The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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MLA’s jail durbar

Lucknow, Oct. 31: Kuch log hain jo waqt ke saaye mein dhal gaye/ Kuch log hain jo waqt ka sancha badal gaye” (There are some who change according to the time, but there are some who change the time.)

That was Pratapgarh district police chief S.P. Singh’s ode to Raja Bhaiyya at a programme — ostensibly organised to spread AIDS awareness among prisoners — in the jail on Diwali.

Pratapgarh jail looked like a durbar as Independent MLA Raja Bhaiyya, behind bars under the anti-terror law, feasted on poets singing his praises. The function was organised by his friend Raja Ram Pandey, who is a member of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s cabinet.

Over two dozen poets from Allahabad, Faizabad and other places in Uttar Pradesh were specially called in for the kavi sammelan in the jail, 50 km from Raja Bhaiyya’s erstwhile kingdom of Kunda.

While Pandey presided, Pratapgarh’s district magistrate R.S. Verma and the district police chief were in attendance. Over 100 prisoners — mostly Raja Bhaiyya loyalists jailed by former chief minister Mayavati — made up the audience.

According to Pratapgarh deputy jailor Kamlesh Singh, “the programme was organised to spread awareness about AIDS among the jail inmates”. But there were no poems either on the disease or on safe sex.

The tone and tenor of the sammelan, set by the district officials themselves, was of eulogy — to Raja Bhaiyya and his valiant deeds in the face of Mayavati’s tyranny.

After the poets recited their hearts out, Raja Bhaiyya and the VIPs lunched together. No barrack was closed that day and the inmates could go anywhere they wanted on the jail premises.

“This reflects Mulayam Singh’s brand of democracy,” said BSP legislature party leader Swami Prasad Maurya about the function.

Till Mulayam Singh took over as chief minister on August 29, Raja Bhaiyya had been in solitary confinement in Kanpur jail. After that, his fortunes changed. Mulayam Singh announced his government’s intention to withdraw the terror law detention order against him, his father and his supporters. He also ordered jail authorities to extend several benefits to Raja Bhaiyya till the court accepted the government’s plea.

Raja Bhaiyya was accordingly shifted from Kanpur to Pratapgarh. Sources said, in Pratapgarh jail, he lives like a lord. But deputy jailor Kamlesh denied he was being given special favours.

“He is a B-category prisoner who enjoys the facility of having a cook and getting his meal prepared elsewhere,” he said.

Pratapgarh’s district magistrate Verma denied the Diwali function was organised in Raja Bhaiyya’s honour. “It was an AIDS symposium and a cultural show arranged for the jail inmates. This is a routine in all jails and such programmes are held during festivals.”

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