Criminal-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Khalid Azim alias Ashraf were shot dead by three assailants in Prayagraj on Saturday. April 15 night, while being escorted by about a dozen police personnel for a routine medical checkup. The former Samajwadi Party MP, 62, was killed hours after the last rites of his son Asad Ahmed, who was gunned down in a police encounter in Jhansi two days ago.
The Prayagraj shooting took place around 10:30 p.m. and was captured live on camera, as mediapersons were following the handcuffed duo being taken to the Calvin Hospital.
Police Commissioner Ramit Sharma said that the assailants had come on motorcycles posing as mediapersons. They were able to get near the duo on the pretext of recording a news byte and fired at them from close range. Mr. Ahmed and his brother sustained bullet injuries to the head and were declared dead by doctors later in the night. The U.P. police detained three alleged assailants, identified as Navin Tiwari, Arun Maurya and Sonu, on the spot and seized three firearms. One of the alleged attackers shouted the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’, as he was being apprehended by the police.
In police custody
Mr. Ahmed and his brother, a former MLA, had been taken into police custody on April 13 in connection with the February 24 murder of Umesh Pal, the key witness in the 2005 murder of Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Raju Pal. The investigators had kept the brothers at the Dhoomanganj police station.
The police have invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the Chakiya, Kareli and Dhoomanganj areas of Prayagraj to maintain law and order in the city, prohibiting assembly of more than four persons. Special Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar reached the residence of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to brief him about the incident.
A high-level meeting took place at the Chief Minister’s residence late night, which was attended by the Director General of Police (DGP) U.P., Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar and other senior State officials. The Home Department also alerted all senior officials at district and divisional level across the State.
‘Criminals’ morale is high’
The Opposition lashed out at the State government, with SP president Akhilesh Yadav alleging that crime had reached its zenith in the State. “Crime has reached its peak in U.P. and the morale of the criminals is high,” he tweeted in Hindi. “When someone can be killed in firing openly amidst the security cordon of the police, then what about the safety of the general public. Due to this, an atmosphere of fear is being created among the public, it seems that some people are deliberately creating such an atmosphere,” he added.
The BSP alleged that such an incident could not have happened without approval “from the top”. In a tweet, BSP Lok Sabha MP Kunwar Danish Ali said, “Cold blooded murder of Ateeq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf is the height of anarchy in Uttar Pradesh! This can’t happen without a go ahead from the top. In any other democracy the state government must have been dismissed for such a heinous crime against the rule of law.”
On February 25, Mr. Adityanath had asserted in the State Assembly, “Mafia ko mitti mei mila denge (we will destroy the criminals).“ He was responding to Mr. Yadav’s allegation that the murder of Umesh Pal symbolised the deterioration of law and order in the State.
Mr. Ahmed faced more than 100 criminal cases, and was among the first U.P. politicians booked under the Gangster Act in the late 1980s. He was elected as a member of the Vidhan Sabha from the Allahabad West constituency in 1989, standing as an independent candidate. He retained the seat for a record four terms between 1989 and 2004, when he was elected as a Lok Sabha member from the Phulpur constituency, once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the volatile electoral polity of the State during the 1990s — a decade in which no Chief Minister completed his tenure and President’s Rule was imposed thrice — Mr. Ahmed leveraged his political clout to develop a syndicate which was an active player in the real estate market amid allegations of forced capture of properties in Allahabad and other crimes.