He was accused of murder when he was just 17. After climbing up the crime charts, he went on to become the MP of the Lok Sabha constituency — Phulpur– that India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, represented.
That’s Atiq Ahmed. The gangster-turned-politician who struck terror in the hearts of people in Uttar Pradesh for decades and who got killed in UP’s Prayagraj on Saturday, along with his brother Ashraf, while being taken for a medical examination.
Atiq Ahmed had more than 100 cases, including those of extortion, kidnapping and murder, lodged against him over four decades.
Though Atiq Ahmed shot to limelight after Umesh Pal, a witness in the 2005 murder of BSP MLA Raju Pal, was murdered on February 24, 2022, his shadow of crime over Uttar Pradesh was much bigger.
Atiq, for nearly four decades, had an unchallenged run as he straddled the world of crime and politics. He was born in a poor family and his journey into the world of crime began when he was very young.
Known for framing his opponents in false cases, his ancestral village remembered him as ruthless who bribed witnesses, threatened them and always escaped the law.
ATIQ AHMED’s RISE FROM POVERTY TO POWER
Born in 1962, in Allahabad (now Prayagraj), Atiq Ahmed spent his childhood in poverty. His father drove a horse-cart in the town for a living. Atiq dropped out after flunking his high school examination.
Atiq didn’t lose much time trying to figure out how to come out of poverty and chose the path of crime.
In a bid to make ends meet, Atiq started stealing coal from trains and selling it to make money. And in no time, he moved to threaten contractors to bag government tenders for railway scrap metal.
Cut to 1989, Atiq tried his luck in politics at the age of 27, when he earned the tag of undisputed bahubali. He made his debut in representative politics in the same year, winning the Allahabad West assembly seat as an Independent. Atiq Ahmed was elected as a legislative assembly member from the Allahabad West constituency for a record five consecutive terms.
Atiq Ahmed retained the Allahabad West seat twice — 1991 and 1993 — as an Independent candidate. In 1996, he contested on the same seat as a Samajwadi Party candidate and won.
After the SP showed him the door in 1998, he joined the Apna Dal (AD) in 1999. From 1999 to 2003, he was the president of the Apna Dal, founded by Sone Lal Patel.
He contested from Pratapgrah as an Apna Dal candidate but lost. Atiq again won the Allahabad west seat in the 2002 assembly elections on the Apna Dal ticket. In 2003, Atiq Ahmed returned to the SP fold, and in 2004, he won the Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency.
Atiq Ahmed was with the Samajwadi Party in 2004 when he was elected as MP from Phulpur — the seat once held by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Atiq Ahmed returned to Phulpur in the 2018 Lok Sabha bypoll, but could not win the seat as an Independent candidate. His earlier attempt in the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Shravasti as a Samajwadi Party candidate and in the 2009 parliamentary polls as an Apna Dal nominee from Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh had also ended in failure.
The last election he contested, and lost, was in 2019 — as an Independent candidate from Varanasi against Narendra Modi.
It was in 1995 when Atiq Ahmed caught national attention during the Lucknow guesthouse case. Mulayam Singh was running his government with support from the BSP of Kanshiram and his successor, Mayawati, but there were rumours that the BSP could pull the plug.
MLAs and workers of the SP had surrounded the guesthouse where BSP chief and then chief minister Mayawati was staying. The MLAs went on a rampage and were angry over the fact that Mayawati’s party had broken ties with the SP and joined hands with the BJP to form the government. One of the accused in the guest house case was SP bahubali Atiq.
Even though he lost poll battles, his clout in the state did not diminish. His battle in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election made national headlines.
During the 2012 UP assembly election, when Mayawati was the incumbent CM, Atiq filed his nomination papers from jail. He approached the Allahabad High Court seeking bail to campaign.
As many as 10 judges refused to hear his bail application. The eleventh judge finally agreed to take up the matter and Atiq Ahmed was released on bail. He, however, lost the election to Puja Pal, wife of Raju Pal. Atiq was a key accused in the murder of BSP MLA Raju Pal in 2005.
