Analysis

Ending Mafiaraj & Gangsters from Uttar Pradesh

While working on this piece, the first thing that came to author’s  mind was a Bollywood movie Vaastav (The Reality) of 1999 vintage based on harsh realities of the Mumbai underworld. The film starts with the funeral rites of the protagonist on the bank of a river by his family members, and then the story runs in a flashback narrated by the mother to her grandson. In the film, the protagonist turns into a dreaded gangster under circumstances and at one juncture a sympathetic police officer asks him to quit underworld else one day either he would be apprehended or killed in an encounter. The protagonist mocks the system and taunts the police officer saying who will catch him, those worthless cops who wag their tails like dogs before him! In turn, the police officer retorts that the police is not worthless; instead, these are the unpatriotic, scab and power-hungry politicians who render police ineffective tying their hands. The day any honest politician would take charge, the same cops will apprehend and mercilessly drag him (criminal protagonist) like a hapless dog and put behind bars. The author took a point to narrate this episode because this is what has precisely happened in Uttar Pradesh against underworld during the current political regime.

Zero Tolerance towards Crime & Criminals

Traditionally, Uttar Pradesh has been the most populous and politically important and sensitive state since independence in 1947. Thanks to some immoral and valueless dynastic political parties, selfish and power-hungry politicians, the state has also been infamous for offering sufficient leverage and opportunities to various mafias, crime syndicates and gangsters to flourish and some of them even joining politics to enter election fray to become members of the state assembly and/or even a member of the Parliament. Just to illustrate how such elements treated civil administration and police in their respective influence area under the patronage of such parties, a few well known incidents are mentioned here:

(1)  At a point of time, Prayagraj based gangster Atiq Ahmad had created such a terror that he detained several policemen at his house on one occasion and as many as ten judges had refused to hear his case for a bail in the Allahabad High Court.

(2)  The eastern UP based Don Mukhtar Ansari had allegedly locked / shut down a police station in his area mainly prospering over his communal politics.

(3)  An influential politician and proclaimed land mafia Azam Khan has been habitual in insulting senior officers of the district administration and police at occasions. For instance, once he allegedly asked a district collector to clean shoes and made a senior police officer to stand outside his house for hours.

But the time changed with the political command of the state falling under a honest and dedicated Sanyasi and political leader Yogi Adityanath as chief minister in 2017 and the same district administration and police officers geared up to take effective action against all criminals, gangsters and mafias in the state. Apparently the same helpless cops started catching these anti-social elements from their dens, bulldozing their illegal constructed houses and commercial buildings, auctioning their properties earned sinfully through unlawful means and killing many absconding criminals in encounters while many of them simply surrendered out of sheer fear of the same law and order machinery which they thought was of no worth during their hay days under the patronage of corrupt politicians. The gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad was recently shot down along with his younger brother by the shooters of apparently some rival gang while police was taking them for routine medical check after the daylong interrogation. The incident created a nationwide controversy with many opposition parties and leaders and the so-called liberals making allegation that the two met this nemesis as part of the government conspiracy just because they belonged to the Muslim community.

According to the Uttar Pradesh Police records till about a month back, more than 10,900 police encounters with criminals had taken place in the state since the systematic drive started in March 2017 to make the state crime free. In these encounters, 183 well known and absconding criminals were gunned down over a period of nearly six years. A high profile encounter during the recent weeks included the gunning down of Atiq Ahmad's younger son Asad and his accomplish Ghulam in an exchange of fire in Jhansi district, the alleged criminals were on the wanted list in the high profile Umesh Pal murder case. Apart from the aforesaid encounter killings, about 23,300 alleged criminals were arrested including over five thousand injured. The similar toll among the policemen included 13 deaths and 1,443 injuries of policemen during these encounters. Of the thirteen policemen killed, eight died in an ambush in a narrow lane of Kanpur city by the henchmen of the notorious gangster Vikas Dubey, who was later shot dead by the police when he tried to escape after the vehicle carrying him met an accident during his shifting to Uttar Pradesh jail from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.

