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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 14, April 6, 2024

Reading the Biography of a Underworld Don | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 6 April 2024, by Arup Kumar Sen


The recent death of Mukhtar Ansari, the underworld don, has created sensations in the public sphere. His family has alleged that the imprisoned don-turned-politician died because of slow poisoning in Banda jail. His son, Umar Ansari alleged that he was “slow-poisoned” by a substance mixed in food served to him in the Jail. The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Banda district has ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter. However, the opposition leaders in Uttar Pradesh are not happy with it. Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav has demanded an inquiry under the supervision of a Supreme Cout judge. The BSP leader, Mayawati, also sought a high-level inquiry.

Interestingly, Mukhtar Ansari has an enlightened genealogy: “His paternal grandfather, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, was a prominent freedom fighter who served as president of the Indian National Congress for around two years in the pre-Independence period. His maternal grandfather, Brigadier Mohammad Usman was a war hero awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.” (The Indian Express, March 30, 2024) He did his graduation in Arts from Ghazipur and his post-graduation from Varanasi. (ibid.) However, his enlightened genealogy ended here. Mukhtar, in jail since 2005, was serving various sentences including two life terms for murder and other offences. The big political parties in Uttar Pradesh aligned themselves with this underworld don because of his widespread networks: “A native of Mohammadabad in Ghazipur, an eastern UP district bordering Varanasi and Mau and Azamgarh districts, Mukhtar’s underworld footprint was spread over large swathes across UP, Bihar, Punjab, Delhi and Haryana. He had formidable influence in the Muslim-dominated belts of Ghazipur, Varanasi, Chandauli, Mau, Azamgarh and Ballia districts, which play a deciding factor in the elections to a majority of the Assembly and Lok Sabha seats in these districts. This was mainly the reason why two major UP parties – the Samajwadi Party and the BSP – never hesitated to join hands with Mukhtar while letting him freely run his empire while in power in lieu of his support in these districts.” (ibid) It may be mentioned in this connection that Mukhtar was a five-time MLA from Mau – twice as BSP nominee, twice as an Independent and once as a candidate of his own his own Quami Ekta Dal. Moreover, his family has deep links with the Samajwadi Party. (See The Telegraph, March 30, 2024)

After the public shooting of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf in 2023 in the presence of the police and the media, The Tribune (April 18, 2023) carried a report, which is worth mentioning in the present context to understand the social roots of Mafia dons in eastern UP: “The eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh are among the poorest regions in the state. Purbanchal is also infamous for ‘bahubalis’/ gangsters/mafia dons the region produced in the past few decades. After Atiq, the media focus is now on another major gangster-turned-politician from the region – Mukhtar Ansari and brother Afzal Ansari.”

The above narrative may raise the valid question in the public mind whether the well-known dons/gangsters in UP come only from the minority community. It is worth noting in this connection that in the wake of the shooting of Atiq Ahmed’s son in Jhansi, the Samajwadi Party released a list of strongmen belonging to the Rajput community and asked why despite dozens of criminal cases lodged against them no decisive action is being initiated. “The Opposition party further alleged that these accused are still alive, committing crimes and running syndicates while getting a smooth run due to their caste affiliation with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.” (The Hindu, April 15, 2023)

The biography of the underworld don, Mukhtar Ansari, should be situated in the larger context of criminalization of politics in India and should not be viewed as a generic biography of political mafias belonging to the minority community.

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