Uttar Pradesh— It was a shocking and brazen act of violence that left the nation reeling in disbelief on Saturday night. Former Member of Parliament and noted gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed, along with his brother Ashraf, were shot dead in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, right in front of the police and media on April 15th. The attack, carried out by three assailants, was caught on live television and quickly became a viral topic on social media.
The murders has left Uttar Pradesh on edge. The state government has implemented Section 144 in all 75 districts of the state, and the police have suspended 17 officials responsible for the security of the two brothers. The internet has also been shut down in the Prayagraj District. The incident has attracted widespread criticism, with politicians and activists questioning the state government's ability to maintain law and order.
The incident took place in front of the police and media near Dhoomanganj Police Station at around 10 PM. Three attackers opened fire on the two and have been identified as Lavlesh Tiwari, Mohit alias Sunny Purane, and Arun Kumar Mourya. They are currently in police custody, and an FIR has been filed against them. The weapons used in the crime were also recovered by the police. Atiq and Ashraf were addressing the media when the shooting occurred, and the footage of their murder has been circulating on social media.
The three perpetrators, allegedly posing as media persons, shot the two brothers at close range. Following the victims' deaths, a fictitious video surfaced on social media and TV channels reporting Jai Shri Ram chants from the scene. The bodies of the two brothers have been sent to Swaroop Rani Nehru Hospital in Prayagraj. Senior police officials, including Special DG (law and order) Prashant Kumar, were summoned to CM Yogi Adityanath's office post-incident.
DM Sanjay Kumar Khatri and CP Ramit Sharma also arrived at the incident spot, and a forensic team analyzed the place of the incident. According to news reports, senior officials stated that the chief minister ordered a judicial commission to investigate the incident. Meanwhile, Prayagraj Police Commissioner Ramit Sharma reported, "Atiq and his brother Ashraf were brought for medical tests, and while giving a media byte, three people disguised as media persons shot them. Three people have been arrested and are being questioned. A journalist was injured from a fall, and a constable sustained a bullet injury."
In the wake of the shocking incident, the state of Uttar Pradesh imposed Section 144 across all 75 districts of the state. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath set up a three-person judicial panel to investigate the event on Saturday night separately. A press release from the UP government issued after the incident read, "Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was aware of the situation in Prayagraj. He quickly called a high-level meeting and ordered an investigation into the situation. The creation of a three-person judicial commission was also mandated by instructions from the chief minister. All three assailants were detained. The police are closely looking into the matter.”
District police officers were mandated to organize flag marches in each district, and Principal Secretary (Home) Sanjay Prasad and Director General of Police (DGP) RK Vishwakarma were deployed to Prayagraj to assess the situation. Following the incident, senior police officers instructed the state police social media cell to keep an eye on any online comments made and have threatened harsh punishment for those who post objectionable content.
Internet services were shut down in the Prayagraj District of Uttar Pradesh. In Prayagraj's Chakiya neighborhood, at Atiq Ahmad's home, police security has been increased. The Uttar Pradesh police also strengthened security across the state. Additionally, the state police department suspended 17 police officials responsible for the security of the two brothers.
According to the UP Police, it is alleged that Atiq and Ashraf had contacts with ISI and Khalistani groups. The police stated in the FIR they filed after their murder that "they were being questioned about the same for days and had agreed to accompany us to the areas where these persons are hiding." The claim has raised concerns that the men's associations with these groups may have played a role in their murders. However, this claim has also been met with skepticism, with some questioning its veracity and motive.
Atiq Ahmed's son Asad was killed in an encounter on Thursday, two days before the murders of Atiq and his brother Ashraf. Asad was wanted in connection with the murder of Umesh Pal, who was shot and killed by Uttar Pradesh police in Jhansi. He was shot dead along with his co-accused, Ghulam.
A reward of 5 lakh rupees was levied on Asad and Ghulam, who were both on the run since the attack on Pal. Asad Ahmed had been seen on a surveillance camera during the attack.
On Thursday around midday, Ghulam opened fire on a group of the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Unit in retaliation, killing two of them, according to the police.
They were found carrying advanced weapons, modern telephones, and SIM cards. Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Navendu and Vimal from the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Team oversaw the operation (UPSTF).
The killing of Atique Ahmed and his brother Ashraf Ahmed has been widely criticized by politicians from the opposition and activists. They suggest negligence and describe it as a state-planned extrajudicial killing, questioning how it is possible to shoot someone in the presence of police personnel and media persons.
