The Telegraph
Friday , February 8 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ganglords on peace turf for image makeover

Patna, Feb. 7: The mantra of non-violence and peace preached by Gautam Buddha as well as many other apostles of amity has caught the fancy of bahubalis (strongmen) of Bihar, known for violence.

The latest in the list is the JD(U)’s Mokama MLA, Anant Singh. His “controversial” hotel is named after Lord Buddha. Christened Buddha Heritage, it is located at Pataliputra Co-operative Housing Society. Its proprietor allegedly barricaded a part of an open space of the locality for parking vehicles, prompting social welfare minister Parveen Amanullah to lodge a protest.

Yet, the website of Anant’s hotel (www.buddha highlights numerous associations of the state with Buddhism besides the hospitality hub’s salient features. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to develop an association with ahimsa (peace).

According to police officers, strongmen try to associate themselves with preachers of peace to hog the limelight. Psychologists, on the other hand, are of the opinion that such moves are a part of an image building exercise.

A senior officer told The Telegraph: “The state government has been stressing a lot on Lord Buddha. Recently, the International Buddhist Sangha Conference was held in the state. Bodh Mahotsava is currently on in Bodhgaya. Anything by the name of Buddha attracts attention and sells in Bihar. With the state government promoting Buddhist pilgrimage places, a politician having an establishment in the Lord’s name would certainly attract the senior leaders as well as the people in general. It can also be called a business strategy because Lord Buddha’s association with the state is a much-publicised affair now. It is like hitting two birds with one stone.”

Anant is not the only one to follow this strategy. Several other strongmen used the peace path to draw attention of people.

Former Patna city superintendent of police Shivdeep Lande found ex-MP Pappu Yadav writing a book titled Sau Joote Maar Lo, Par Bahubali mat kaho (Hit me with 100 times with shoes, but don’t call me a strongman) while conducting a raid at Beur Central Jail on June 24, 2011. Pappu is at present serving life-term for murdering CPM leader Ajit Sarkar.

He also fasted in support of social activist Anna Hazare when the latter started his crusade against corruption.

In 2008, JD(U) MLA from Piro (Bhojpur district) Narendra Pandey alias Sunil Pandey bagged a doctorate degree from Veer Kuer Singh University in Ara. The topic of his work was non-violence — Mahavir Ke Updesh Adhunik Paripeksha Mein (Mahavir’s teachings in the modern context).

Pandey is allegedly involved in over 30 cases of murder and abduction.

In 2005, former RJD MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, lodged in Siwan jail for several serious offences, did PhD in political science.

The senior police officer termed it a gimmick to stay in the limelight. “People like Shahabuddin are mostly known for the wrong reasons. Once immensely powerful and popular, people start forgetting them when they are put behind bars. They try such gimmicks to win back the attention of people.”

Kartik Jha, a professor of psychology at Patna University, feels such moves of strongmen are attempts to prove to public that they are changing behind bars.

He told The Telegraph: “There was a time when the politicians used to take help of criminals. Then, an era came in Bihar when the criminals themselves started contesting elections. With the backing of the men in khadi, they won and literally ruled. Recently, the nexus between the politicians and the criminals cracked and the politicians stopped taking open and direct help from them. They backed off and the musclemen landed in prison. Their attempt to associate themselves with non-violence can be said to be a disguise or a psychic mask they use desperately to change their image. With the common people fearing them and wanting them to be in the prison, they want the world to believe that they have changed or are changing. And so they get into these gimmicks.”

Jha said being associated with the epitomes of non-violence was indeed the best way for them to show the change.

“Maybe, some are genuinely changing. But they got into the habit of staying amid public attention after joining politics. Now that most of them are in oblivion, they crave for public attention. Another angle could be that they are getting old and have understood the reality. In their prime, they were involved in criminal acts. Now, times have changed and they too are old. They know that the old times will not come back,” Jha added.

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