The law again caught up with Atiq Ahmed Tuesday when a Prayagraj court in Uttar Pradesh held him and two others guilty in the 2006 kidnapping case of Umesh Pal, an eye-witness in the BSP MLA Raju Pal’s murder in 2005, and sentenced them to rigorous life imprisonment.
Special MP-MLA court judge Dinesh Chandra Shukla held Atiq, ex-Samajwadi Party (SP) MP, Saulat Hanif, a lawyer, and Dinesh Pasi guilty in the case under the Indian Penal Code section 364-A (kidnapping or abduction in order to murder), according to government counsel Gulab Chandra Agrahari.
The court acquitted seven others, including Atiq’s brother Khalid Azim alias Ashraf, in the case.
After a 24-hour-long road journey, covering over 1,200 km and criss-crossing four states with few halts, a five-vehicle convoy of UP Police comprising 20 security personnel brought Atiq to the Naini Central Jail in Prayagraj from Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad on Monday evening. Several vehicles, including those of Atiq’s family members as well as of journalists, followed the police convoy all the way.
For nearly four decades now, the 60-year-old gangster-turned-politician has had a run of the state, straddling the permeable world of crime and politics, shifting from this party to that, contesting and winning elections, even while being a certified “history-sheeter”, notching up almost 100 cases against himself and, as per the latest UP police records, running a gang with “144 members”.
Atiq is a former MP and five-time MLA, whose lawyer Vijay Mishra says trials in 50 cases against him have been pending.
He was until Sunday lodged in Sabarmati Jail for allegedly assaulting faculty members of an agricultural research institute in Prayagraj in 2016.
He was shifted to the Gujarat prison in 2019 on the Supreme Court’s direction.
However, that is perhaps the lesser known of the cases involving Atiq who, from the infamous guest-house incident that changed the course of the UP political history, to allegedly abducting a businessman, bringing him to a jail and getting him to sign some papers inside, is used to making more sensational headlines.
In the latest incident, on February 24, men allegedly linked to him chased down Umesh Pal and shot him dead in broad daylight – almost exactly the same way and in the same place that the first crime, Raju Pal’s murder, was committed. Apart from Atiq, his wife Shaista Parveen and their son Asad are accused in the case; both are absconding. Their two other sons are jailed in other cases.
The rise of Atiq
Atiq’s first run-in with the police is recorded as back as 1984 when he was booked for attempting a murder in Prayagraj.
Five years later, in 1989, Atiq won his first election as an MLA from Allahabad West, as an Independent. After he retained his seat in the next two Assembly elections as well, also as an Independent, the SP opened its doors to him.
Then, in 1995, Atiq came to notice with the guest-house incident. It involved the attack on the complex where the then Chief Minister Mayawati was staying with her MLAs. Alleged MLAs and workers of the SP surrounded the guest-house and went on a rampage, angry over the BSP having broken ties with the SP and seeking out the BJP to form the government. Mayawati had to lock herself in a room while several of her MLAs were “captured”, and later claimed to have defected to the SP.
In 1996, Atiq won from Allahabad West the fourth time, as an SP candidate.
Three years later, he moved to the Apna Dal, and in 2002, again won the seat. By 2004, it was the SP again for him, and this time he won from the Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency (a seat once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru).
A year later, came the case for which Atiq finds himself in trouble now. In 2004, in the bypoll held for the Allahabad West seat, after Atiq had moved to the Lok Sabha, BSP candidate Raju Pal defeated his brother Ashraf, fighting on an SP ticket. In January 2005, Raju Pal was gunned down, along with two of his associates, and Atiq was named as an accused along with Ashraf and others. Ashraf now has 52 cases against him and is currently lodged in a Bareilly jail.
With the SP in power in the state at the time, on the Supreme Court’s orders, the case was transferred to the CBI. It filed a chargesheet in 2019 against 10 people.
Subsequently, Atiq was also booked by the agency for a 2018 incident involving the alleged kidnapping of Lucknow-based businessman Mohit Jaiswal, who was taken to Deoria district jail, where the former was lodged at the time. Jaiswal claimed he was forced to sign documents for property worth Rs 48 crore in favour of his associates. Atiq’s eldest son Mohammad Umar, who is currently lodged in a Lucknow district jail, is a co-accused in the Jaiswal case.
Atiq’s second son, Mohammad Ali Ahmed, is currently in Naini jail for alleged involvement in a case of assault on a property dealer in December 2021.
The killing of Umesh is not the first time Shaista Parveen finds herself in police records. There are at least three other cases registered against her since 2019 under the forgery and arms charges at the Colonelganj police station in Prayagraj. The cases are pending in court, said a police officer.
Earlier this year, in January, Parveen joined the BSP. After the police named her in the Umesh murder case, the BSP said Parveen will be expelled if she is proven guilty.
Still on the run, Parveen moved a local court in Prayagraj saying that the police had “illegally” taken away two of her minor sons – apart from the three named in police cases or in jail – on the evening of February 24 and that she had no information about them. The police later told a local court that the boys had been found in Prayagraj and were admitted to a child protection home.
Recently, Umesh’s wife Jaya met Raju’s wife Pooja, who is ironically now an SP MLA from Kaushambi, and has sought “Y” category security for herself and police protection for three eyewitnesses in her husband’s murder case.
The govt action
The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government, which has pledged to act against the “mafia”, claims to have seized properties worth Rs 350 crore linked to Atiq. The Prayagraj district administration also says it has released properties amounting to Rs 751 crore forcibly occupied by Atiq and his associates. Besides, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case against him.