Atiq Ahmad: A Case Study

During the past few decades, India has experienced quite a few powerful gangster turned politicians and Atiq Ahmad from Prayagraj is a classic case of this genre of villains, who died on 15 April 2023 in a late evening shoot out apparently by the sharp shooters of a rival gang which is still under judicial investigation as of now. At the time of death, he had more than 160 criminal cases registered / pending against him many of them of heinous nature including murder, kidnapping and extortion, recently sentenced for a life term in one high profile kidnapping case of 2006 vintage - the person who survived then but was recently killed in an on camera shoot out by the younger son of the same gangster family. Born in a poor family in 1962, Atiq Ahmad had created a huge empire of dubiously acquired land and wealth, of which reportedly illegal property worth about Rs 11,684 crore in the name of Ahmad and his family was seized by the Uttar Pradesh Police till recently.

Born as son of a horse-cart driver at Prayagraj in 1962, Atiq Ahmad spent childhood in utter poverty and privation. However, as a grown up youngster and school dropout, initially he indulged in petty crimes stealing coal from trains and selling it out to make easy money but soon started trying hands in criminal activities of more serious nature. Around 1979, he entered in contract business to bag tenders for the railways scrap metal through dubious means. Some reports suggest that he was the first person to be booked under the Gangster Act in Uttar Pradesh. During the early years, he is said to have worked with some other gang leaders of Prayagraj, one of the prominent such names being Chand Baba, then considered as one of the dreaded gangsters of the region. Soon Ahmad’s criminal activities were extended to heinous crimes like extortion, abduction and murder, and such activities gradually lifted him from poverty to one of the wealthy and influential bahubalis (strong musclemen) and proclaimed gangster of the eastern Uttar Pradesh.

This author had joined Indian civil service in 1983 and was posted to Prayagraj from Meerut in 1987. He distinctly remembers to have heard about the ongoing rivalry between Atiq Ahmad and Chand Baba around that time in Prayagraj for one-upmanship in the crime world of the city. Soon Chand Baba was killed in a broad day light shoot out in one of the parks in the old city area ascribed to Atiq Ahmad and his henchmen with a strong local grapevine that the two bahubalis had avowed to liquidate each other by a certain date and that the latter succeeded in doing so well before the deadline set. The local police apparently did not take much interest or enough pain to investigate the crime to bring the killer(s) to the book and, consequently, this fateful event convincingly established Atiq Ahmad as undisputed leader of the underworld in the city.

During late 1980s, Atiq Ahmad made his debut in politics and thanks to his muscle power, local clout and demography of the particular assembly segment, he won the Prayagraj West assembly seat as an independent candidate. This was also the time when some regional parties with a socialist make up emerged in the northern Indian provinces and the Samajwadi Party led by Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav was one such political party in Uttar Pradesh. Impressed with Ahmad’s popularity in the minority community, regional influence and muscle power, the Samajwadi chief inducted him in his Party and gave ticket to join election fray in 1996 from the same assembly segment. Later embarrassed with Ahmad’s criminal record, the Samajwadi Party showed him door in 1998 and hence he joined Apna Dal in 1999 but by 2003 again returned to the fold of the Samajwadi Party, which along with the Bahujan Samaj Party have well known history of patronizing bahubalis and gangsters in the state for their electoral equations and gains.

On his part, Atiq Ahmad initially won from the Prayagraj (then Allahabad) in 1989 and 1991 as independent candidate. Realizing his worth from political angle, the Samajwadi Party inducted him in the fold and the symbiosis of the two lasted for the next few years. Consequently, Ahmad was elected time and again from the Allahabad West constituency for a record five consecutive terms. Later the party gave him a ticket from Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency, a prestigious seat once retained by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and needless to mention, he won from that constituency too to become the Member of Parliament in 2004. As he earned more and more muscle power and infamy in the crime for alleged murders, kidnappings and extortions, and he also kept on changing political affiliations too. For instance, he contested Lok Sabha election in 2009 from Apna Dal from Pratapgarh and lost. Similarly, during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, he contested as a Samajwadi candidate from Shravasti following his reinduction to the party fold and then again during the Lok Sabha bypoll from Phulpur in 2018 but lost on both the occasions.

During 1995, he had caught national attention during infamous Lucknow Guesthouse case wherein the Samajwadi Party MLAs and supporters had gone on rampage to attack the BSP chief Mayawati and Atiq Ahmad was registered as one of the prime accused in that case. One more event is worth mentioning here as during the 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, he was in jail from where he filed his nomination papers and approached the Allahabad High Court for a bail to campaign for self in the election. Such was his terror by the time that as many as ten (10) High Court judges refused to hear his bail application citing various grounds. Finally, one judge who ultimately agreed to hear his case, granted him bail. However, he lost the election to Puja Pal, the wife of the BSP legislature Raju Pal who was murdered in 2005 and Atiq Ahmad was a prime accused in the case. All along his political career, Ahmad won as a legislature to the state assembly from Allahabad West in 1989, 1991 and 1993 as an independent candidate, in 1996 as Samajwadi Party candidate and in 2002 from Apna Dal. Besides, he also had a stint as a Member of Parliament from 2004 to 2009 from the Samajwadi Party winning Phulpur Lok Sabha seat in 2004; several other elections he fought but lost.

