‘Slow Poisoning’ Killed Mukhtar Ansari? From ‘IS191 Gang Leader’ to ‘Messiah of Poor’ — a Journey of 5-Term MLA

The 62-year-old jailed politician was also twice elected as a member of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly from the Mau Sardar constituency as candidate of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Mukhtar successfully negotiated the murky waters of politics and crime throughout his life, establishing a contentious legacy shaped by his electoral victories and convictions for crimes.
Mukhtar successfully negotiated the murky waters of politics and crime throughout his life, establishing a contentious legacy shaped by his electoral victories and convictions for crimes.Image Source: PTI

New Delhi: The night was dark. The clock was striking 10. Even the dogs were not barking. A newsbreak flashed on TV screens: Mukhtar Ansari has once again been rushed to Rani Durgawati Medical College in Banda. At around 12 at night, he was declared dead. “Cardiac arrest” was cited as the preliminary reason behind his passing away.

The 62-year-old jailed gangster-turned politician, who was elected as a member of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly from the Mau Sardar constituency for five terms, including twice as candidate of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), was admitted to the hospital at around 3.55 am on March 26 after he complained of abdominal pain.

He was discovered unconscious outside a prison the previous night. Surprisingly, he was discharged at around 7.10 pm on the same day. The doctors treating her said he was unable to pass stool or have flatus for five days, but he was stable.

Three months ago, his lawyers had petitioned the Supreme Court, alleging that he might be killed in custody. His counsel, Advocate Randheer Singh Suman, had filed a plea in an MP/MLA court in Barabanki court last week as well, claiming that Mukhtar was being given “slow poison” by the staff at Banda jail. He had demanded a thorough medical examination. The trial court had taken cognizance of the plea.

‘He was being Given Slow Poisoning’

Former MP Afzal Ansari, a candidate of the Samajwadi Party from Ghazipur for the upcoming general elections, too publicly claimed that his brother was being poisoned as part of a “conspiracy”. “If Brijesh Singh (a gangster) has to be saved, Mukhtar would have to be eliminated,” he had told reporters after visiting his ailing brother in Banda.

Narrating the sequence of events, he said Mukhtar was observing Ramadan fast. His condition allegedly deteriorated after he had dinner. Soon after having the food, he developed nausea and unease. He vomited whatever he had eaten and drank in iftar (fast-breaking meal) and dinner. He was down with excessive stomach gas and was feeling weakness. He was so weak that he could not even walk a few metres inside the jail premise to appear in a court hearing via video conferencing.

Late at night when he had vomited, he fell unconscious outside a jail lavatory.

“He was being given “slow poison”, which was causing him such complications. He had been administered poison earlier as well. After we complained about the same in a court, he was given medical treatment and his life could be saved. At that time, he was administered 24 intravenous injections to depoison the toxic substance he was fed,” he alleged.

Afzal had gone to meet him on March 24 when he was rushed to the medical college.

“He (Mukhtar) was admitted early in the morning and discharged in the evening the same day. A three-member team was constituted for his treatment. Only one of the members of the medical board was a doctor and that too a surgeon, the remaining two were pharmacists. I spoke to the doctor, who without going into details, told me everything in just one sentence — I am a surgeon and it’s not my case. His statement was self-explanatory. In the name of examination, he underwent an X-ray and ultrasound imaging as if he had broken bones. Neither a physician attended him, nor was any blood, liver or other relevant diagnostic tests were conducted. Surprisingly, he was discharged too in the evening,” he narrated.

He said rushing Mukhtar to the hospital in the wee hours and admitting him to an intensive care unit (ICU) established that he was critical and needed proper medical care. “Then why was he discharged and brought back to the prison in the evening?” he asked, accusing the Yogi Adityanath government of “institutionally murdering him”. 

“If he had done something wrong, there were courts of law to punish him. He was already in jail where he was spending time like other ordinary prisoners. The government has no role to prosecute and murder a prisoner. Leave everything aside, there is something called humanity which was ashamed and murdered,” he blasted.

However, a hospital medical bulletin said Mukhtar passed away in his cell and was rushed to the medical college on Thursday night at around 8:25 p.m. after vomiting and going unconscious.

According to the hospital, he was brought to the emergency department and treated right away by a team of nine doctors. However, despite their “best efforts”, he could not survive the “cardiac arrest”.

‘Threat to his Life and Limb’

Umar Ansari, Mukhtar’s younger son, had approached the Supreme Court in December 2023, alleging that the state administration was preparing to kill him in Banda prison, where he was lodged and facing multiple charges.