Akhilesh Yadav, the leader of the Samajwadi Party and former chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, took to Twitter to express his concern. He stated that the morale of criminals had reached its peak, and crime had peaked in UP. He wrote, “When someone can be killed by firing openly amidst the security cordon of the police, then what about the safety of the general public? Due to this, an atmosphere of fear is being created among the public, it seems that some people are deliberately creating such an atmosphere.”
Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and a member of parliament, criticized the Yogi Adityanath administration after Atiq's murder. Owaisi claimed that Atiq and his brother were in police custody and were handcuffed, yet they were killed. He tweeted, “The killing of both is the failure of Yogi's law and order system. Those celebrating encounter Raj are also responsible for this murder.”
Uttar Pradesh Minister Suresh Khanna, addressing the media on the murder of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed, stated that the UP government has a "zero-tolerance" attitude toward crime. He added, "The UP government has made every effort to keep the state's law and order. We have a policy of having no tolerance for crime."
Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Azad criticized the UP government over the law and order situation in the state. He tweeted, "This is not just a murder case but a sample of violence and terrorism growing under the patronage of power. There is no such thing as law and order left in UP. Murders happen openly in the custody of the police. Yogi government has failed. President's rule should be imposed in Uttar Pradesh now."
Former DGP of J&K Shesh Paul Vaid took to Twitter and questioned the killing of two brothers, urging the UP police to conduct a serious investigation. He wrote, “How deep-rooted are their criminal activities that they were brutally shot down while in Police custody and in front of media cameras? Whose criminal secrets were these assailants protecting?”
Kapil Sibal, former Union Minister, metaphorically criticized the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. In a tweet, he wrote that two murders have taken place in the state: one of the two brothers and the other of the rule of law.
Former UP chief minister and BSP leader Mayawati raised significant concerns about how the UP administration is managing law and order. She commented, "Uttar Pradesh appears to be transitioning into "Encounter Pradesh" rather than using legal measures to establish the rule of law. It is comparable to the recently committed murder of Umesh Pal." She further added that it would be preferable if the Supreme Court opened an investigation on this incredibly severe incident.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted that the constitution of India contains the law of our nation, which is the most important legislation. She stressed that the heaviest penalties should be given to criminals, but only in accordance with the law of the land, and it is improper to "play with or violate the rule of law and the judicial process for any political purpose" in our democracy.
The three shooters were immediately subdued by the police, who are now looking into their backgrounds and prior criminal activity.
The three attackers identified as Lovlesh Tewari, Sunny Singh, and Arun Maurya, have criminal cases against them.
According to an NDTV news report, their families say that they are unrelated to them.
Earlier, Lavlesh Tewari was also imprisoned. His father reportedly told the press that the family is unrelated to him. The father claimed that Lavlesh occasionally traveled to the family's home and spent five or six days in Banda prior to the incident.
"We saw our son on TV, we witnessed the incident. We are not aware of Lavlesh's acts, nor do we have any involvement in them. He never resided here and was never involved in any of our family matters. Nothing was revealed to us by him. Five to six days ago, he arrived here. We haven't had any communication with him in years. A case has already been filed against him. In that case, he was imprisoned " said Lavlesh's father, Yagya Tiwari.
"He is unemployed. He had a drug addiction. We have four children. We have nothing to say on this incident." added Yagya Tiwari.
Sunny, who has 14 complaints filed against him, has been on the lam since it was established that he was a history-sheeter. He sold his portion of the family's land after his father had passed away, and he left home. For five years now, Sunny hasn't seen his mother or brother. His brother runs a tea stall, as reported by the NDTV.
"He used to be a wanderer who did not work. We don't know how he become a criminal and we don't live together. We don't know anything about the incident "Pintu Singh, the brother of Sunny Singh, the shooter, claimed.
Arun, the third gunman, left home when he was a young child. According to accounts, his identity was connected to the 2010 murder of a police officer on a train. He was employed by a Delhi factory.
Although the authorities are not yet convinced by the confession, sources claim that the accused told the police during interrogation that they killed Atiq because they wanted to become infamous criminals. The police acknowledged that their testimony contains gaps and that they will carry on their inquiry.
Atiq Ahmed had alleged that he might be killed in a fake encounter by the UP Police. In March, he had requested protection from the Supreme Court stating that if he were returned to Prayagraj, the UP Police may kill him in a fabricated encounter as he and his family had been wrongly accused of being involved in the murder of Umesh Pal. However, on March 28, the Supreme Court rejected his plea for security and advised him to appeal to the Allahabad High Court. At the hearing, Atiq's attorneys informed the court about the serious danger that persisted, but the court felt there was no need for intervention and advised him to seek relief from the state apparatus.
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