The killing of convicted politician and gangster Atiq Ahmed and his brother, Ashraf, in Prayagraj on Saturday night while they were in police custody comes as a severe blow to the prestige and credibility of the Yogi led BJP government in UP. They had alleged that their transfer to UP posed a threat to their lives. The intense media coverage of their movement in the state was intended to be some kind of insurance that they would not be eliminated in some staged encounter. That very media coverage provided the cover for the persons that eventually took their lives. In the backdrop of the encounter killings in Jhansi of Atiq’s son, Asad, and his associate, Ghulam, a couple of days earlier, this latest development has generated serious concern about the goings-on in UP.
The first questions that come to mind are, who could have ordered the hit and why. Who benefits from the elimination of Atiq and his cohorts? Is this just a gang war that has emerged out of the twilight zone into the public gaze? The killing by Asad of Umesh Pal, witness in the murder of BSP MLA Raju Pal that took place in 2005, was captured live on CCTV. That triggered the chain of events that culminated in Atiq and Ashraf’s deaths. This is much like the gang wars that are common in Latin American countries.
Such murders could be an attempt to gain political dominance among the various caste-based combines in the state. Politics has obviously become the battle-ground of these gangs in the effort to acquire immunity from the processes of law. Those who engineered the killings of Atiq and Ashraf have also tried to give a communal colour to the act by having the killers raise ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans, which would distract attention away from the actual motives.
The profile of the Saturday killers ascertained, thus far, reveals that they are social misfits easily persuaded, probably through the lure of money, to commit acts such as this. There is no record uncovered, as yet, of them being involved with any maverick Hindutva group that believes eliminating Atiq et al would be a service to Ram. Hopefully, the facts will become known soon, though going by past investigations, it seems unlikely.
The investigative agencies involved and the UP Police have a lot to answer for, even as CM Yogi cannot escape the blame. The matter is definitely going to be shamelessly politicised in the most irresponsible ways. Very likely it will also impact on the municipal elections in the state and those to the assemblies in other states in the coming months. Much will depend on how these pan out, particularly regarding how the states are to be governed.