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Home > 2023 > Atiq’s Live TV assassination in UP Gets Big, Displacing Satyapal Malik’s (...)

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 17, April 22, 2023

Atiq’s Live TV assassination in UP Gets Big, Displacing Satyapal Malik’s Pulwama Revelations to the Background - Who Gained? Will We Know the Truth? | Arun Srivastava

Saturday 22 April 2023, by Arun Srivastava


by Arun Srivastava

Notwithstanding the week-old assurance from India’s home minister Amit Shah to the delegation of Muslim leaders led by Mahmood Madani, president, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind that prompt action would be taken against the perpetrators of violence on the Muslims, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, was quite ebullient at the assassination of two famous gangsters from UP, Atiq, and Ashraf and even went up to claiming that no mafia can spread terror in Uttar Pradesh and every district is now safe having its own identity and asserted that those who were "trouble for UP earlier, today are in trouble themselves".

Apparently, this statement of Yogi cannot be construed as anti-Muslim, but at the same time undeniably it is quite loaded. Yogi could have bragged about his gains on some other day. But what made him come out with this statement just after the killing of Atiq and Ashraf? His emphasis that UP is now safe has wider implications. It implied that Atiqe was arguably the most dreaded gangster who has been the stumbling block in the economic development of the state and its people. The belief that with his killing the state is now free of the dons and gangsters, is hogwash. Some 32 dons and gangsters belonging to the upper caste Hindu Rajputs, with over 100 criminal cases against each, are operating in the state.

While Yogi patted his own back, he however in a deliberate manner did not name or mention any incident. If a single Atiq could be so powerful to foil the attempts of Yogi to push the growth trajectory of UP, then how could three small fries dare to shoot him dead? Yogi’s claim is merely aimed at diverting the people’s attention from the key mastermind who planned the assassination.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issuing a notice to the Uttar Pradesh Police over the killing of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf when they were being escorted by police in Prayagraj is simply a ritual. When the state police are themselves suspect in the crime how could they be expected to furnish the truth? It is an open secret that the UP police is more like a gang of mercenaries donning uniform. The UP police carried out 10,713 encounters in the six years of the Yogi Adityanath government while 1,708 criminals were injured. The highest being 3,152 encounters by Meerut Police in which 63 criminals were killed and 1,708 arrested. This is followed by Agra Police, which carried out 1,844 encounters in which 14 dreaded criminals were killed. One thing quite discernible is that both these places are Muslim dominated.

Are the Yogi and his government trying to conceal the real reason behind the killing of Atiq and Ashraf? The finance minister of Uttar Pradesh Suresh Khanna gave a religious twist to Yogi’s prophecy; “Some decisions are taken in heaven. Whatever happened was kudrat’s (nature’s) justice, decided in heaven.” No doubt Yogi ignoring the orders of the Supreme Court and violating the defined security rules was the divine order

Only a couple of days back before his being killed brazenly in full view of the media of Prayagraj, Atiq had expressed fear about being killed by Uttar Pradesh police and petitioned the Supreme Court to stop his transfer to Allahabad jail, but his petition was declined. The Uttar Pradesh government had assured the court about the safety of Atiq and Ashraf. Yogi government did not keep its promise made to the Supreme Court. It is not yet clear how the Supreme Court would treat the defiance of its instructions by the Yogi government. But one thing is certain the court should have been more cautious and ought to have ensured that the state government has a sound mechanism for protection while in police custody. In fact, Atiq’s lawyer had told the apex court that the order to transfer him and Ashraf from Gujarat to Prayagraj was like issuing a death order.

Pretty shocking how could apex court believed the words of the Yogi who on February 25 had made a statement; “mafia ko mitti mein mila denge” (We will turn the Mafia into dust). Commenting on the existing scenario, former judge of the Supreme Court Justice Lokur said; “it was very unfortunate. It’s not good at all. That’s an indication there’s something wrong with the rule of law, with our judicial system.” This nature of promise from the chief minister should have been taken seriously by the Supreme Court.