Incidentally, the first major setback to Atiq Ahmad was also received in the Raju Pal murder case in 2005. Raju Pal was murdered after winning assembly election from Allahabad West (Ahmad’s fort) defeating Khalid Azim, Ahmad’s younger brother. As prime accused in the murder case, Ahmad was arrested and granted bail in 2008. Ever since he remained in and out of jail in different spells at various grounds but he expanded and maintained uninterruptedly his hold over the underworld activities in Uttar Pradesh  from prison – the crime history being too long with no need to describe all details. The real trouble for Atiq Ahmad and many other UP gangsters and criminals started when Yogi Adityanath became chief minister leading the BJP government in 2017, who started tightening the noose around all dreaded gangsters irrespective of their affiliations, caste or religion in a mission mode and became famous as a firebrand leader and administrator with his “"Iss House mein keh raha hoon. Iss mafia ko mitti me mila denge." remark against the mafia and gangsters operating in Uttar Pradesh.

Under the Supreme Court order, Atiq Ahmed was shifted from Uttar Pradesh to Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in June 2019. The final downfall of the much feared gangster started after Umesh Pal, a key witness in Raju Pal murder case, was murdered on camera by Atiq’s younger son Asad and aide Ghulam in the broad day light on 24 February 2023. Recently, Atiq Ahmad was brought to Prayagraj from the Sabarmati jail by the police. On 28 March, the MP/MLA court pronounced judgment in the old case of the kidnapping of (now deceased) Umesh Pal in 2006, wherein Ahmad was found guilty along with two others and court sentenced him for the life imprisonment. His son Asad and accomplice Ghulam were on run since Umesh Pal’s murder with the police constantly tracking their movement. In a swift move, the Police Special Task Force killed both the accused persons in an encounter near Jhansi on 13 April 2023 While Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf were killed by three sharp shooters pretending to be journalists from a close range on 15 April while the brothers duo were taken out for the routine medical examination as mandated by the court when Atiq preferred to interact with journalists gathered around thus ending nearly four decades unchallenged stint of the world of terror, crime and politics.

Opposition’s Double Standards

The so called socialist and secular political parties and their leaders in India follow a strange yet predictable pattern in majority cases. If the person involved is from a minority community, particularly belonging to Muslim or Christian communities, they so often raise allegations in Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) ruled states that the encounter was fake with excessive force applied, due to prevailing bias against the minority community. This is what happened in the case of Asad and his aide Ghulam, the wanted criminals in connection with the murder of Umesh Pal who was a crucial witness too in the murder of his brother Raju Pal, who had ventured to fight election against gangster turned politician Atiq Ahmad’s younger brother from an assembly segment in the Prayagraj district of the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2006 and, consequently, killed after winning the election.

Many critics of the present BJP government along with opposition parties have often alleged that many of these police encounters are "fake" demanding a high-level and impartial probe in such cases to reveal the facts. However, while making such allegations they are found selective on most occasions as they do it if the alleged criminal belongs to a particular minority community i.e. Muslim community or a member of the respective political party. The Uttar Pradesh government and senior officials of police painfully refute such allegations while reiterating their resolve and commitment time and again to curb/liquidate all operating mafias and gangsters in the state. Largely on account of such drives against criminals and anti-social elements, and alert and responsive civil and police administration, the law and order situation in the state has considerably improved since 2017 and the state is progressing reasonably well under Yogi government.

When Asad Ahmad and his aide Ghulam was gunned down in Jhansi in a police encounter on 13 April 2023, much hue and cry was raised by the chiefs of two important political opposition parties in the state namely the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party with alleged communal bias demanding a thorough probe into the circumstances leading to the death of alleged criminal duo. Incidentally, both the parties are also competing to capitalize on maximum electorate belonging to the minority community in the state. Both Asad and Ghulam were accused in the Umesh Pal murder case and were on the run since 24 February 2023 following the murder of Umesh Pal with each of them carrying a bounty of Rs five lakh on their heads. According to the police FIR, they wanted to capture these wanted criminals alive and warned them to surrender. However, the two accused criminals preferred to hurl dirty abuses at the police team and opened fire at them. Consequently, the police team too opened fire in retaliation and both the accused were killed.

