In a spectacular killing shown live on television, a former Indian MP convicted of abduction and facing assault and murder charges was assassinated alongside his brother.
Atiq Ahmed, a former MP serving a life sentence in prison, and his brother Ashraf Ahmed were in custody by the police outside a hospital in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, when three men opened fire on them from close range while they took questions from reporters. The two brothers perished instantly.
According to police officer Ramit Sharma, the three assailants arrived on motorbikes dressed as journalists, carrying camera gear, a microphone with a television network logo, and phony journalist IDs.
“They got close to Atiq and his brother under the guise of recording a byte and fired at them from a close range.” Both had gunshot wounds to the head… “It all happened in a matter of seconds,” Sharma explained. The incident, which occurred late Saturday night, was televised live on television by numerous broadcasters who were on the site.
Following the shooting, the individuals involved surrendered to police and gave up their weapons, with at least one of them yelling “Jai Shri Ram” or “Hail Lord Ram,” a term that has become a war cry for Hindu nationalists in their struggle against Muslims.
“We were intent on killing Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf in order to completely wipe out the Atiq-Ashraf gang and make a name for ourselves,” the guys are reported as saying to police in the case report. Police stated that they were conducting additional investigations but did not specify if they were investigating a sectarian motive for the crime.
Throughout the retaliatory police shooting, one of the perpetrators was hit in the hand, and a police constable was also injured by a bullet. So yet, no action has been done against the squad of 20 police officers who are in charge of the Ahmed brothers.
Atiq Ahmed, his brother, and his extended family were known gangsters in the Uttar Pradesh criminal underworld, suspected of leading a crime syndicate involved in murder and extortion, and the former lawmaker faced more than 100 charges, including assault and murder. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 after being found guilty of arranging an abduction while inside.
The Ahmed brothers had been detained by police in connection with the death of lawyer Umesh Pal, who had previously been a critical witness in another case in which they were involved.
Ahmed had petitioned the Supreme Court last month, stating that police were threatening his life. According to his lawyer, Vijay Mishra, the occurrence was surprising because “it is an obvious failure of the police in guaranteeing the safety” of his clients.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with over 200 million inhabitants, has a reputation for crime, with over half of the ministers, including the chief minister, facing criminal charges.
Fatima Begum sits in front of her husband in Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh, holding a portrait of her son Altaf.
Uttar Pradesh police have an awful record of conducting extra-judicial “encounter” shootings of convicts who they allege sought to flee custody or fired on cops first. In Uttar Pradesh, there have been around 9,000 police gunshots in the last five years, with over 150 people killed.
Opposition parties condemned the killings as “brazen anarchy” and a breakdown of law and order, accusing Uttar Pradesh of running as a “mafia raj” under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which controls both the state and the national government. Yogi Adiyanath, the state’s chief minister, is a staunch Hindu nationalist in the BJP.
Adityanath has frequently placed security and a crackdown on criminality in the state at the top of his political agenda, often using unorthodox methods. In February, he promised the state legislature that they would “destroy the criminals,” and in 2017, Adityanath declared that “if anyone does a crime, he is going to be shot down.” According to activists and retired police personnel, extrajudicial executions became an unofficial policy in the state and were carried out with impunity by the police.
Adityanath stated that a judicial investigation into the deaths of the brothers had been ordered and that a report had been sent to the home ministry. The internet was shut in several locations, and big gatherings were prohibited for fear of escalation into protest or violence.