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Atiq Ahmed Killed: How a Tongawallah's Son Became UP's Most Dreaded Gangster

Atiq Ahmed's tryst with crime began over four decades ago, while his political career commenced in 1989.

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India
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Video Producer: Aparna Singh

Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam

Atiq Ahmed had been involved in crime for over four decades, and his political career spanned 34 years. But who was Atiq Ahmed, and how did his tryst with crime begin?

Gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Khalid Azim alias Ashraf Ahmed were shot dead in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj on the night of 15 April. The attack took place while they were being taken for a court-mandated check-up. The shooters were arrested soon after.

Reactions began pouring in after the murder, with many Opposition leaders criticising the Yogi Adityanath government for the 'failing law and order situation in the state' and accusing the Uttar Pradesh police of incompetence.

This came only days after Atiq's son Asad was gunned down in a police encounter.

Who Was Atiq Ahmed?

Atiq was born on 10 August 1962 and his family hailed from Kasari Masari village in 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.

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The family began living near 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 the 1980s, he worked with several local gangsters, the most prominent being Shok-e-Ilahi alias Chand Baba.

Though a notorious gangster, Chand Baba had a Robin Hood-like image among some people and enjoyed political patronage.

But by then, Atiq had begun amassing enormous wealth after getting a contract to sell railway scrap. He too developed political ambitions and this put him on a collision course with Chand Baba.

The 1980s was also a period of great political instability and failing law and order in Uttar Pradesh. In this context, Atiq Ahmed and Chand Baba both became useful for politicians.

Atiq decided to contest the 1989 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections from the Allahabad West constituency as an independent candidate. Chand Baba, too, decided to contest, apparently egged on by some of his political backers. Chand Baba was killed during the election campaign and a case was lodged against Atiq.

Chand Baba's murder made Atiq a household name and is seen as the beginning of his reign of terror and dominance in Allahabad.

Political Career and the Beginning of Atiq Ahmed's Downfall

Allahabad West became Atiq's bastion and he won again in 1991 and 1993 as an independent, in 1996 on an SP ticket and in 2002 on an Apna Dal ticket.

In 2004, he contested and won the Lok Sabha elections on an SP ticket from Phulpur, the seat once represented by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his sister Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and veteran socialist leader Janeshwar Mishra.

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After winning the elections, Atiq resigned from the Allahabad West seat, necessitating a bypoll. In the bypoll, Atiq's brother Ashraf was defeated by the BSP's Raju Pal.

However, Raju Pal was killed a few months after the election and Ashraf became the prime accused in the murder. He also defeated Raju Pal's widow Pooja Pal in the bypoll that followed.

Pooja Pal, presently an SP MLA, became the main complainant in the case. The case dragged on for years and is still going on.

In 2006, Atiq and his men allegedly abducted Umesh Pal, a key witness in the Raju Pal murder case. Seventeen years, later, on 24 February 2023, Umesh Pal was gunned down in broad daylight allegedly by Atiq Ahmed's men.

Coming back to Atiq's political career, his clout among political parties began to decline in the late 2000s due to his increasing criminal activities and notoriety.

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.

Rajesh Singh, a station officer who was accused of misconduct in the case, was suspended. He was accused of having colluded with Atiq.

Already a feared gangster, this case increased the resentment against Atiq among local Muslims.

Though the media uses their names in the same breath, Atiq was nothing like Mukhtar Ansari, who is still considered a Robin Hood figure in his area of influence in Mau and has supporters across caste and communal lines.

He's also not like Raja Bhaiya who at least has some support in his own community.

The SP began distancing themselves from him and denied him a ticket for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Mayawati and the BSP refused as well.

Yet in 2014, the SP once again gave him a ticket, from Shrawasti Lok Sabha constituency, but he lost the election.

In 2016, a video of Atiq Ahmed and his henchmen assaulting the staff members of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences in Allahabad, went viral.

In 2018, Atiq was accused of getting Lucknow-based businessman Mohit Jaiswal kidnapped and taken to Deoria jail, where Atiq had been imprisoned. Jaiswal alleged that he was beaten up at Deoria jail at Atiq's behest.

In 2019, Atiq contested as an independent against PM Narendra Modi from Varanasi. In 2021, his wife Shaista Parveen joined the AIMIM but she quit in 2022. In January 2023, Parveen joined the BSP.

Ironically, in the end, Atiq's family aligned with the BSP, whose leader Raju Pal they were accused of killing. On the other hand, Pal's wife Pooja Pal is with the SP, the party which gave Atiq Ahmed more tickets than any other party.

Atiq Ahmed is not the only criminal patronised by political parties in Uttar Pradesh and no party can claim to have never used and supported gangsters in the state.

And even as the visuals of him being murdered bring to an end the story of one of Uttar Pradesh's most notorious gangster-politicians, the furore around his death means that Atiq Ahmad could yet have a role to play in UP politics, albeit posthumously.

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