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Killing of Atiq raises questions regarding lapses in cops' professional competence

By Prof Sudhanshu Tripathi* 

What next or who next? The ongoing narrative in popular media over the slain Atiq Ahmed began with CM Yogi’s oft-cited speech in the state assembly that “iss mafia ko mitti mein mila denge.” And consequent encounters of four shooters by the UP police involved in the cold blooded murder of Umesh Pal -- the only witness alive in Raju Pal’s broad daylight murder by Atiq and his henchmen -- in February 2023. Further, few more encounters by the UP police since then have boldly underlined the oft-cited zero-tolerance policy of the Yogi government.
For many political leaders in opposition, it meant that the CM hatched a conspiracy to execute the murder of Atiq and his accomplices in police custody exactly in the same way Atiq conspired to kill the police-protected Umesh Pal brutally in broad daylight. To many it is a long drawn conclusion and reflects their political vendetta against the BJP led government in UP.
It is argued that, had it really been so, the three shooters after killing Atiq and Ashraf would not have been spared by the police team, escorting both the slain brothers, to recite Jai Shree Ram. Being alive, they (the shooters) will now disclose the motives and secrets behind this gruesome murder, wherein local political leaders, land mafias, business magnets including administrative and police higher ups may be found to be involved - according to media - because being beneficiary of the ill-gotten gains accrued by Atiq.
Further if the state government had considered such long prevailing and deep-rooted criminal syndicates as personal attack over its authority, it would have got eliminated many jailed mafia dons in the state since assuming power, particularly that of eastern UP, who had violently targeted Yogi as an MP, almost a decade ago. And that had broken Yogi in the Parliament urging the Speaker for his personal security.
Be that as it may, while killing of Atiq and his brother Ashraf under police custody is indeed a major failure on the part of state police, it obviously raises many questions regarding serious lapses in their professional competence and ability to ward off such unusual incidents. It again raises questions as to why the police team escorting both Atiq and Ashraf could not open fire over the shooters to protect them despite being armed with powerful weapons.
And that shows their utter neglect and lethargy to provide foolproof security to high-profile dons like Atiq, or there may possibly be their complicity in letting go easily the well-planned murder of the both brothers by the three shooters, either due to personal enmity or at the behest of any bigger conspiracy. This gives some political leaders in opposition the opportunity to castigate the Yogi government and to polarize Muslim votes in their favour, having an eye at Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
At the same time, it is argued that these leaders have deliberately ignored the reign of terror or so-called Taliban terror that Atiq and his sons including his criminal gang had unleashed in and around his area of Chakia at Dhumanganj in Prayagraj for the past four decades. And that they allegedly killed hundreds of innocents, raped their women, forcibly captured their ancestral lands and houses and hard-earned properties at throw away prices.
Often some politicians recite the provisions of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Rule of Law, Right to Life and Judicial verdict etc. for these criminals and history sheeters. In fact, many instances of such high profile mafia dons in the past had led to utter failure of the aforesaid Constitutional writs and judicial verdicts to safeguard the interests of ordinary citizens. Why? Because a particular loophole in Indian Penal Code, often abused by criminals, is that a criminal is indeed Mr. Clean until proved guilty in a court of law. But that demands unwavering evidence to substantiate one’s crime for his conviction.
Who will come forward to the court as a witness against such high profile dons to invite unpredictable calamity upon oneself which has already been seen in innumerable cases in the past throughout the country? The killed Umesh Pal, at the behest of jailed Atiq, was also a witness in the case of Raju Pal’s cold-blooded murder by Atiq and his henchmen. Hence almost nobody can put his life at risk against such mafias and dons except silently suffering the trauma and agony fallen upon them due to savage crimes by the hard core criminals?
Now several, so far unknown, such cases of the victims have already come up in the public with the passage of day wherein Atiq gang had wrecked-havoc upon them (the aggrieved) during his four decades long criminal history in which more than 100 cases were registered against him in various police stations. And for that he always boasted off, having no remorse or the like. Is it not a failure of the Constitution or the so mandated Rule of Law or Judicial supremacy? Who is responsible? How can the government come at the rescue of these hapless victims?
Many speak about Human Rights or Right to Life or failure of the government, especially for sake of hardcore criminals like Atiq and Ashraf etc.. But those who were brutally tortured and maimed or met to their gory end by dons like Atiq hadn’t have such Human Rights or Right to Life or Rule of Law to enjoy a peaceful and dignified life. Why not then mourn their trauma or offer them help?
Another very pertinent aspect in this connection relates to criminalization of politics and politicization of criminals besides large-scale organized crimes with possible involvement of terror, as reported by media about slain Atiq’s possible connections to Pakistan’s secret agency ISI for bringing into the banned lethal weapons for spreading terror in the country, altogether has shattered the very root of Indian polity much earlier.
As the head of the government has to arouse confidence among law abiding and peace loving citizens that the might of the state can’t be challenged by anyone like Atiq or any such other, and the government is there to protect their life and property in all circumstances come what may be. But what if mafia don like Atiq shatter the very might of the state by their blood-curdling gruesome crimes, unparalleled and unimaginable, then what remains the option before the government of the day which has to maintain law and order and popular faith in the political system.
Of course police encounter is no option at all but sometimes it evidently has no substitute when the government machinery fails and police, administrative officers, judges and even other higher ups become helpless before uncrowned dons like Atiq who establish his own state parallel to the legitimate political system in the country. In fact, as already witnessed, these dons mostly get eliminated by rival gangs or intra-group dissensions over succession issue or in police operations to nab them that mostly results into their unfortunate encounters.
Thus what is immediately needed is to revamp the archaic Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code to facilitate unfailing conviction and consequent punishment of criminals in accordance with the procedure established by law. And the protection of witnesses be also ensured at any cost lest they turn their back in case of a high-profile criminal waiting for his prosecution by the court. It is therefore the evidence-based convictions in case of proven and notorious hard core criminals, mafias and dons may possibly be suitably modified to ensure their cent-per-cent and unfailing prosecution and ultimately punishment.
Further speedy justice be inevitably provided in all cases because huge pendency of cases have already resulted into repeated cycle of violence and crimes thereby gravely endangering the social fabric and harmony apart from many other adverse situations. Again to stop criminalization of politics or vice-versa, higher educational qualification and orientation towards service unto humanity be ensured for prospective representatives during their post-election training with sustaining foundation course and only after evaluating their successful performance, they be allowed to assume their responsibility as public representative.
That obviously requires long-awaited major amendments into the Representation of People’s Act. Also the political parties having proven record of distributing tickets to shady characters and criminals, where convicted or not, or promoting caste-based social divisions and violence like Halla Bol or arousing religious hooliganism and fanaticism like Jai Shree Ram or Islam in danger etc. - for collecting popular votes be convincingly debarred from electoral fray forever with no right to appeal in any court of law. Indeed unusual challenges and circumstances or chronic evils in society and polity demand equally draconian laws or battery of laws to restore peace and order in a society.
Evidently India now immediately needs all the above-mentioned provisions as well as laws to safeguard the political society to collapse into utter chaos that may finally lead into civil war as that is going on in few African countries or in some of the West Asian states as well. Indeed India still needs to arrive at the desired level of socio-political and cultural advancement besides fast expanding economy with equity or social justice. This is possible as nothing is beyond human endeavour.
---
Professor, Political Science in MDPG College, Pratapgarh (UP)

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