Tuesday, November 18, 2008


By Manuwant Choudhary

I visited the Patna home of Rahul Raj.

I must have driven past his home on many occasions in the past never realizing I would have to visit it one day.

Although he does not have famous surnames like a Gandhi or a Thackeray, Rahul Raj has both the first names.

But his home does not have a doorbell.

Most of the house is occupied by low middle-class tenants and one has to speak up to be heard.

His sister Priyanka opened the door and as I asked her I wanted to see her father, she questioned where I was from?

I replied, “Nowhere. I’m just a journalist, wanting an interview.”

Since images of Rahul Raj flashing a pistol on a double-decker Mumbai bus made headlines and his subsequent `encounter’ by the Mumbai police, Bihar’s politicians have made a beeline to this address and TV camera’s in tow.

From Laloo to Nitish..to even extreme left leaders…all have visited Rahul’s home to express sympathy and support, even promising to rise above their caste and politics for the sake of Rahul and Bihar.

But now the politicians have gone.

So has the media.

A poster of Rahul Raj proclaiming him as a `Veer’ or `Brave’ hangs at the gate.

A passerby points to his colleague, “See this is Rahul’s home.” There is awe, respect and sadness in the voice of this youth.

Rahul’s father Kundun Singh runs a Maruti workshop in front of his house.

Some 5 cars are still there waiting to be repaired but work has simply stopped.

Kundun has just returned from New Delhi after making a failed bid to meet Pratibha Patil, India’s President, for justice.

Now he has applied formally for an appointment.

He wants justice.

Sitting in his garage he says, “The Mumbai policemen who killed my son should be arrested.”

I ask Mr. Singh for a story I wanted, “Can you tell me whether it is possible for an unemployed Patna youth to do what Raj did…to take on Raj Thackeray..to take on the police…the State….and alone?”

He replies, “Aisa kuch bhee nahin hai…jo aap kah rahe hain aur soch rahe hain..waisa kuch bhee nahin hai…(What you are saying and thinking….that is not how it is..)

He says, “Rahul was no martyr for a cause. He simply went to Mumbai to get a job as an X-Ray technician.”

“When politics in Bihar itself is about caste and religion and other things and never for Bihar, then how can you have a martyr for Bihar? That’s simply not true. He is not a martyr but nor is is a criminal and terrorist.”

According to Mr. Singh, Rahul left home in October 24 by the Patna Kurla train and on October 25 he even called his sister Pooja, who works for the State Bank of India, that he is about to reach Mumbai. After this he makes no contact with his family members. Why?

Mr. Singh, “He had left behind his cellphone charger and maybe took rest that day. He had checked into Hotel Imperial at Kurla.”

In the guest book of the hotel Rahul enters his correct name, correct address and under the business column he writes `To seek job’.

So what happened between October 26 and October 28th is the mystery.

How could a 23-year-old job seeker do what Rahul Raj was seen as doing…a pistol in hand, attempting to hijack a double-decker bus, frantically pacing up and down the bus, showing signs that he wanted a cellphone as he wanted to talk.

The footage on television is brief. No one knows who took them and how they reached the news channels?

Do the police have their own videographers when they do encounters?

Or was it taken by a news channel?

Why was only a small clip shown on television? What happens afterwards?

Rahul being shot in the head is not shown. Who killed Rahul?

Questions and more questions.

How did Rahul get the country-made pistol?

Did he have an altercation with someone in the bus?

Did he want to hijack the bus to kill Raj Thackeray?

Says Mr. Singh, “There are too many gaps in the story the Mumbai police presented. I feel even the videography was arranged.”

“Why was Rahul looking behind when the police were in the front?”

“See how he was holding the pistol. Often his finger was not on the trigger. Surely, if it was a countrymade weapon, he would have fired once and the police could have overpowered him.”

“There should have been a plan..a network…The Mumbai police have not arrested anyone else?”

“Is it possible to hijack a double-decker bus alone and that too from the top deck of the bus while the driver is at the lower deck?

“And the bus was going to north Mumbai..not to south ….where Raj Thackeray stays…so…”

Was Raj framed by the Mumbai police?

Was Raj attacked by the MNS before this incident?

Just questions.

But they are questions that the Mumbai police cannot answer.

After the headlines, Bihar’s politicians in a rare show of unity appealed together to India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for justice and protection to Biharis all over India. They demand a judicial probe by a sitting judge into the incident.

Instead, a helpless Prime Minister writes a `strongly’ worded letter to the Maharashtra chief minister Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh. The letter hasn’t been made public yet.

This results in the case being transferred to the crime branch, to be supervised by the chief secretary of Maharashtra.

I ask Mr. Singh whether the Mumbai police have got in touch with him as part of the inquiry.

He replies, “No, in fact I got in touch with them to find out about the items recovered from Rahul.”

The investigating officer Mr. Gaekwad, “We have only found Rs.500 rupee note and the pistol.”

Mr. Singh, “What about his cellphone? Did you find any cellphone for his hotel?”

Mr. Gaekwad, “No, no cellphone..just certificates.”

Mr. Singh, “Any ATM card?”

Mr. Gaekwad, “No, no..no ATM card either…just Rs.500.”

Mr. Singh, “Any watch? Did you see the video?

Mr. Gaekwad, “Yes, I saw that video. We are not that police who did that. We are separate.”

Mr. Singh, “He was wearing a watch. You can see in the video.”

Mr. Gaekwad, “No, we did not recover any watch.”

Mr. Gaekwad, “Can you come to Mumbai?”

Mr. Singh, “No, no…wahan haalaat theek nahin hain…(the situation is not good there).

Mr. Gaekwad, “Aisa nahin hai…No need to panic..you can come…”

Mr. Singh, “Yes, I understand, everyone is not attacked. But the one who faces feels so..Do you understand? My family will not allow even if I want to..”

Mr. Gaekwad, “Yes, I understand. But come when you can.”

5 JD (U) MPs have resigned from India’s parliament on the issue but Laloo Yadav sees politics in even this. He wants everyone to resign..MPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and even MLAs and MLCs..basically he wants Nitish to go.

So everyone stays.

My travel agent tells me a single bogey in a second class AC train from Patna to Mumbai has 189 wait-list.

Bihar is not scared. Bihar is poor.

But now Bihar knows another image...of Rahul Raj with a pistol...being killed and his blood flowing on the steps of a Mumbai bus.

At first the blood took the form of a map of divided Bihar but then as it flowed it looked like India.


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