Atiq Ahmad was put in the Sabarmati jail, Ahmedabad on the directions of the Supreme Court and recently brought to Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh by the state police as he was required to be produced in a local MP-MLA court where the court pronounced judgment sentencing him a life term in the Umesh Pal kidnapping case of 2006 vintage; however, the latter was ultimately killed by the gangster-turned-politician’s younger son Asad and his accomplice on 24 February 2023. While Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf was being taken by police on routine medical examination on 15 April night, three shooters impersonating as journalists suddenly opened fire from a close range instantly killing the gangster duo on the spot. This on-camera killing of the jailed gangsters raised a nationwide uproar by the critics of the government and leaders of the opposition parties.

Sharp reactions were received from leaders of the opposition parties such as the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Rashtriya Janta dal and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Taking a dig at Centre, while Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh sarcastically tweeted that HM did not stand for Home Minister but really for “Headline Manipulator”, the Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said that attempts were being made to deliberately create an atmosphere of fear in the state. The chief of the Rashtriya Lokdal called it a ‘jungle raj” and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Danish Ali called it a “cold-blooded murder”. Giving it a communal angle, the AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that the people celebrating encounter raj were actually responsible for this murder. According to him the killing occurred in police custody and is an outcome of the failure of the law and order of the state.

The double standards of the opposition politicians and critics of the government is clearly visible in their discretionary approach and reaction on case to case basis. While so much hue and cry was raised in Asad encounter and Atiq brothers’ accidental killing with more than a hundred cases of murder, kidnapping and extortion pending against them, not a single voice was raised by the same politicians when another gangster Anil Dujana was gunned down recently in an encounter by the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) in Meerut on 5 May 2023, who had about 62 cases of murder and extortion registered against him. Similarly, yet another dreaded gangster turned politician Vikas Dubey had over 60 criminal cases including murder of a minister of state in 2001 and more recent killing of a police officer and seven jawans in an ambush on 3 July 2020. Dubey was arrested from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh on 9 July 2020 and was shot down by the police when the vehicle carrying him met an accident and he tried to run away snatching gun of a policeman.

The same opposition politicians and other critics of the government have no issues with the aforesaid two encounters in which the killed gangsters belonged to the majority community. However, whenever a similar police action against criminals or an encounter involves some accused or convicted criminal(s) from the particular minority community, the same politicians, a section of media and other critics suddenly become apprehensive and charge the government administration and police of deliberate bias against the members of the particular minority community giving it a communal angle.

End Note

It is unlikely that the selfish, corrupt and power-hungry Indian politicians will ever stop playing communal politics in the name of secularism keeping their own interests in mind. The ultimate aim of playing the communal politics over the mafia and gangsters too is to polarize society on the communal and caste lines and garner maximum electorate in favor during elections. Be it Uttar Pradesh crime scene, Mumbai underworld or any other state in the country; ironically, the majority of such criminals, gangsters and terrorists belong to the particular minority community despite their overall percentage of population being just about fifteen percent. Unruffled from irrational communal criticism, the present Uttar Pradesh government and police have gone all out to eradicate or minimize crime in the state. Yet another mafia don turned politician Mukhtar Ansari too had political patronage of another important opposition party in Uttar Pradesh but his crime empire has now virtually collapsed. Yet another powerful politician Azam Khan of the Samajwadi Party with many criminal cases pending against him about land grab, criminal intimidation, fraud etc. too has met his nemesis.

The positive results of zero tolerance policy of the Yogi Government in Uttar Pradesh towards the crimes and criminals are clearly visible. While a large number of mafia and gangsters have already been apprehended or liquidated, with law taking its effective course in the former case, many petty and other criminals have suo moto relinquished their unlawful activities or left the state itself. While nearly all other states in India continue to remain communally sensitive with frequent incidents of caste or communal conflicts and violence reported every off and on, more particularly during the Hindu festivals, the Uttar Pradesh is one province which has remained by and large trouble and violence free without any major incident reported during the last few years. Besides, it’s not only the law and order that has considerably improved under the Yogi Government, the state is also progressing well on several socio-economic development parameters too. This truly vindicates the saying that when the leader / ruler is committed, fair and honest, he (or she) is effectively able to contribute towards the overall progress and prosperity of the people in the society.

21-May-2023

More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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