He had raised concerns in his petition about his father’s safety by mentioning the assassination of tainted politician and former Lok Sabha MP Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf Ahmad on April 15, 2018, in Prayagraj, while they were being escorted by a group of policemen for a routine medical examination. The Ahmad brothers’ murders were televised live on television.

The state administration had promised the top court on December 15, 2023, that “necessary augmentation of security as needed will be made” to guarantee Ansari’s safety while in detention.

A division bench of justices Hrishikesh Roy and Prashant Kumar Misra had instructed the Uttar Pradesh government on January 16, 2024, to keep up all security measures in place to guarantee that Mukhtar “is fully protected from any security breach and consequences”.

The additional solicitor general, KM Natraj, on behalf of the government had mentioned the “elaborate security arrangements” put in place for Mukhtar during the hearing.

The matter was then scheduled for the third week of July by the apex court.

Mukhtar was under the radar of the Adityanath-led government, which came to power in 2017. It unleashed the police and all administrative forces against him, his family and supporters.

‘IS191 Gang Leader’

Several criminal cases against him, his sons, including incumbent Ghosi MLA Abbas Ansari, his brother and ex-parliamentarian Afzal Ansari and other acquaintances, branding him a “gangster” and the leader of gang IS191. The government has taken possession of, demolished and freed the Ansari family’s properties worth crores from “illegal occupation”.

As of December 2023, the police arrested 186 people associated with Mukhtar and revoked 175 weapon licenses. They had also gunned down five people connected to him in alleged encounters and filed lawsuits against 292 of his associates under the Gangsters Act and the National Security Act (NSA). Additionally, 60 people were expelled from their districts.

In the writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, Umar Ansari had urged the Supreme Court to direct the state police to provide protection to his father and order for his transfer from the Banda to a prison outside the state. According to Umar, Mukhtar faced an “immediate and grave threat to his life and limb” in UP.

The suit filed by Mukhtar’s son claimed that the Adityanath government was hatching a “larger conspiracy” to assassinate the former MLA while he was incarcerated and that it was adopting a “inimical position” against him. Mukhtar’s belief of a threat stemmed from “solid information” he had been given that stated that he was in severe danger of being killed in Banda jail and that there was “a conspiracy afoot involving several actors within the state establishment”.

Over the course of the past year, Mukhtar has been found guilty in over seven separate cases. He was sentenced to six years and five months in prison by a Varanasi court on December 15 last year in a 1997 case related to criminal intimidation.

In addition, a Varanasi court sentenced him to life in prison in June 2023 for the murder of Awadesh Rai, the brother of UP Congress state president Ajay Rai, and for kidnapping a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in connection with the 2005 murder of Krishnanand Rai.

Mukhtar’s eldest son Abbas Ansari, an MLA, is also in jail.

Who was Mukhtar Ansari?

Mukhtar, who was born on June 30, 1963, was a prominent figure in eastern Uttar Pradesh politics. He successfully negotiated the murky waters of politics and crime throughout his life, establishing a contentious legacy shaped by his electoral victories and convictions for crimes.

He came from a well-known family: his paternal grandfather, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, was an early president of the Indian National Congress and a vice chancellor and one of the founders of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia; his maternal grandfather Mohammad Usman served as an Indian Army brigadier.

He had an impact on the districts of Mau, Ghazipur, Varanasi and Jaunpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He entered politics around 1995 when he was elected as the president of the Banaras Hindu University Students’ Union.

He became well-known in the Poorvanchal organized crime scene by the late 1990s, fighting violently with other gangs to take control of profitable contract enterprises.

After a firefight in which his competitor Brijesh Singh was purportedly engaged, he emerged as the unquestioned leader of the Poorvanchal gang, which marked a turning point in his political career.

Mayawati described Mukhtar as a “messiah of the poor” when he along with his brother Afzal joined the BSP in 2007.

While incarcerated, he ran for Lok Sabha elections in 2009 from Varanasi on the BSP ticket. But he was defeated by the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi.

He was charged in a number of cases, including the 2009 killings of contractor Ajay Prakash Singh and Kapil Dev Singh.

The Ansari brothers’ continued involvement in crime resulted in their expulsion from the BSP in 2010. Following a jail raid, it was discovered that Mukhtar was leading a luxurious life in prison.

In 2010, the two brothers established the Quami Ekta Dal, their own political outfit, following their expulsion from the BSP.

In order to prevent the division of secular votes, Mukhtar withdrew from his declared intention to challenge Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi.

Prior to the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, on January 26, 2016, he returned to the BSP and won the Mau assembly segment.

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