End of an Era in Purvanchal as ‘Bahubalis’ Mukhtar Ansari, Atiq Ahmed Die Within A Year

End of an Era in Purvanchal as ‘Bahubalis’ Mukhtar Ansari, Atiq Ahmed Die Within A Year

Last Updated: March 29, 2024, 09:16 IST

Mukhtar Ansari (left) and Atiq Ahmed have died within a year. (News18)

For decades, under political patronage, Ahmed and Ansari ran their fiefdom in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, stretching from Ghazipur to Prayagraj, and were accused of high-profile killings

It is the end of an era in Purvanchal — Eastern Uttar Pradesh — with the two big dons or ‘bahubalis’, as they were known colloquially, dying under controversial circumstances within the last year. While Atiq Ahmed was shot dead in police custody by miscreants, the family of Mukhtar Ansari alleges he was ‘slow poisoned’ to death inside prison.

For decades, under political patronage, Ahmed and Ansari ran their fiefdom in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, stretching from Ghazipur to Prayagraj, and were accused of high-profile killings. The entire region knew them as mafia with land grabbings, hired killings, kidnapping and extortion being a cottage industry attached to their henchmen. It was the real-life adaption of the ‘Mirzapur’ web series or the movie ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’.

Both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have leaned on Ahmed and Ansari in the past for political gains in Purvanchal. This area came to be feared for such mafia and organised crime. Ansari served as an MLA from Mau for five consecutive terms from 1995 to 2022, and retained his assembly membership for nearly 27 years, without being convicted.

The fortunes, however, changed since 2014 — and more so after 2017 — as BJP came to power in the Centre and then the state under Yogi Adityanath. The chief minister was keen to change the image of Purvanchal since he too came from Gorakhpur.

A sustained campaign by the Yogi government saw properties of both Ahmed and Ansari being confiscated or razed to the ground, which is how the ‘Baba’s Bulldozer’ model became famous in Uttar Pradesh. Ahmed and Ansari’s long-pending cases were pursued aggressively in courts by the Yogi government, ensuring they face justice finally. Both their financial and legal protection were broken. Ahmed and Ansari saw their first convictions under Yogi’s rule. Ansari has been in jail for the last 18 years since 2005, facing 66 cases but not as a convict. Since 2017, he has been convicted eight times.

Ansari’s conviction for life in 32-year-old Awadhesh Rai’s murder in May last year put an end to his delaying tactics of disrupting the court proceedings or influencing witnesses or turning them hostile to buy time. In Rai’s murder, he was convicted after 32 years. Charges were framed against him in another 1997 case registered at Bhelupur police station, Varanasi (after 24 years) in 2021. In another case registered at Jagdishpura police station of Agra in 1999, charges could only be framed (after 23 years) in 2022. Also, in a case registered against him with Alambagh police station of Lucknow in 2000, the charges were framed (after 21 years) in 2021. This showed his influence earlier on the police as well as the judicial system.

Earlier, a key gangster and shooter of Mukhtar Ansari, Munna Bajrangi, was also killed inside the Baghpat jail in 2018. Atiq Ahmed also saw sustained police action against him since 2017 before he was shot dead last year along with his brother, Afzal Ansari. ‘Hum Toh Mitti Mein Mil Gaye’ — so said Atiq Ahmed just after the death of his son Asad Ahmed in a police encounter days before his killing. The police confiscated Atiq’s property and assets worth Rs 1,400 crore and nearly 50 shell companies were sealed on charges that Atiq used them to convert black money earned from extortion to white money.

Before 2017, Atiq had always managed to get bail and be a free man despite over 100 criminal cases pending against him. The first case was lodged way back in 1979 but no government in UP could get him convicted in any case as either witnesses turned hostile or disappeared. It was the Yogi government that ensured strong prosecution in the case of the abduction of key witness Umesh Pal which led to a first-ever conviction for Atiq, who was handed a life term.

Yogi Adityanath’s assertion that ‘hum mafia ko mitti mein mila denge’ seems to have come true both in the case of Ahmed and Ansari, albeit their death is shrouded in controversy. Ansari’s family had been complaining lately that he was being ‘slow poisoned’ to death in the jail. These charges could see a detailed probe now after his death.

However, the bigger picture remains that Purvanchal is now free of its two biggest mafias, who have represented two major parties SP and BSP in the state assembly. The era of ‘bahubalis’ and gangster-turned-netas in East UP is over.

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