HYDERABAD: Mohammed Nayeemuddin alias Nayeem’s death in an ‘encounter’ in August has opened a can of worms for the police and politicians alike in Telangana. Even as reports of the student leader-turned-Naxalite-turned gangster’s many crimes steady trickle out to the media, few seem to believe that his victims will find justice at the end of the Special Investigation Team’s probe as his reported collusion with senior police officials is considered an open secret in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Evolution of a gangster
Born to a poor family in Bhongir, Nalgonda district, Nayeem started off as a student leader. In time he was drawn to the Naxalite movement and joined the Radical Students Union and then CPI-ML (People’s War) in 1990.
Just three years later, as part of a gang of four he allegedly murdered IPS officer K S Vyas, the founder of the anti-nNaxalite police unit, Greyhounds.
The killing was a sensation but Nayeem, arrested 10 months later in December 1993, was subsequently acquitted for lack of evidence. Eventually the young Naxalite was expelled by his party.
After being released on bail in 2000, Nayeem turned against his former comrades, and allegedly began to work for the police as an informer against the Maoists, even killing several of those who had surrendered. This was part of his evolution into a gangster known for murder and extortion. By the time he was gunned down in August this year, he was an accused in 100 criminal cases, including 20 murders.
A can of worms
Days after his death, the Telangana government formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by senior police officer Y Nagi Reddy. The investigation is giving sleepless nights to the powerful, retired or otherwise. Speculation is rife in police and political circles about who may have had links with Nayeem.
Sree Ram Tiwari, a retired IPS officer who headed the Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) from 1997 to 2000 has stated on record that Nayeem would sometimes visit the SIB office in Begumpet to provide information against Maoists..
Another retired DGP V Dinesh Reddy, speculated to be connected to Nayeem, spoke to the media shortly after the ‘encounter’ and claimed he had seen the gangster for the first time on TV.
Political leaders such as TDP leader and former minister Uma Madhava Reddy, MLA R Krishnaiah and former MlA Malreddy Ranga Reddy have accused MLA Machireddy of having teamed up with Nayeem to grab land. Some TRS leaders have also been mentioned in connection with this.
Of all these politicians, however, only Krishnaiah has said he knew Nayeem when he was a student leader but lost touch after Nayeem moved towards extremism. But he did speak to Krishnaiah a few years ago after some of the gangster’s victims sought his help. Krishnaiah claimed he warned Nayeem to stay away from illegal activities. Prior to being elected as an MLA, Krishnaiah was a key agitator for backward class rights.
Since his killing, more accusations are being made against Nayeem. A businessman from Bhongir, Gampa Narender, has lodged a police complaint alleging that Nayeem demanded Rs 2 crore from him as ‘mamool’ (protection money).
The businessman refused to pay and stated in his complaint that TRS leader Neti Vidyasagar called him and asked him to pay up.
Other politicians from Nalgonda who are under the scanner include TRS leader Dubbaka Narsimha Reddy and Congress leader Chintala Venkateswar Reddy. However, they have denied having links with Nayeem.
Apart from politicians, as many as 20 police officers including a retired DGP are alleged to have had ties to Nayeem. The SIT recently questioned a retired additional superintendent of police who had been DSP of Bhongir.
The fact that many of these politicians are from Nalgonda district, particularly the town of Bhongir, is reflective of Nayeem locus of activity. However, his links are said to have spread far and wide in both Telugu-speaking states.
Separating the wheat from chaff
Since its formation, SIT has seized hundreds of sale deeds along with crores of rupees in cash in connection with cases against Nayeem.
The detectives are also said to have found a 200-page diary in which the slain gangster allegedly penned down valuable information about his activities.
The focus of the investigation is on three areas. First, the information in Nayeem’s diary. Second, SIT is pursuing leads from the Call Detail Record (CDR) of phones seized from Nayeemj. Third, the team is looking into complaints lodged by people claiming to be victims of the gangster.
According to SIT chief Nagi Reddy, 83 persons have been arrested so far in 99 cases in Nalgonda, Mahabubnagar, Khammam, Karimnagar, Warangal and Ranga Reddy districts.
“The SIT control room has received 372 calls from victims regarding the atrocities of Nayeem’s gang. Most of the victims are from Bhongir,” SIT officials told New Indian Express. Some of the complaints are from non-resident Indians (NRIs).
Credibility of police investigation low
Given the gangster’s alleged ties with the establishment, and the suspicious circumstances of his death, few believe that a police-led investigation will lead to justice.
One example of his ‘work’ for the establishment was the murder of CITU leader Belli Lalitha in Bhongir. Allegedly at the behest of then home minister, the late A Madhava Reddy, Nayeem killed Lalitha, cut her body into 18 pieces and disposed of them in different places.
It is believed to be an open secret that Nayeem’s murders of Maoist-turned-political leader Sambasividu, former Maoist Patolla Govardhan Reddy, Eedanna, Azam Ali and Purushottam were committed on the orders of certain police officials.
Various groups have called for an independent investigation into Nayeem’s crimes. For instance, the All India BCs Welfare Association vice-president Peram Siva Nageswara Rao, alleging that the government was intentionally using Nayeem to damage the reputation of some political leaders, demanded that it have the investigation handled by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a Supreme Court judge.
Some of the findings of SIT are also raising questions. For instance, during a raid on Nayeem’s residence in Puppalguda near Hyderabad, SIT seized AK 47s and other lethal weapons. However, it has not been explained how he came to possess such weapons. It was also revealed that Nayeem possessed immovable assets worth crores of rupees and land in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra.
The government has directed police officials to be transparent. Additional DGP (law and order) Anjani Kumar was appointed to monitor the progress of the SIT investigation.