"Three associates of Shahabuddin have been shifted from Siwan jail to Motihari jail," said a police official. One of them is Upender Singh, who was arrested and interrogated in connection with the murder of Rajdev Ranjan in Siwan last week.

Upender Singh is well known to be a sharpshooter of Shahabuddin, who has been serving a life sentence in connection with a murder case. Shahabuddin was shifted from Siwan jail to Bhagalpur jail on Thursday, a day after his prison cell was searched by police in connection with the murder of the journalist.

He has been lodged in Siwan jail for over a decade. He has only twice been shifted to Bhagalpur and Gaya jails for brief periods. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have alleged that Shahabuddin had been pulling strings from his prison cell and had played a role in the killing of Rajdev Ranjan.

The BJP leaders also demanded that Shahabuddin be shifted from Siwan jail to some other place. Shahabuddin is one of the most prominent criminal-politicians of India having been convicted in several criminal cases and being tried in more cases, including murder, attempts to murder, abduction, theft and rioting.

He was elected four times as a Member of Parliament from Siwan as a member of Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) which is part of the ruling coalition in Bihar with Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Congress as other members.

He was also twice elected as a member of the Bihar assembly. Last month he was included in the RJD's national executive along with former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, Deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and the state's Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav.

The media also reported that Bihar Minority Affairs Minister Abdul Ghafoor visited Shahabuddin in Siwan jail on March 6 and was caught on camera feasting with the murder convict in violation of the jail manual.

The BJP had then accused the state government of functioning with the help of convicted criminals while RJD chief Lalu Prasad had said there was nothing wrong with Ghafoor visiting Shahabuddin.

The Bihar government led by Nitish Kumar has already recommended a CBI probe into the journalist's killing. Ranjan, Siwan bureau chief of Hindi newspaper Hindustan, which is part of the HT Media, was shot dead last Friday in a busy market near Station Road in the district.

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