He has always been among the bad boys of Uttar Pradesh politics. The stocky frame looks doubly weighed down because of a short height. Round eyes keen with intent and a thick moustache, Atiq Ahmed’s is a face that stays on in mind. Given the fact that he has 195 cases pending against him, this five-time MLA and one-time MP is known as the Bahubali of Purvanchal.
Born in 1962 in present-day Prayagraj to a tangawalla, Atiq’s father eked out a meagre living ferrying people on his horse cart in the Prayagraj railway station vicinity. However, his obsession with becoming rich quickly led him down the crime alley. By 17, he was an accused in a murder case.
It is said that after a few years of roaming the crime wilderness, Atiq strengthened his political alliance such that his gang in Chakia ran a parallel administration. By sheer dint of mercenary prowess, he became a name no businessman or prospective investor in the region could ignore. By the mid-1980s, Atiq had become a power center to reckon with and one that came in direct confrontation with the now ageing power-lord, Chand Baba.
Call it a doing of fate or a daring that no one else had, but Atiq was soon wanted by both the khaki and khadi. He was the only one who could get Chand Baba out of the way.
Land wars have always been at the heart of all gang wars in UP. Gangsters indulged in dacoity, kidnapping and extortion. The biggest gangs specialised in land grabbing, fixing tenders and booth capturing. The patronage of these criminals came from politicians and government contractors. The bureaucrats and police played their part by ignoring them and collecting the crumbs that were thrown at them. By the 1980s, the gangster ethos had taken strong roots in Allahabad.
In the mid-1980s, eastern UP was in the grip of various mafiaS. There was the coal mafia who dominated the coal distribution from Chandauli, Mughalsarai and Benaras.
There was the contractor mafia who had a stranglehold over all types of contracts that ranged from petty civil projects to the big contracts of the railways. The mafia would ensure that only those contractors who gave them a cut could fill the contract bids.
The mafia superstructure used to be a mix of local politician and his chosen government officials and of course the chosen gangsters who had their patronage. The gangsters in due course of time became so strong that even their political masters started fearing them.
Atiq Ahmed had clearly arrived. Each time he was detained in a matter, some unseen hand was there to secure his bail. In fact, in a 1986 case, his bail was convened allegedly by a “call from the PMO” in Delhi.
Three years down the line, in 1989, Chand Baba aka Shauke Ilahi and Atiq were in direct contest for the Allahabad West Assembly seat. Atiq contested as an Independent and defeated the Congress backed Chand Baba.
It was just a matter of time before Chand Baba was killed and his legacy wiped clean. Between 1991-1993, Atiq flexed his muscles as an Independent MLA from Allahabad West. During this time, his proximity to the Samajwadi Party began to grow.
Be it in political circles or in bureaucratic cabins, if work had to be done, the go-to emerged one: Atiq Ahmed. In 1996, he won on an SP ticket, a victory that was followed up by four consecutive wins. But realizing that Delhi is where the epicenter of decisions lie, he relinquished his seat to contest as an MP from Pratapgarh.
For those who are not well versed with the contours of Uttar Pradesh, Raju Pal was murdered in January 2005, allegedly by Atiq’s men. The reason? Raju Pal had contested the Assembly November 2004 by-election on a BSP ticket, and had won against Atiq’s brother, Mohammad Ashraf.
The by-election was necessitated because incumbent Atiq, had resigned following his election to the Lok Sabha. Raju Pal’s win over Ashraf was seen a personal affront by Atiq.
He acted swiftly and decisively to ensure that the fear of his name remained undiminished. It is alleged that his henchmen killed Raju Pal on January 25, 2005, within two months of his winning the Assembly by-election.
With a few months, Ashraf won the by-election.
By eliminating Umesh Pal in February this year, the lone eye-witness of the case, Atiq sent out a message. That he is alive and kicking, even as he cools his heels in a Gujarat jail.
That is why the murder took place in broad daylight, on a busy highway where there were many CCTV cameras that everyone knew would capture the shooting incident.
Atiq Ahmed wanted the people of eastern UP to remember that he, the son of a former tangawala, remains the most dreaded name in Allahabad.
In 2007, Mayawati’s BSP assumed power. The SP was losing ground and Atiq was becoming more like an excess baggage for the party. He was expelled from the party and Mayawati declared him “most wanted.”
More than a dozen cases were registered against Atiq under the Gangster Act and a bounty of Rs 20,000 was placed for any information about him.
Atiq’s entire family is currently in jail. Atiq’s wife, who is accused of killing Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Raju Pal, joined the same BSP and was trying to contest the mayoral election from Allahabad. Mayawati categorically refused to expel Atiq’s wife Shaista Parveen from the party. Currently, Shaista is on the run in the Umesh Pal murder case.
It is significant to point out here that Atiq enjoys a Godfather’s cult. When he was shifted to Sabarmati Jail in 2019, his supporters descended on Gandhi’s land and took up accommodation nearby. It is rumored that more than 100 of his proteges have been in camping in Amdavad. Despite the many tip-offs, the junta manages to elude IB and crime branch sleuths alike.
In fact, for many reporters the day Atiq was airlifted to Ahmedabad, is still alive. “He received a rousing welcome at the airport, garlanded and surrounded by naarabaazi of Atiq Bhai zindabaad. We were left wondering how could this hero of sorts have done any wrong,” shared an old timer from the Press Club.
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