Murder of UP don under protection grave security lapse
Prayagraj was where Atiq lived by the gun and died by it. It was his stomping ground for decades, where he was the last word in muscle power and politics.
The dramatic late-night murder of mobster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh is a chilling reminder of how gun culture is still prevalent in the state. It is a searing indictment of the UP Police, which failed to create a sterile zone to keep the brothers safe despite throwing a security ring around them. Assailants penetrating the media to shoot the duo down from point-blank range in cold blood appeared straight out of a reality TV show as cameras were rolling when they pulled the trigger. It showed the complete failure of the state’s intelligence network if not collusion.
That the killers did not have an exit strategy and gave themselves up without resistance indicated high motivation and a well-thought-out plan. Whether they were hired guns or those wronged by the mafia leader out to wreak vengeance is a matter of investigation. Atiq personified the criminalisation of UP politics. Mulayam Singh Yadav used him to storm a guest house and rough up Mayawati and her lawmakers in 1995 when it became known that the BSP was pulling out of the coalition government with the SP. His vote to save the UPA, which was struggling to fend off a no-confidence motion in 2008, was crucial, as he was brought out on furlough from jail to cast his ballot in Parliament.
Prayagraj was where Atiq lived by the gun and died by it. It was his stomping ground for decades, where he was the last word in muscle power and politics. Many judges refused to hear his bail petitions, and jailers feared having him in their prisons. Nevertheless, he feared for his life when the state police recently sought to take him to Prayagraj from a Gujarat jail for questioning in the Umesh Pal murder case. Only an impartial investigation can reveal whether the purpose of bringing Atiq to Prayagraj was to ferret out his youngest son, who was eliminated in the police encounter a few days ago.
Going forward, heads must roll in the UP Police to fix accountability right at the top. Their incompetence needs to be called out though the government hurriedly did damage limitation by setting up a judicial probe panel. The state government patting itself on its back for restoring the rule of law does not carry as much conviction any more. Piecemeal solutions will not work. Even the dons deserve better.