The elite All India Institute of Medical Sciences is also getting a reputation for being a safe haven for political and other bigwigs embroiled in controversies, or so it seems. Providing a convenient and easy shelter for those for whom a police lock up is imminent, or as in the case of its latest guest, to evade even temporarily a quick march to Tihar.

The worthy, none other than 62-year-old Shibu Soren, a colourful figure in the Indian Parliament, a member of its 14th Lok Sabha representing the Dumka constituency of Jharkhand. The gentleman is the chief of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha political party, which is part of the UPA coalition currently in power running the government.

Starting his political career in the early 1970s, Soren soon rose to become a tribal leader. In a mob attack of 1975 allegedly under his leadership on a Muslim-dominated Chirudih village in Jamtara district to drive away "outsiders", ten people including nine Muslims were killed - for which he was charged with 68 others for murder.

Soren lost his very first effort to enter Parliament in 1977. But he succeeded in 1980 when he was elected for the first time to the Lok Sabha. In 1986, an arrest warrant was issued against him in the case of 1975. He was subsequently elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989, 1991 and 1996 as well. In 2002, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha with the help of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He won the Dumka Lok Sabha seat in a by-election the same year and resigned his Rajya Sabha seat.

He was re-elected in 2004 and became the Union Coal Minister in the Man Mohan Singh government (2004-2009) but was asked to resign following the nemesis of the pending arrest warrant in his name in the 30 year old case of killing in Chirrudih catching up at an inopportune moment. In the face of this warrant, he initially went underground, but later resigned on July 24, 2004 on the request of the prime minister.

After spending over a month in judicial custody, Soren managed to secure bail - but could not be re-inducted into the Union Cabinet and given back the coal ministry till November 27, 2004. Soren resigned the following March to become the chief minister of Jharkhand on the invitation of the Governor of Jharkhand, Syed Sibtey Razi. He was in office for just nine days before he failed to obtain a vote of confidence. He returned to the cabinet for the second time in January this year.

A man whom controversies had never failed to tail, Soren was not to be left alone. In the meantime the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed a charge-sheet against him and others on November 10, 1998 for allegedly abducting his private secretary Shashi Nath Jha from Delhi and murdering him in Ranchi in 1994 - as the latter had knowledge of the bribe payment to four Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MPs who had voted against the no-confidence motion against the P V Narasimha Rao government in July 1993. The investigation had gone to the CBI after Delhi Police made no headway in the complaint lodged with it by Jha's family after his mysterious disappearance in 1994.


Sustained investigation later, CBI was able to prove that Sashinath Jha was abducted from Dhaula Kuan in New Delhi on May 22, 1994 where after he had completely vanished. It was only in 1998 that the police finally found his body in a village near Ranchi during CBI's investigation of the case.

An additional sessions court in Delhi convicted Soren and four others on Tuesday, November 28 for the murder of Jha, in which the sentence is likely to be pronounced on Thursday. The four others convicted are, Nand Kishore Mehta alias Nandu, Shailendra Bhattacharya, Pashupati Nath Mehta alias Posho and Ajay Kumar Mehta alias Dillip. Two other accused, Sunil Khaware and Asish Thakur, were acquitted. Soren who was present in court, was taken in custody by the CBI immediately after the verdict.

For the second time in the tenure of the 14th Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh is constrained to call for the resignation of the same man, whom political compulsions had forced him to accommodate in his cabinet not once, but twice. Thus leaving him and his UPA government wide open to be targeted by the opposition BJP. Following the Delhi court's verdict today finding him guilty, Shibu Soren's resignation has been sought yet again.

Strangely, after taking him in custody following the guilty verdict, CBI handed Soren over to Delhi Police to transport him to Tihar jail. The 3rd Battalion of Delhi Police which is in charge of prisoner escort to and from court to jail and vice-versa have taken Soren to the AIIMS, may be only for a medical check-up - perhaps not wanting something untoward on their hands considering the obvious palpitations the worthy is bound to exhibit. Apparently just a week ago he had been admitted in the intensive care unit of Gandhi Nagar Hospital in Ranchi after he had complained of uneasiness due to cardiac congestion and kidney problem.

28.11.2006: Copyright © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017 Tel: 0124-4111026 & 2360568; website: http://www. maxwellpereira.com; email: mfjpkamath@gmail.com

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