Atiq Ahmad, a gangster-turned-politician, and his brother Khalid Azim alias Ashraf were shot dead on Saturday in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh while being escorted for a medical examination while in police custody. The shooting happened on the grounds of MLN Medical College. Around 10 p.m., when media personnel followed the two while they were being led to the hospital by police for a medical examination, shots were fired. After killing Atiq and his brother, the assassins could be heard yelling “Jai Shri Ram” in the terrible videos of the attack that leaked online. The three killers posed as journalists and murdered the Ahmad brothers. The assassins during a media interview have been apprehended and named. Arun Maurya, Lavlesh Tiwari, and Sunny Singh were three people that were apprehended, but no formal announcement of their names was made.
Glorification of the Killing
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 most shocking part of Atiq and Ashraf’s killing is that the Muslim prisoners were being escorted by about a dozen police personnel for a routine medical check-up. This brazen killing and its filming and then broadcasting have sent shock waves across the country, especially among the leftist-leaning individuals regarding right-wingers taking law into their own hands. Many are worried about how law and order are rapidly vanishing from India, a country claiming to be the world’s largest democracy. What is further disturbing is the unabashed glorification of this killing by not just the common people in India but also many BJP leaders.
Who was Atiq Ahmad?
It would be an understatement to say that Atiq Ahmed was a problematic personality. The 60-year-old Prayagraj native was born into a low-income family and dropped out of school, but over the years he accumulated enormous money, benefited from political patronage and power, and developed a significant following in his hometown and beyond. He was chosen from the city five times as a state assembly representative beginning in 1989. In 2004, he was chosen from the Phulpur seat to serve in the parliament.
He is referred to as a by Vikram Singh, a former director general of the state police of Uttar Pradesh, as some “sort of “Robin Hood, a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde type of character” who “spent lavishly to help poor people – paying for weddings, giving them money during Eid festivals, and helping poor women buy school uniforms and books for their children”.
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Turning into a Criminal
As Atiq Ahmed was charged with kidnapping, murder, extortion, and land grabbing, this image began to fall apart. He was accused of being engaged in more than 100 instances that had already been filed against him, but the victims were allegedly too terrified to file charges. Over the course of two decades, Ahmed spent time behind bars, yet he still managed to control the underworld in Uttar Pradesh and make sure his men were safe. However, Ahmed’s influence started to decline as the local Samajwadi Party cut its links with him and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took office in the state. He was detained for assault in 2017 and later sent to Gujarat, a state in western India.
The most current action against him got underway in February after video surfaced showing a group of men shooting Umesh Pal, a crucial witness in the 2005 murder of Raju Pal, a lawmaker associated with the local Bahujan Samaj Party. Pal was a critical witness in the case. The Ahmed brothers had been charged with taking part in Pal’s slaying.
The murder in February that was seen on video started a chain of events that resulted in Ahmed and several members of his family and followers being killed, his wife being tracked down after with a bounty on her head, two of his sons being imprisoned, and the other two sons, who are minors, being placed in government protection homes.
Indian Politicians divided over killing of Atiq Ahmad
Dharmpal Singh, a BJP leader and minister for Uttar Pradesh, asserted on Sunday that the Opposition was responsible for the murder of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad. Singh claimed that Ahmed was going to expose a lot of information following his detention, which resulted in his death. “The truth is that the opposition is involved in getting Atiq killed. Some serious secrets were about to be revealed, that’s why the opposition got him murdered,” said Singh, the state animal husbandry and dairy development minister, who arrived here on Friday to attend the BJP workers’ conference for the Chandausi civic polls.
In addition, Asaduddin Owaisi, the president of AIMIM, claimed on Friday that those responsible for the murders of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother in UP were acting in a similar manner as Nathuram Godse, the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi, and labelled them “terrorists” who were a member of a terror module. Owaisi, who was speaking to a crowd here, questioned why UAPA had not been applied to them. He targeted Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, for the murders of Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf, both of whom were in police custody.
Al-Qaeda Threatens India over Killing of Atiq Ahmad
The radical organization Al-Qaeda broadcasted a message on the eve of Eid ul-Fitr promising retaliation and referring to Atiq and his brother Arshad as “martyrs.” A seven-page magazine was published with the message by As-Sahab, the group’s media branch. Additionally, it pledged to ‘liberate’ Indian Muslims. After Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf were killed, and AQIS voiced outrage over this and hailed them as “martyrs” in the message.
Further, slogans for Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf, gangsters turned politicians who were killed before the camera while being in police custody at Prayagraj last week, were on Friday heard close to the largest mosque in Bihar’s capital.
The Assailants wanted to “Become Popular”
The assailants of Atiq Ahmad, a gangster turned politician, and his brother claimed they did it “to become popular.” The attackers who shot Atiq and his brother Ashraf while they were being brought for a medical test in Pragyaraj have admitted to have committed thid crime, according to ANI. They were arrested after they voluntarily turned themselves in.
“We wanted to kill Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf with the aim of completely wiping off the Atiq-Ashraf gang and making a name for ourselves,” the FIR quoted the arrested assailants as telling the police.
“The moment we received an update about Atiq and Ashraf being taken into police custody, we planned to kill them by posing as local journalists and blending with the crowd,” the FIR stated further.
“Three people have been arrested and are being questioned. A journalist was also injured as he fell down and a constable sustained a bullet injury,” Prayagraj Police Commissioner Ramit Sharma said.
What About the Rule of Law?
The Uttar Pradesh state government has ordered an investigation, however, the unabashed killing of Atiq Ahmad has unleashed a series of backlash and criticism from major local and national politicians who have concerns about say about honouring the law and order in India.
Vikram Singh, former director general of Uttar Pradesh’s state police, told the BBC that Ahmad’s murder was unacceptable. “Death in custody is bad enough, murder is worse,” he said.
Lawyer and politician Kapil Sibal said there had been “two murders” in Uttar Pradesh – “one, of Atiq and brother Ashraf and two, of Rule of Law”.
A 40-year-old Muslim man, who didn’t want to be named, told the BBC that people were shocked. “How can somebody be killed in front of the media and the police? He was a convicted criminal I agree, but that doesn’t mean he can be shot like that. What about the rule of law?” he asked.
“Many of us are wondering if he was killed because he was a Muslim. I don’t know if that’s true, but this incident has terrified the city. We deserve better.” he added.