Atiq’s killing is a cold-blooded murder, probably planned at a high level and now the task to deflect the people’s attention lies on the Yogi government, his police, and the administration. A totally bogus logic being floated by the top brass of state police is that the criminals who killed Atiq did so in their bid to seek fame and emerge as the more dreaded and powerful dons in the state. It is beyond comprehension who the police may be trying to fool and believe their nonsense. The meek surrender by the three killers to the police by raising their hands and also their modus operandi contradicts the police’s claims.

The cold-blooded killings of Atiq and Ashraf in police custody have raised several worrying questions and suspicions about the Uttar Pradesh police. A video that has surfaced on social media shows Ashraf claiming that a top police officer had told him the brothers would be eliminated within two weeks. Asked who the officer was, Ashraf can be heard saying: “I can’t name him”. There may be a whole design behind Atiq’s killing.

An operation “eliminate Atiq” may be a conspiracy involving many big and powerful players. Of course, Atiq was a dreaded gangster and was involved in 103 criminal cases. The primary thing which should be kept in mind is at the time of his killing he was in judicial custody. Obviously, the information about his movements was fed to the assassins by someone who has strong connections in the police and state administration. The manner in which he was killed puts the Yogi more than his government under the scanner.

Some political leaders have expressed apprehension that Atiq and Ashraf were killed a day after the former Governor of JK Satyapal Mallik revealed of home ministry’s failure in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed. No doubt Malik’s revelations have put Narendra Modi in the dock. Malik had publicly accused Modi of being incompetent. He had said the terror attack of February 2019, which cost the lives of 40 soldiers, was a result of the Narendra Modi government’s “incompetence” and a massive intelligence failure.

Modi who had ruthlessly exploited the assassination of 40 soldiers for his electoral gains was quite insensitive to the killings of the jawans as was revealed by Malik. At 3.15 pm on that day when the horrific incident took place, he was busy shooting for his electoral promotion. He called Malik from a dhaba outside the park where he was shooting to know about the incident. Shocking indeed the people of this ill-fated country are made to believe that the prime minister of the country did not have access to the information channel. He did not have a mobile or police satellite system. He came to know after three hours.

Malik’s revelation that Modi silenced him to speak out the truth about the lapses leading to Pulwama. Even the NSA chief Ajit Doval asked him to be silent. What do these imply? It is indeed a matter of shame that RSS and Modi instead of looking at the nation’s loss from the human point of view used this terror incident for their electoral gains. The so-called surgical strike at Balakot against the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror base was a mechanism to titillate the nationalist feeling of the people. None would have forgotten how Modi reached out to first-generation voters and asked them to vote for him to fight Pakistan.

What is significant is that all the players, Malik, Modi, and Rajnath Singh, who as the home minister had refused to provide aircraft for lifting the jawans to Jammu, are quite active in politics, and the issue has acquired a major dimension. People were hankering to know the truth. The families of the two CRPF jawans from Bengal who died in the February 2019 Pulwama attack want to know the “truth”. They are agitated at Satya Pal Malik’s revelation. Malik has blamed the Centre’s lapses for the deaths and highlighted the Union home ministry’s refusal of aircraft that had forced the convoy to travel by road.

It is said that the Pulwama expose lost its significance in the wake of the nature and mode of the killings of the two gangsters. The clarifications of the Yogi government and the UP police have simply complicated the scenario. People have come to nurture the belief that the gangsters were killed to deflect the people’s attention from the Pulwama failure and push Mallik’s revelation under the carpet.

The facts emanating after Atiq’s killing, like the three assailants reaching closer to him and his brother posing as newsmen need a thorough probe. What was most curious just after killing them his assailants threw the pistols, raised their hands, and told the police to arrest them as they were surrendering. There is no doubt that the entire operation was well scripted by some people who are well versed with criminal as well as police operations. Their raising the slogan “ Jai Sri Ram” has a well-devised plan to divert the attention of the people and make it look like an operation aimed at a Muslim gangster.

It is revealed that three had reached the hospital well before the police descended there with the two gangsters. It is alleged that the killers had visited the hospital a day before the actual operation. They had even collected fake identity cards of their being journalists. At least two main questions that haunt the people are: Where did they get the money to buy the super expensive imported pistols which cost Rs 7 lakh? There were two such weapons used. Just the bill for weapons would be Rs 14 lakh. So Who paid? The killers belonged to poor families. Naturally, some godfather had made available the guns. So were these blokes simply pawns in the hands of some big and influential powerful persons?

