It is interesting to see how news portals and media houses around the world twisted the facts of Atiq Ahmed’s death to fit the “democracy is dying in India” narrative
The dreaded gangster Atiq Ahmed and his brother Khalid Azeem alias Ashraf Ahmed were shot dead by three men on Saturday night when the two were being taken to a hospital in Prayagraj for a medical check-up.
It is interesting to see how news portals and media houses around the world picked up the news and twisted the facts to fit the “democracy is dying in India” narrative currently playing out across left-bastions and anti-India agenda networks.
It is also a glaring study on how disconnected most of the English language media houses are about events, life and people in the Hindi heartlands of India, and how much the local journalists and reporters are sidelined, despite getting the bytes and facts right with on-ground experience.
Atiq Ahmed, a former gangster who transitioned into politics, had a history spanning several decades. He was embroiled in approximately 100 criminal cases. The chain of events began with his electoral defeat, which led to a violent fallout.
In 2004, after Atiq Ahmed was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Phulpur constituency, his younger brother Ashraf ran for the Allahabad West Assembly seat on a Samajwadi Party ticket. Despite the expectation of Ashraf’s victory, he surprisingly lost to Raju Pal, a new candidate fielded by the BSP.
Atiq Ahmed couldn’t accept the defeat, as it challenged his own authority. The electoral rivalry quickly turned into political hostility. On January 25, 2005, one day prior to Republic Day, Raju Pal was leaving Swaroop Rani Nehru Hospital when his SUV was overtaken by a car in the Sulem Sarai area of the city.
The assailants heavily fired at his vehicle, killing Raju Pal and two others. The post-mortem report revealed that Raju Pal had been shot 18 times. The CBI launched an investigation into the incident and named 10 individuals, including Atiq Ahmed and his younger brother, as suspects.
A court in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, sentenced gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and two other individuals to life imprisonment for their involvement in the 2006 kidnapping case of lawyer Umesh Pal. Umesh Pal was a critical witness in the 2005 murder of Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Raju Pal. He claimed that he was abducted at gunpoint in 2006 after refusing to retract his statement to the police.
According to Umesh Pal’s wife, Jaya, the former Samajwadi Party MP and his associates had abducted her husband and compelled him to make a statement in their favour in court. On February 24, Umesh Pal was shot dead in Prayagraj, and Ahmed is the main accused in the murder case. In February, the Uttar Pradesh Police registered a case against Ahmed, his wife Sahista Parveen, their two sons, Ashraf, and others in connection with Umesh Pal’s murder.
Atiq was born on August 10, 1962 and his family hailed from Kasari Masari village on the outskirts of Allahabad (now Prayagraj). They belonged to the Muslim Gaddi community, traditionally involved in cattle-rearing and the sale of milk. His father, Haji Firoz Ahmed, used to ride a tonga, or horse carriage. The family began living near the Chakia area of Allahabad. It is here that Atiq’s life as a criminal began and later, this area came to be known as his den.
In 1979, a murder case was lodged against him in the Khuldabad police station of Allahabad, the first among over 100 criminal cases. In January 2007, a gangrape took place at a local madrasa and Atiq Ahmed became accused of shielding the perpetrators and pressurising the police to book a few local Muslims. They were later acquitted.
Political parties in Uttar Pradesh have a history of supporting criminals, and Atiq Ahmed is just one example. On Saturday, three men posing as journalists opened fire on Atiq and his brother Ashraf while they were being transported to a medical college in Prayagraj. The shooters were quickly apprehended by the UP Police, but one officer was injured in the incident. According to the police report, the shooters claimed they wanted to become notorious gangsters by killing Atiq and Ashraf.
Incidentally, a police remand copy revealed that Atiq had received weapons delivered by Pakistani drones in Punjab. Atiq, a leader of the IS 227 gang, had admitted to having connections with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the ISI. Both Atiq and Ashraf were members of the IS 227 gang. They claimed to know the location of the person who delivered the weapons but were unable to locate it from jail. The arms used to murder Umesh Pal were received from this individual, according to the UP Police.
After Atiq Ahmed and his brother were killed in an encounter, Indian agenda activists, vulture journalists, and Muslim intellectuals quickly labelled him as a politician and lawmaker. This narrative was picked up by the international media, which portrayed Atiq as a modern-day Robin Hood. However, there was no mention of the three people Atiq’s son had killed on camera, including Umesh Pal and his two security guards, Sandip Nishad and Raghvendra Singh, who left behind families.
Strangely, a communal twist was added to the story, claiming that Atiq and his son were targeted because they were Muslims, conveniently ignoring the fact that other gangsters, like Vikas Dubey, had also been “encountered” by the police. While Hindus did not celebrate Atiq’s death, they also did not condemn the encounter, although there were concerns about police accountability and where this type of encounter justice might lead in a democratic society.
None of the foreign agencies picked up the story of Jaishri Kushwaha, a member of UP’s Hindu OBC community, a victim of the terror of Atiq against Hindus who had been fighting him for 33 years. The Indian media houses slowly tuned in to the local news stories and Hindi reports as it emerged that her 12 bighas of land were encroached upon by Atiq, who allegedly had her husband killed. Her brother was electrocuted, her son was shot dead and she was attacked seven times.
It is not expected of the international media, such as WaPo, the NYT, Al Jazeera, and the BBC, which described Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph of ISIS, a dreaded terrorist organisation, as an “austere religious scholar,” to get facts about Atiq’s clash with Indian law right. However, it is disappointing that some Indian media houses continue to act as “brown sepoys” and cling to the hangover of the British Raj.
The media houses did not even highlight that Indian Muslims had objected to the candidature of Atiq Ahmed from the Sultanpur constituency by the Samajwadi Party in 2013. In the Kareli (Allahabad) gangrape case, interns of a madrassa were raped, and the rapists were alleged to be Atiq’s associates.
The incident had incensed the Muslims in the region to such an extent that neither Atiq nor his brother could win a single general election to date, even after all five accused arrested in the case were acquitted for lack of evidence. This is something the international media, the mourners of “India’s dying democracy” will not talk about in the mainstream. Instead, what we see is the closing of ranks by all agenda activists, ‘fact-checkers and the useful Hindu heritage sepoys trying to score points against the ruling party and, by extension, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the Prime Minister.
As various teams investigate the killing of Atiq Ahmed and his brother and scrutinise the law-and-order situation as well as the actions of the police both before and after the incident, it becomes crucial to comprehend why convicted gangsters continue to operate with impunity.
Their fiefdoms and empires are built through the vote-bank politics of politicians, terrorising the common people, and eventually the public takes the law into their hands and the incidents of Saturday happen. It is also important to comprehend how the anti-India network gets activated in hyper mode in its selective condemnation, political correctness and apologia for the negationism of “Muslim mob and ruffian behaviour “these past decades, adding to the global narrative of “Muslim genocide” in India.
Arshia Malik is a Delhi-based writer, blogger and social commentator.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own