Betrayed by the revolution

SHELVED: Kaushalya Devi next to her son’s photographs

KAUSHALYA DEVI is not a political leader and she is
not rich. Still, she commands obvious
respect from the man on the street in this small town in
northwest Bihar — whether it is the rickshaw
puller or the roadside hawker. After all, her son’s statue
graces the town’s Gopalganj More Chowk.

Chandrashekhar Prasad was an office bearer of the CPI (ML).
While studying at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New
Delhi, he was elected president of the student’s union twice.
He was 34 when he was gunned down, allegedly by men belonging
to Mohammad Shahabuddin’s gang.

Shahabuddin is a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
and represents Siwan in the Lok Sabha. He was recently
convicted by a special fast track court in Siwan in two
cases of abduction. Gopalganj More Chowk, a small junction
from where the highway to Gopalganj (RJD chief Laloo
Prasad’s home) leads off, is now officially
called Chandrashekhar Chowk.

“Shahabuddin will surely be convicted and hanged for the
murder. It is the prayers of many mothers and widows in Siwan
who lost their beloveds over the years by his bullets,”
72-year-old Kaushalya Devi told TEHELKA at her small house
in Bindusar village, four kilometres from Siwan town.

The CPI (ML) leadership greeted Shahabuddin’s convictions
with great joy, but their enthusiasm is not shared by her.
“The party says the convictions are the victory of the downtrodden
or the proletariat. There is no such thing. The murders by
Shahabuddin were all for political reasons:
to capture power.

Like Shahabuddin, it was pure politics for the CPI (ML) too.
The same ugly politics continues even today,” she said.
It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that after
her husband, a sergeant in the Air Force, died of cardiac arrest
in 1973, she only lived for her sevenyear- old son. She only got
Rs 150 as pension but she made sure that her son was
educated well.

He first attended the Sainik School in Jhumri-Tilaiya, then
went to the National Defence Academy in Pune and
then to JNU.“I was sad when he came back to Siwan
after finishing his studies at JNU to become a fulltime activist
of the CPI (ML),” she said. “But his passion for national politics
and sincere love for the poor convinced me that he had
a noble purpose in life. Seeing his selfless work,
I stopped telling him to take up a government job.

Ten years after his murder, I realise how selfish the political
party is.” She lives alone in her two-room house at
Bindusar. A visit by a CPI (ML) activist is rare.

“For the CPI (ML), my value as a useful political
weapon was over. Today, nobody in the party is bothered
about how Chandrashekhar’s old mother lives,” she said.
“The party made full use of me during the two-three
years after my son’s murder. The CPI (ML) has
been thriving on the politics of dead bodies.”

Soon after Chandrashekhar was killed, people from across the
country and even abroad flocked to Siwan and participated in
processions. T-shirts bearing Chandrashekhar’s image were
distributed by the CPI (ML).

“I was very sad to see party cadres, even senior
leaders, selling these T-shirts secretly at very high prices,”
Kaushalya Devi said. She had returned the Rs 1-lakh compensation
given to her by the prime minister.WHEN THE Siwan unit of
CPI (ML) decided to install a statue of
Chandrashekhar, they asked her to “donate” Rs 40,000.

“They almost forced me to donate the amount. Then
they forgot about the statue. After three years of constant
complaining, they installed it last year,” she said.

She had to complain to the party general secretary Dipankar
Bhattacharya to get it installed. “The statue was installed by
the people who didn’t even pay for a funeral shroud when his
body was brought for the cremation. I had to pay for it,” she said.

She has donated a piece of land close to Chandrashekhar’s
memorial for a school and a library. It still remains a dream.
“Setting the school up is nowhere in sight. The memorial lies
neglected,” she said.

Kaushalya Devi holds the CPI (ML) responsible for her son’s
murder. “When there were constant threats and warnings to my
son from the Shahabuddin gang, several
party workers had been in touch with Shahabuddin.

The party never cared for his security. The CPI (ML) leader
who had lodged the FIR after Chandrashekhar’s murder later
turned hostile and joined Shahabuddin’s gang,”
she said. “Sometimes, I see the party’s hand in my son’s murder.”

The CPI (ML) leadership says that her charges are “a grieving
mother’s emotional outbursts”. The CPI (ML) Bihar secretary
Nand Kishore was the Siwan regional secretary when
Chandrashekhar was killed. “She is the mother of all the
CPI (ML) workers. We respect her highly,” he told
TEHELKA. “There is no truth in what she is
saying. The delay in installing the statue
was due to the difficulty in finding a suitable
site and the fear of Shahabuddin.

As far as Chandrashekhar’s security goes, all CPI (ML)
workers in Siwan were under severe threat during those days.”
CPI (ML) general secretary Dipankar
Bhattacharya was apologetic. “I am unaware
of any such activities by party workers.

The party is with Chandrashekhar’s mother, and will look
after her well. I will look into her grievances,” he said.



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