Bringing the two gangsters to the hospital also was not publicised in advance. At the hospital, the killers mingled with the newsmen. Obviously, no fake scribe from outside would have descended there at 10.30 in the night. All reporters were from Allahabad. While the newsmen know each other well, they are also known to the police by their faces. How could no one question their identity?

Some top police officials have confided that they had not received any message about a medical emergency for them. In absence of an emergency, why were such high-profile gangsters, already facing threats to their lives brought for medical check-ups at night? it is yet to become clear who ordered them to take the high-risk prisoners for a check-up at night. This act of the police raises suspicion about the intentions of the police. Besides political leaders, a section of the police and lawyers ask the question as to why the prisoners were made to walk instead of taking them in a vehicle, preferably an ambulance. Since they needed treatment and medical check-ups why they were stopped at the gate allowed media to interact with them, which is not the norm.

Supreme Court lawyer Kapil Sibal who sought an explanation from the police, asked if the assailants knew each other. He expressed apprehension of a deep-rooted conspiracy. He said, “ If they did not and had not planned the attack together, how did they land up at the spot at the same time and execute their separate plans in unison?” The other big question is from where did the assassins get the sophisticated weapons.

The UP police have been at a loss to explain their inertia in retaliating to the criminals’ firing act. Why the police who were guarding the prisoners, even though they possessed modern weapons, including machine guns, did not retaliate? Once the killer accomplished their mission, the police, at their invitation, jumped on them and took them under its custody. They were identified as Luvlesh Tiwari, Sunny, and Arun Maurya. Eyewitnesses said around 14 rounds were fired. The shooting lasted 22 seconds. They shouted “Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Rama!) and then “Surrender karte hain, surrender karte hain (I surrender, I surrender)”. The other two lifted their arms above their heads.

Astonishingly the killers made no effort to escape. Usually the police in such cases prefer to take the remand of the criminals. Instead in Atiq’s case, the three killers were sent to judicial custody for 14 days. Police did not show any intent to question them and know the detail of the entire operation. How they planned it and who provided them with the pistols. Police already had the facts; the trio killed Atiq and Ashraf to make a name for themselves in the underworld.

The UP government has set up a three-member judicial committee to investigate the killing of Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf. But there is much skepticism about whether it would unearth the plot. Justice Lokur said; “while there have been encounter deaths before, the Saturday night killings were “probably the first time people have been killed by a third person while in police custody”. The most important question that is making the rounds of the political circles, as well as the police circles, is; how did the killers know Atiq and his brother were being taken to the hospital at 10.30 at night? Were they tipped off by someone?

If the sources are to be believed the police did not name the three killers as criminals. Instead, the FIR mentions; “Suddenly, two of the journalists dropped their camera and mic, respectively, and fired at Atiq and Ashraf in a flash. The third journalist also started firing. Before someone could fathom the situation, the criminals, in the garb of journalists, killed Atiq and Ashraf. Policeman Mann Singh sustained injuries and one of the attackers also got injured in the firing”. This raises suspicion about the intentions of the police. How could it describe the killers as journalists?

There is little doubt that the three killers were pawns in the hands of big guys. They belonged to families with limited means. Of course, one is the functionary of the Hindutva outfit the Bajrang Dal. It is said that their families have disowned them. Not a matter of surprise, this is the usual pattern. Tiwari is a resident of Banda, Sunny is from Hamirpur and Maurya belongs to the Kasganj district. They arrived in Prayagraj 48 hours before the incident and were staying in a hotel.

The chief medical superintendent of Colvin Hospital Dr. Nahida Siddiqui had told the media that “the police did not inform us. We were told that Atiq and his brother Ashraf were being brought for a medical check-up just 10 minutes before their arrival. If the police had asked us, we would have sent our medical team where Atiq was kept like before”.

With the Supreme Court hearing Atiq’s murder case on April 24, the people nurse the feeling that finally the truth will come out in the public domain. The apex court could constitute its own inquiry committee to go into the matter. But it would have to take care that the UP government does not follow in the footsteps of the Gujarat government and deny access to the apex court of the files and documents.

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