It took roughly 50 days after the murder of lawyer Umesh Pal for the empire of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed to be reduced to dust as he was shot dead while being taken for a routine medical check-up to Calvin Hospital in Prayagraj on Saturday, April 15, 2023.
Days earlier, Ahmed, 62, an accused in the Umesh Pal murder case and 100 other cases in Uttar Pradesh, had described his plight in similar words. “I have been totally reduced to dust, but please don’t trouble the women and children of my family now,” he said from inside a police van.
Facing Opposition heat over the killing of Umesh Pal, a key witness in the murder case of Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Raju Pal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath vowed in the Assembly on February 25 that his government would make the mafia bite the dust
On April 13, Asad — Ahmed’s 19-year-old son — and his accomplice, Ghulam, both wanted in the murder case and carrying a bounty of ₹5 lakh each, were shot dead in an alleged encounter by Uttar Pradesh Police’s Special Task Force near Jhansi.
Though the first criminal case against Ahmed was lodged nearly 44 years ago, it was Umesh Pal’s murder on February 24 that prompted the State administration to renew its efforts to crack down on his criminal network.
Crime and politics
Taking advantage of the volatile political environment in the State in the 1990s and early 2000s, with no Chief Minister completing their terms and President’s rule being imposed thrice, Ahmed formed a syndicate that allegedly indulged in extortion and land grabbing.
In 1989, he entered politics and won from the Allahabad West constituency as an Independent candidate. He went on to retain the seat in 1991 and 1993. Three years later, he contested the seat on Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket and succeeded again. He later joined the Apna Dal and was made its State president. He wrested the seat in 2002.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha election, the SP offered ticket to Ahmed to contest from Phulpur, which he won by a margin of 50,000 votes. The same year, his brother, Khalid Azim, alias Ashraf, contested the Allahabad West bypoll, but lost to the BSP candidate, Raju Pal, by a margin of 5,000 votes.
In January 2005, Raju Pal was murdered, and Ahmed, Ashraf and seven unidentified persons were named as accused in the FIR. In the subsequent bypoll, Ashraf defeated Raju Pal’s wife, Puja, by over 11,000 votes.
The next year, Umesh Pal filed a complaint against Ahmed and his aides for allegedly abducting him and forcing him to give a statement in court in their favour in the Raju Pal murder case. Facing political pressure, Ahmed surrendered in 2008 and was expelled from the SP.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, he contested as an SP candidate from the Shravasti constituency and suffered defeat by nearly one lakh votes. In February 2017, Ahmed was arrested in an assault case. He was shifted to Gujarat’s Sabarmati Central Jail in June 2019 based on a Supreme Court order after he was accused of orchestrating the kidnapping of businessman Mohit Jaiswal while in prison in Uttar Pradesh.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, he contested as an Independent against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi and polled just 855 votes.
On the radar
The State administration began expediting the court cases against Ahmed after Umesh Pal’s wife, Jaya, registered a complaint against the former MP, his wife Shaista Parveen, their sons, brother Ashraf and a dozen of his aides in February.
Soon, two associates — Arbaaz and Usman — who allegedly took part in the murder were gunned down in separate police encounters. On March 27, Ahmed was shifted to Naini Central Jail in Prayagraj. The next day, an MP/MLA court sentenced him to life imprisonment in the 2006 kidnapping case of Umesh Pal.
On April 12, the Enforcement Directorate raided 15 locations linked to Ahmed’s aides and detected benami properties worth over ₹100 crore.
The next day, a Prayagraj court sent Ahmed and Ashraf to judicial custody for 14 days and also allowed a five-day police remand in connection with the Umesh Pal murder case.
On Saturday night, Ahmed and his brother Ashraf were being taken for a routine medical check-up when three men opened fire on them. The incident was captured live on camera.