LIFE BEGINS AT47
From serious academics to playing the good Samaritan, jailed don Pappu Yadav is now a cause warrior
Typically, his day begins at 5.30 a. m. with meditation. He then spends hours devouring newspapers and books. His weight has come down from a mammoth 175 kg to 150 kg. This four- time parliamentarian once ruled eastern Bihar. Dreaded don Rajesh Ranjan aka Pappu Yadav is now a changed man. He is pursuing a master’s in sociology from Nalanda Open University— the only inmate of Patna’s Beur Jail taking the examination in 2011— and dreams of adding a PHD to his profile.
The 47- year- old strongman has been behind bars since August 2010. He was sentenced to life in February 2008 for his involvement in the murder of CPM Purnea legislator Ajit Sarkar, gunned down in June 1998. Yadav has appealed against his conviction, which makes him ineligible to contest elections, in a higher court.
Yadav has represented Purnea and Madhepura constituencies in the Lok Sabha four times, twice as an independent, once on a Samajwadi Party ticket and once on a Rashtriya Janata Dal ticket. In those days, he used to be the desi version of Robin Hood. His mere presence ensured that there were no power cuts in his constituency. Doctors had to treat the poor for free while corrupt bureaucrats were scared to their bone. Yadav had the administration dancing to his tune. He was the typical caste lord catapulted to the political centrestage by Bihar’s fragmented society and always the last word on issues pertaining to his constituency.
Yadav earned degrees in human rights and disaster management while he was lodged in Tihar Jail dur-
YADAV IS BUSY PENNING HIS AS YET UNTITLED AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN BEUR JAIL. SOURCES SAY HE HAS FINISHED ONE- FOURTH OF HIS WRITINGS.
ing 2008- 2009. These days, he is busy penning an autobiography. His coprisoners say the writings are extensive and will mirror the man himself. According to reports, the former parliamentarian always carries a pen.
“The autobiography is to redeem his reputation, as Pappu thinks only his writing and academic qualifications can win him respect in society now,” says an associate. Yadav has already finished writing one- fourth of his as yet untitled autobiography, according to his associates.
Yadav was first arrested in May 1999 in connection with the murder of Sarkar. He has largely been behind bars ever since. The three times he was granted bail, the Supreme Court cancelled it promptly and sent him back to prison. But Yadav’s earlier stints in jails were not like this one. In September 2004, he hosted a lavish party at Beur Jail for inmates to celebrate his bail. The same year, he was found to have made 670 calls to prominent people, including some Bihar ministers. In December 2004, Yadav held a gathering of his supporters in jail, prompting the Supreme Court to order that he be shifted to Tihar Jail in Delhi.
This temporarily retired don has also involved himself in philanthropic activities. In 2011, volunteers of his organisation, Yuva Shakti, collected Rs 6 lakh to pay for the kidney transplant of Anshumala, a budding singer dumped by her in- laws in Bihar. And this is not a stray case. Yadav has played the good Samaritan to several other people. His wife Ranjit Ranjan, also a former MP from Saharsa, and his five sisters have been pooling in their resources to sustain his philanthropic drive. The couple has also set up schools and vocational training centres where the poor are offered education at highly subsidised cost.
The metamorphosis, however, has failed to quieten his nerves. Yadav avoids meeting his wife and children in jail. And he has turned into an insomniac, barely sleeping for more than four hours a day in his two years at Beur Jail.
PAPPU YADAV IN PATNA’S BEUR JAIL