The rise and fall of Atiq Ahmed

Atiq fought his first election from Allahabad West Assembly seat as independent candidate

Lucknow: He was born in 1962 in a family with a modest background. His father drove a tonga for a living.

His rise in life was as dramatic as his end and the story of the rise and fall of Atiq Ahmed provides a perfect recipe for a Bollywood thriller.

Atiq, according to sources, detested poverty and after he failed in the high school examinations, he decided to tackle poverty in his own way.

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He began by stealing coal from trains and selling it to make money. He soon moved to intimidating contractors to bag government tenders for railway scrap metal.

In 1979, Atiq, just 17 then, was accused of murder in Allahabad, now Prayagraj.

Soon, he was running a network of several gangsters in the state. His clout gradually spread to adjoining areas, including Phulpur and Kaushambhi.

In 1989, when his biggest rival, Shaukat Ilahi, was killed in a police encounter, Atiq became the undisputed king of the underworld.

The same year, Atiq, fought his first election from the Allahabad West Assembly seat as an independent candidate and won.

In fact, he won this seat five consecutive times from 1989 to 2002 — the first three times as an Independent, then as a Samajwadi Party contestant and finally as the Apna Dal nominee.

A year after he won as the Apna Dal candidate, Atiq went back to the Samajwadi Party and won the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat in 2004.

He had to vacate his Allahabad West Assembly segment that triggered a chain of events leading to Raju Pal’s murder, a sensational crime in which Umesh Pal — killed on February 24 — was the main witness.

Atiq was arrested in 2005 for Raju Pal’s murder and got bail three years later.

However, in or out of jail, Atiq maintained his sway over Uttar Pradesh’s underworld and ensured his men were protected.

In 2007, when he was still in jail, Atiq was accused of shielding his men allegedly involved in the gang-rape of some madrasa students.

This triggered an outrage and the Samajwadi Party expelled him.

This was around the time when BSP chief Mayawati returned to power in UP. The police mounted pressure on Atiq and his brother. They surrendered in 2008 and were jailed.

When the Indo-US civil nuclear deal threatened the Manmohan Singh government that faced a no-confidence motion in Parliament in 2008, the UPA crisis managers turned to a few MPs lodged in jail on serious charges.

Atiq was among them who came out to vote on furlough and saved the day for the UPA and returned to his barracks.

Atiq also lost the 2009 parliamentary polls as an Apna Dal nominee from Pratapgarh.

But electoral defeats did not mean his clout had diminished.

In the 2012 UP Assembly election, when Mayawati was the incumbent chief minister, Atiq filed his nomination papers from jail. He approached the Allahabad High Court seeking bail to campaign. There were recusals galore.

Ten judges refused to hear his bail application. The 11th heard it and Atiq came out. However, he lost the election to Puja Pal, the wife of the slain Raju Pal.

Atiq was released in 2013, a year after the Samajwadi Party came to power in UP. He fought the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Shravasti as a Samajwadi Party candidate but lost again.

In December 2016, Atiq — known for his short temper — and his men attacked employees of a Christian minority institution for barring two students from taking their tests after they were caught cheating.

The violence was caught on camera.

In January 2017, when Akhilesh Yadav snatched the Samajwadi Party’s control from his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Atiq fell out of favour.

Akhilesh wanted to keep a distance from criminals-turned -politicians.

The Allahabad High Court also came down heavily on the UP Police for not arresting Atiq. Akhilesh needed the judicial push. The arrest happened and Atiq has been in jail since then.

In March 2017, when Yogi Adityanath became the UP chief minister in the BJP government, he promised to demolish the ’empires of criminals’.

Atiq was moved from Allahabad, his stronghold, to Deoria jail in the state.

In Deoria jail, Atiq ran his empire and got a businessman Mohit Jaiswal kidnapped and brought to jail. He was made to sign some property papers and also thrashed brutally.

Atiq was then moved to Bareilly jail. The jail superintendent was nervous and did not want to keep him there.

In April 2019, the Yogi government shifted Atiq to Naini prison in Prayagraj amid a tighter clampdown.

By this time, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict in the Deoria jail case and Sabarmati jail in Gujarat was the new address of Atiq Ahmed.

Atiq Ahmed faced over 100 cases against him, including those of extortion, kidnapping and murder but his first conviction came last month in the kidnapping of Umesh Pal, a witness in the murder of Raju Pal.

Ironically, the conviction came a month after Umesh Pal had been murdered.

Atiq Ahmed has had a symbiotic relationship between crime and politics but was known more for crime than his politics.

He deftly used politics to save and expand his underworld empire.

Since his stay in jail was getting longer, Atiq got his wife, Shaista Parveen, to join the BSP but as luck would have it, she was denied a ticket in the upcoming mayoral polls because of her being named as an accused in the Umesh Pal murder case.

That his sons were following in his footsteps was evident from their present addresses.

Umar, the eldest son of Atiq, is presently in jail on charges of extorting, assaulting and kidnapping a Lucknow-based businessman named Mohit Jaiswal in 2018.

In August last year, Umar surrendered before the CBI. He is presently in a jail in Lucknow.

His second son Ali is also in prison. A case of attempt to murder was filed against him. He recently got bail from the Allahabad High Court in that case. However, there is another case of extortion against him. He is lodged in Naini Jail in Prayagraj for demanding Rs 5 crore from a property dealer in the city.

Asad, the third son, was killed in an encounter last week and the two minor sons of Atiq are lodged in a juvenile shelter home.

When Atiq and his brother Ashraf were shot dead by three youths in the hospital premises on Saturday night, many had an inkling of the incident.

Atiq himself had apprehended that he would be killed in UP but that it would happen within 72 hours of his son Asad being killed, was something he had not expected.

But then, a bloody beginning always has a bloody ending.

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