oppose the move
The decision to release Anand Mohan Singh has shocked Uma Krishnaiah, the wife of Krishnaiah, who lives in Telangana with her daughters. She said that the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to Singh meant incarceration for his entire natural course of life and cannot be interpreted to last just 14 years.
She has opposed the decision and moved the Supreme Court. In her petition, she said, “Life imprisonment, when awarded as a substitute for death penalty, has to be carried out strictly as directed by the court and would be beyond the application of remission.”
Central IAS Association has also come out in support of Uma Krishnaiah and wrote to the Bihar government to reconsider its decision. It wrote to the Bihar government saying, “A convict of charge of murder of a public servant on duty cannot be reclassified as a less heinous crime.” It termed the amendment as “tantamount to the denial of justice”.
Though the state government defended the decision, Amir Subhani, chief secretary of Bihar, said in a press conference that Anan Mohan was freed as per legal provisions.
“No special favour has been done to anybody. The prison rules are amended from time to time, in the normal course. The clause about government servants on duty was dropped because it was found to be discriminatory. Moreover, we found no other state treating such killings differently,” Subhani said.
Murder of DM Krishnaiah
On December 5, 1994, Krishnaiah, DM of Gopalganj, who hailed from a Dalit community in Andhra Pradesh (now, Telangana), was returning from Hajipur in the Vaishali district after attending a programme. He was returning in an Ambassador car bearing the number BHQ-777 along with his bodyguard T.M. Hembram and driver Deepak Kumar.
His car was accosted by a crowd which was heading towards Vaishali. Anand Mohan Singh, his wife Lovely Anand and other leaders were part of the crowd. The crowd was carrying the body of Chhotan Shukla who was murdered by an alleged rival group of Anand Mohan.
Chhotan Shukla was the leader of the Bihar People’s Party (BPP) (now defunct) which was founded by Anand Mohan Singh.
Anand Mohan had addressed the crowd at Bhagwanpur Chowk, according to the police witnesses, where he vowed to take revenge for the murder, saying that if the government stopped them, it would be taught a lesson. The procession reached Khabra village where Krishnaiah’s car was crossing the crowd when he was attacked by bricks. The white-coloured Ambassador overturned. Police witnesses during the trial said that they heard the call of ‘Maro Maro (Kill)’ and when they went to the place where the voice was coming from, they found it was Anand Mohan.
Mohan Rajak, the informant of the case and the then deputy superintendent of police (east) of Muzaffarpur, had told the court that he saw Anand Mohan, Lovely Anand and others repeatedly asking one Bhutkun Shukla to kill the person as he was DM and belonged to the administration.
Twenty-four-year-old Bhutkun had fired three bullets at DM and disappeared. Police recovered Krishnaiah in an unconscious state and took him to the hospital where he was declared dead.
Police in its FIR had named 36 accused, including Anand Mohan and lovely Anand. About 25 witnesses testified including police officials, DM’s driver and a security guard.
On October 1, 2007, additional sessions judge found seven accused guilty. Three of them Anand Mohan, Pro. Arun Kumar Singh and Akhlaq Ahmed were sentenced to death whereas Lovely Anand, Vijay Shukla, Shashi Shekhar Thakur and Harendra Prasad were awarded life imprisonment.
Anand Mohan and others later moved the Patna high court. The court in 2008 converted the death penalty of Anand Mohan into life imprisonment, and six others were acquitted of all the charges.
Will Rajputs turn to Nitish?
The release of Anand Mohan just a year before the general election 2024 seems to be a political move but now the question is will this help Nitish Kumar to attract Rajput votes?
The sizeable Rajput population, especially of Saharsa, admires Anand Mohan and believes that he was made a scapegoat. Ajay Singh, a local Rajput of Panchagachiya village, the village Anand Mohan belongs to, says, “Woh (Anand Mohan) to bheed mein the hi nahi. Unko doosri jagah se pakda gaya tha aur fansa diya gaya (He was not part of the crowd. He was arrested from other place and was framed).” “Wo bhala DM ko kyun marenge (why will he kill a DM),” he asks.
He told The Wire, “People from across the castes are happy as Anand Mohanji has been released from jail. They admire him.”
Ajay Singh further says, “He worked for the people of all castes so people will unanimously vote for the candidate whom Anand Mohan will support.”
Rajputs constitute about 6% in Bihar, and their influence among backward communities is huge. That is why no political party is openly opposing his release. Even the main opposition party BJP is questioning the amendment in prison law but is not opposing Anand Mohan’s remission.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a Rajput leader of the BJP, has welcomed the Nitish government’s move. Another BJP leader Giriraj Singh said that he has no objection to Anand Mohan’s release. He also said, “Poor Anand Mohan was just a scapegoat for JDU.” BJP leader and central minister Ashwini Choubey too has welcomed this decision.
According to the analysis of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), in the Bihar assembly election 2020, the grand alliance or Mahagathbandhan got just 9% of Rajput votes whereas 55% of Rajputs voted for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
It is believed that with the Lok Sabha election just a year away, Nitish is trying to woo Rajput votes. “Nitish Kumar is working on making his vote bank strong and in that case, the Rajput vote will help him as this caste has a huge influence on other backward communities,” says Chandan, a journalist and political analyst.
BJP is now using the Anand Mohan case to paint the image of Mahagathbandhan as anti-Dalit given that G. Krishnaiah was a Dalit. So, Nitish’s move may be risky.
Chandan says, “Dalits are divided. Almost all the Dalits have their own leaders from their own caste. So, Nitish Kumar believes it will not have much impact on Dalit voters.”
Many believe Anand Mohan has not that much impact that he can turn things around.
Dipak Misra, a Patna-based journalist, says, “Anand Mohan, Pappu Yadav like bahubalis had influence during the 1990s when Mandal movement was at its peak. He has been in jail for a long time. So, it is difficult to say if he still has so much influence in his caste.”
“Another thing is that the older generation of Rajputs may side with Anand Mohan as he had been protecting them from otherBahubalis but the younger generation doesn’t know about it so they may not go with him,” he told The Wire.
Others also feel that Nitish’s move may backfire.
“Earlier a part of Rajput voters were socialist and that is why you can see Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Jagadanand Singh and other big Rajput leaders in RJD. But, now they are inclined towards BJP. So, it is unlikely that Anand Mohan’s remission will help JDU and RJD electorally,” political analyst Mahendra Suman told The Wire.
“On the other hand, it will set a bad example and people will question why the Nitish government tweaked the law just to release Bahubali,” he says.
“Such moves will only give BJP a golden opportunity to sharpen its attack on the government, and since the BJP has now occupied the whole space of opposition in the BJP, the larger beneficiary will be the saffron party,” he added.