At the age of 17, in 1979, Atiq Ahmed was accused of murder in Allahabad from where he later ran a network of gangsters across Uttar Pradesh.
The gangster-turned-politician entered the world of crime in the year 1979. According to reports, he was the first person who was booked under the Gangster Act in Uttar Pradesh.
The tales of Atiq Ahmed’s criminal activities– from extortion to abduction and murder — were well-known in Uttar Pradesh. His crime file lifted him and his family from poverty and put him in the gallery of powerful people in Uttar Pradesh.
According to a report by The Indian Express, Atiq, during his early years of crime, worked with several gang leaders and one of them was Chand Baba, one of the most dreaded gangsters in Prayagraj.
Atiq had no competition in the Allahabad region in 1989 when his biggest rival, Shaukat Ilahi, was killed in a police encounter. From 90 to 109, different reports give different numbers of the criminal cases against Atiq
However, in his affidavit for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he claimed he did not have any pending criminal cases against him.
ARRESTS AND SENTENCING
The first major setback for Atiq Ahmed came when he was named in the murder case of Raju Pal, who was shot dead in 2005. Raju Pal was murdered months after winning the Allahabad (West) assembly seat in his electoral debut by defeating Atiq Ahmed’s younger brother Khalid Azim.
Atiq was arrested in the Raju Pal murder case in the same year but was granted bail in 2008. However, in or out of jail, Atiq Ahmed maintained his hold over Uttar Pradesh’s underworld and ensured the protection of his gangmen.
In 2007, he was also accused of protecting men who were allegedly involved in the gangrape of madrasa students. The incident sparked a massive outcry, prompting the Samajwadi Party to expel him.
This was the time when BSP chief Mayawati returned to power in UP, which also marked the downfall period of the mafia. The police mounted pressure on Atiq and his brother Ashraf. They surrendered in 2008 and were jailed.
In the past, Atiq Ahmed had accused Mayawati of plotting to eliminate him in 2002 when he was attacked while being taken to court from jail.
Another setback for Atiq came in 2017 when Akhilesh Yadav assumed leadership of the Samajwadi Party. In February 2017, Atiq was arrested by the police for allegedly assaulting staff members of the Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences in Prayagraj.
Following the incident, the Allahabad high court came down heavily on the UP police for not arresting Atiq Ahmed in the assault case. He was then arrested.
More trouble mounted for Atiq Ahmed when Yogi Adityanath became the CM of Uttar Pradesh as the firebrand BJP leader started tightening the noose around dreaded gangsters.
During his stay in Deoria jail, a Lucknow-based real estate dealer, Mohit Jaiswal, alleged that he was abducted by Atiq Ahmed’s men and presented before him inside the jail. Following this incident, Atiq Ahmed was shifted to Bareilly jail.
Later on, the Supreme Court ordered that Atiq Ahmed be shifted from Uttar Pradesh to Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Atiq Ahmed was shifted to Sabarmati jail in June 2019.
The Umesh Pal murder case was the final nail in the coffin for Atiq Ahmed. Ahmed’s name along with the names of his sons and wife surfaced in the Umesh Pal murder case in February this year.
This also led to a furore in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath accused the Samajwadi Party of promoting criminals during its rule. The chief minister sounded a warning, saying, “Iss House mein keh raha hoon. Iss mafia ko mitti me mila denge.”
Umesh Pal’s wife Jaya alleged that in 2006 Ahmed and his associates kidnapped her husband and forced him to give a statement in their favour in court. He was brought to Prayagraj from Sabarmati jail to be presented in the Umesh Pal kidnapping case amid tight police security.
He even moved the Supreme Court seeking protection, claiming that he has been “roped in” as an accused in the Umesh Pal murder case and fears a threat to his life.
While being shifted to UP jail, he expressed fear that he might be murdered. “Hatya, hatya (murder, murder). Mujhe inka programme maloom hai…Hatya karna chahte hain (I know their programme…They want to murder me),” Ahmed had told reporters outside the jail.