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Vikas Dubey held from Ujjain’s Mahakal temple; questions over ‘arrest’ or ‘surrender’

Dubey was overpowered by guards of a private security agency on the premises of the Mahakaleshwar temple on Thursday morning, Indore collector Ashish Singh said. He was taken to the police station, where his identity was established, Singh said.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal |
Updated: July 10, 2020 12:04:32 pm
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Six days after the killing of eight Uttar Pradesh policemen who had gone to arrest him in his village near Kanpur, gangster Vikas Dubey was arrested in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.

[Update: Vikas Dubey shot dead, police claim he tried to flee]

Dubey was overpowered by guards of a private security agency on the premises of the Mahakaleshwar temple on Thursday morning, Indore collector Ashish Singh said. He was taken to the police station, where his identity was established, Singh said.

Later in the day, a team of the UP Police Special Task Force (STF) reached Ujjain, and was given custody of Dubey. The STF had taken him to Kanpur by road, Ujjain superintendent of police Manoj Kumar Singh said at a late evening press conference.

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Dubey had been on the run since the night of July 2-3 when police had tried to raid his village, Bikru, near Kanpur. Since then, UP Police have shot dead five of his close associates, including his personal bodyguard and an associate who had been with him for the first few days after the killing of the eight policemen.

Dubey’s rather tame arrest at the famous temple, his clean clothes and shaved face, and his seemingly relaxed demeanour seen in several video clips triggered allegations from the opposition Congress that he may have in fact, ‘staged’ a surrender in connivance with the ruling BJP.

Through the day, senior police officers did not take calls seeking details of the arrest. The arrest was announced by Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra, and he and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan did all the talking, which included praise for the MP Police.

Late in the evening, the Ujjain SP said that the police action had been “clear and transparent”. Dubey, SP Singh said, had been recognised by the man from whom he bought flowers at the temple. The vendor, Rajesh Kumar, had seen pictures of the gangster on TV, and he informed private security guards Rajesh and Dharmendra that he was certain that his customer was Dubey, the SP said.

Dubey had bought a Rs 250 ticket for VIP darshan at the temple, Singh said. As he was leaving, the security guards asked him his name, and an argument ensued. Eventually, Dubey disclosed his identity, and was taken to the police station where senior officers took over the matter. The MP Police got in touch with their UP counterparts and asked for Dubey’s photograph, Singh said.

The SP said the gangster was handed over to the UP STF who gave him a letter from the senior superintendent of police, Kanpur. There was no case against Dubey in MP, Singh said. A team of the MP Police accompanied the UP police team to Kanpur, he said.

In a video circulated widely on Thursday, Dubey is heard shouting “Vikas Dubey hoon Kanpur wala (I am Vikas Dubey of Kanpur)”, after which a policeman slaps him and tries to force him into a police vehicle. In another video, he is seen walking with several private security guards, showing no sign of agitation or fear.

Home Minister Mishra told reporters in the morning that Dubey had come to Ujjain by road from Kota in Rajasthan, and that two of his associates, Bittu and Suresh, had been detained. These names could, however, be fake, the minister said. The arrest was a major achievement of the MP Police, who had been on alert since the July 3 killing of the UP policemen, he said.

He declined to provide more details: “Matters of intelligence should not be disclosed. It’s immaterial whether he was arrested from inside or outside the (Mahakaleshwar) temple. It would suffice to say that he was arrested in Ujjain,” Mishra said.

The Congress questioned the claims about the arrest. Former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh said on Twitter that the arrest seemed like a staged surrender in order to save Dubey from an “encounter” by the UP Police. “I have information that this has happened with the blessings of a senior leader of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh,” he tweeted.

Digvijaya subsequently posted a news report from January 2017 that said the BJP had given charge of managing its Assembly election campaign in Kanpur to Mishra. “UP assembly polls: Narottam Mishra is Kanpur BJP in-charge Does it ring a Bell?” he tweeted. Digvijaya demanded a judicial probe into the “arrest” or “surrender” of Dubey, and his links with politicians and police officers.

Pradesh Congress Committee president Kamal Nath said the surrender by the gangster in a temple in Ujjain smacked of a “political conspiracy”, and demanded a high-level probe.

Asked specifically whether Dubey had been “arrested” or he had “surrendered”, the Ujjain SP said he had already shared the “facts” with the media. “The matter is under investigation,” the SP said. The MP Police had questioned Dubey for eight hours, and would share the details with their UP counterparts after carrying out some checks, he said.

Ruby Yadav, the security in-charge at the Mahakaleshwar temple, said that Dubey had told her that he had come to Ujjain in a white Mahindra Bolero vehicle, and had taken a dip in the Kshipra river before coming to the temple. Dubey was unarmed, and he had scuffled with the security guards, Yadav claimed.

Senior police officers told The Indian Express that the events that led to the arrest on the temple premises appeared to be part of strategy conceived by Dubey, possibly on the advice of his lawyers, to avoid getting killed by police in an “encounter”.

“There are CCTV cameras everywhere and the private security guards inside the temple premises don’t carry guns. A surrender before the police anywhere else would have been risky for him,” a senior officer said.

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