Suspicion Rises in UP Over Atiq and Ashraf Ahmed's Murder in Police Custody
Prayagraj (Allahabad): The very congested Chakiya area in Prayagraj, formerly Allahabad, echoed on Saturday with over 15 rounds of gunshots that killed dreaded mafia-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf. An uneasy calm prevailed across the city on Sunday. The roads were occupied by security forces or media vehicles, while the by-lanes were abuzz with people talking about the killing of the mafia brothers.
On the evening of Sunday, post 7 pm, the dead bodies of the duo killed by assailants were brought to the burial ground amid heavy police presence and the burial was done by close family associates.
Despite being gangsters who were slapped with over 100 different cases of land grabbing, kidnapping, and murders, people in large numbers from the Chakia, Kaseri-Maseri and Kareli area wanted to attend the burial but were stopped by the police and the administration to maintain law and order. However, Saturday’s incident was more than enough to understand the state of ‘law and order’ in India’s most populous state, where this double murder happened in police custody.
Some of the youngsters from the community even protested the police after not being allowed to attend the burial.
The Big Question
“The man committed crimes when he was alive. He is dead now, and his family members are not here, so I have come here to offer my last prayers for him. There are many like me who want to do the same, but we are not being allowed. We have presented our residential proofs, but the police are not letting us go inside,” said young Shahrukh (name changed) from the Chakia locality, who lives hardly 100 metres south of the demolished house of Atiq Ahmed. The young boy showing his anger against this killing further said, “Had the court convicted him, things would have been different. How can a person like Atiq who has served as an MLA multiple times and wanted in so many cases, be killed, that too when he was in police custody? I am not justifying or advocating for Atiq but the circumstances which led to the killing look very weak."
Mohammad Shariq (name changed on request), a resident of Chakia area who runs a grocery store near the state-run medical facility where this murder happened, raised suspicion over the incident. He told NewsClick, “Everything happened so fast that people could not think of anything. But if you see the video of the murder, you will understand that police did not make any effort to stop the assailants.”
“Initially, we thought that it happened so fast but when we watched the video again and again, we concluded that police who were deployed for Atiq’s safety did not make even one per cent effort to stop the murderers. The Uttar Pradesh police are known for doing encounters, and they very well know how to make the best use of guns. But not even one of them could even take out the gun hanging from their waist. It looked like the policemen were helping them execute the brothers smoothly,” alleged Shariq. He added, “How can this be accepted in a democratic nation? We have courts to sentence criminals. The role of police officers who were responsible for the security of this criminal should be investigated fairly.”
In a by-lane opposite the hospital where the incident happened, dozens of youths and middle-aged men had gathered and were seeing the media people who were coming for the coverage. A youth amongst them wearing a skull cap and holding a pack of milk in his hands said, “Will the media this time ask for bulldozer action against the murderers?”
An informal conversation with this youth showed that anger was simmering in the Muslim community in Prayagraj. “Why has CCTV footage of the incident not come yet? This happened in a very crowded area, and there must be dozens of establishments with CCTVs. Who were these murderers and how did they meet and how did the police intelligence fail?” he asked.
“The law should have taken its course. A criminal should be treated like criminal, but should not be killed on the road by other criminals. In the video, religious slogans of Jai Shree Ram were also raised. Was this done to disturb the communal harmony of our city?” he asked, adding, “If media reports about the sophisticated weapons are true, then it should also be investigated from where these young criminals got these. Because NDTV has been saying that the cost of one gun could be as high as Rs 6 lakhs.”
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, on the night of the incident, announced constitution of a judicial commission that will probe the incident under the Commission of Enquiry Act 1952; it will submit its report to the government in two months.
Robinhood or Not?
The city, also known as the educational capital of Uttar Pradesh, has seen gang wars and violence in the past, but things are different this time. The administration has snapped internet connections to contain rumour-mongering, which could lead to public unrest, and the city has come to an eerie pause.
The Chakia locality from where Atiq hailed has over half a dozen houses, which have been demolished by the administration because these houses were either owned by the relatives or the henchmen of Atiq Ahmed.
Talking about the incident, veteran city dweller Sandeep Singh told NewsClick, “The city has seen the murder of Ramu Pal. The recent killing of Umesh Pal and many others, but this is a very high-profile killing where the matter has been politicised more compared to the past. Those who have seen Atiq Ahmed at his peak know that such an end of a powerful mafia politician was not expected at all.”
Singh added, “Ateeq cannot be hailed as a ‘Robinhood’ for the good works that he did because the crimes he did overtook those. Crime is crime, and no amount of good work can justify the wrongdoings."
On being asked about the bulldozing of houses, the veteran city dweller says that he does not believe in razing the buildings or establishments because the family, which includes children, suffers because of it.
“I am not talking specifically about Atiq or any criminals here. I do not support the bulldozing of houses. These buildings can be used for government work or for public welfare purposes after seizing,” he said.
As per the official information that NewsClick gathered from the sources in the administration, properties worth Rs 1,200 crores owned by Atiq and his close associates have either been seized or demolished by the government in the past few months.
Seema Azad, an activist with PUCL based in Prayagraj, said she sensed a big conspiracy in this incident. She said, “Everyone has the right to live, even in police custody. I have been in remand, in jail, and usually, the time for getting the medical done is either morning or evening. Medical examination is not done at night. I am not very sure about the law here, but this timing of the medical examination also raises some questions. Secondly, as per the FIR quoted in the Indian Express, these boys said they did it with the intention of getting famous. So from where did these youths get their inspiration? Is this not a bad message for society because people are not raising questions on encounters and killings but seeing this as murder of a Muslim mafia? This kind of action on the spot is a clear violation of the Indian constitution, and the most concerning part is that society is not taking it seriously and is celebrating it.”
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.