In the badlands of Uttar Pradesh, Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya evokes fear. Rumour has it that the five-time MLA from Kunda feeds his enemies to pet crocodiles. There’s not much to substantiate this although the Mayawati government, which hounded him for years, claimed to have discovered hundreds of skeletons from the Beti pond on the campus of his Kunda residence. Yet, that does not diminish in any way the reputation of the man as a ruthless operator.
The Thakur leader from Kunda, who won his political spurs at the age of 26, holds his durbar at his ancestral home every day during his stay there. The justice meted out is quick and brutal, sources say. Such is his sway that no one even dares to contest an election against him from the assembly seat. His opponents, if at all he has some, are
not allowed to campaign in the constituency - he has won elections from this seat while in prison. No one is allowed to speak against him. Anyone breaking the unwritten code dies under mysterious conditions.
The feudal leader is also a canny political operator. The first one in his family to opt for politics as career, Raja Bhaiya was elected for the first time in 1993 - many believed he was underage when fighting the polls. Initially, close to Rajnath Singh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he slowly shifted loyalties to the Samajwadi Party and soon became the close confidant of the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Political patronage has held him in good stead and made him a survivor in the cutthroat politics of the state.
Has he run out of luck this time? In the aftermath of the tragic death of a deputy superintendent of police in his constituency, it would appear so. He has resigned as cabinet minister and the police have filed a case of conspiracy against him. Despite his protestation of innocence, no one appears surprised at his possible involvement in the case. His criminal antecedent makes him an easy suspect. In 2007, too, his name appeared in the mysterious death of Deputy Superintendent of Police, RS Pandey, who was investigating the POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) case against Raja Bhaiya. Pandey had died in a car accident while on his way to Allahabad High Court.
Cases against Raja Bhaiya:
In 2002, Puran Singh Bundela, a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, had accused Raja Bhaiya of threatening and kidnapping him. Subsequently the latter was arrested. In 2003, the BSP government had charged him with terrorist activities and got him arrested under POTA after the police recovered weapons, including AK 47s, from his House in Kunda. It was during this period that the government of the day, headed by Mayawati, claimed to have found hundreds of skeletons from the a pond in his sprawling residence.
However, all charges were dropped once the SP government came to power and POTA, too, was repealed in 2004. Raja Bhaiya was the Food and Civil Supplies Minister in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government when the biggest food scam took place. Even today, the case is on against ministers and government officials.
Back in power in 2007, Mayawati once again targeted Raja Bhaiya and he was branded the head of Inter Zone gang (number 323) with over 100 members working for him. In 2009, the leader along with his trainer and a few friends took off in his private aircraft which eventually crashed near a river in Pratapgarh district. A case was started against him to find out if the MLA had the permission required to fly an aircraft but it was buried soon.
The goonda in the making:
An incident in 1995 in the Dilerganj village in Pratapgarh district explains how Raghuraj Pratap Singh became the dreaded Raja Bhaiya.
Over 20 houses were set ablaze in the village, three Muslim girls raped and brutally murdered and a Muslim boy was tied to a vehicle and dragged around the village. The fire tender returned without doing their job and reported that there was no water available to douse the fire - the nearest water body was only 100 metres away from the burning houses.
Ajit Chak, member of the fact-finding committee, shares with Firstpost what villagers had shared with the team.
"Hanif, a boy from the village, had come back from Mumbai after completing his studies. That was the time Raja Bhaiya used to realise lagan (tax) from the villagers through his henchmen. Hanif refused to give tax, saying the villagers would give tax only to the government. Hanif was first beaten then tied behind a Jeep and then was dragged around the village. The goons threatened the villagers of similar consequences if they refused to give the tax. Still facing reluctance, the goons then raped three Muslim girls, cut their limbs and threw the bodies in the river. The villagers claimed the crime was done on the behest of Raja Bhaiya."
Raja Bhaiya also kept crocodiles as pet animals in his Beti pond spread in 35 beegha. The people of Kunda narrate terrifying and mysterious legends regarding this pond. It is said that the crocodiles were fed with people who tried to defy Raja Bhaiya’s diktat. A few crocodiles were found in the pond after Mayawati got Raja Bhaiya arrested and got the Beti pond dug deep for more evidence.
Nevertheless, if Kunda echoes sounds of terror and feudal behaviour, the people there also talk about the generosity of Raja Bhaiya who is known for helping poor people in the time of need.
The present case:
The present spate of violence was over a property dispute between two groups, led by Nanhe Lal Yadav, the Pradhan of village Ballipur and Babloo Pandey, both close to Raja Bhaiya.
Nanhe had bought land from Babloo, to which another man named Kamta claimed ownership. Kamta got the backing of Guddu Singh, a henchman of Raja Bhaiya. Guddu was the same man, who had openly opposed Nanhe during the panchayat elections and he wanted revenge.
The property dispute gave Guddu an opportunity to settle scores with Nanhe and he shot him dead. Later, the body of Nanhe’s younger brother was also found in the village.
The murder agitated Nanhe’s family which was not satisfied with the role of the police. Nanhe’s family along with a group of villagers, indulged in vandalism and violence. To control the situation the police resorted to firing. In the crossfire that ensued, a police official, Zia-ul-Haq was killed. Haq received three gun shots and was severely beaten as well.
A police case was registered by Parveen Azad, wife of Haq, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, who succumbed on Saturday night.
Updated Date: Mar 04, 2013 18:44:02 IST