Atiq Ahmad’s son, aide killed in UP encounter | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Atiq Ahmad’s son, aide killed in UP encounter

By, Lucknow
Apr 13, 2023 11:16 PM IST

The encounter — which came at the same time Atiq Ahmad and his brother Khalid Azeem, alias Ashraf, were being produced in a Prayagraj court — triggered a political controversy

Uttar Pradesh Police on Thursday shot dead the son of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad, Asad Ahmad, who is wanted in a high-profile murder case, during a gun battle in the state’s Jhansi district, sparking a political storm over the controversial encounter.

Police personnel inspect a two-wheeler at the site of the encounter in which jailed mafia Atiq Ahmad's son Asad was killed by the UP STF, in Jhansi, on Thursday. (PTI)
Police personnel inspect a two-wheeler at the site of the encounter in which jailed mafia Atiq Ahmad's son Asad was killed by the UP STF, in Jhansi, on Thursday. (PTI)

Police said the encounter occurred at 12.45pm when two teams intercepted Asad, 19, and Ghulam Hasan, his 40-year-old accomplice, on the Kanpur-Jhansi highway. Both were absconding after being named in the murder of Umesh Pal, a lawyer who was a key witness in a sensational 2005 murder and who was gunned down along with two police guards outside his home in Prayagraj on February 24.

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“Asad and Ghulam were wanted in the Umesh Pal murder case and were carrying a reward of 5 lakh each. They were killed in an encounter with an UP STF team,” said special director general (law and order) Prashant Kumar.

The encounter — which came at the same time Atiq Ahmad and his brother Khalid Azeem, alias Ashraf, were being produced in a Prayagraj court — triggered a political controversy with the Opposition condemning the lack of due process and demanding a probe into the incident.

But the government backed the police, and chief minister Yogi Adityanath praised the special task force that shot dead Asad and Ghulam. “Congratulations to UP STF, this was the fate of the killers of Umesh Pal Advocate and police personnel,” tweeted deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya in Hindi.

This is the third controversial encounter connected to the Umesh Pal murder case.

On February 27, a 26-year-old man called Mohammed Arbaaz, who allegedly drove Umesh Pal’s assailants, was gunned down in Prayagraj. Then, on March 6, Vijay Chowdhury, who allegedly fired the first shot at Umesh Pal, was killed in another encounter, also in Prayagraj. Both these people were identified from multiple surveillance camera grabs after Umesh Pal’s murder, said Kumar.

Umesh Pal was the prime witness in the murder of Bahujan Samaj Party lawmaker Raju Pal in Prayagraj on January 25, 2005, a case in which Atiq Ahmad and Khalid Azeem were the prime accused.

Armed men opened fire on Umesh Pal and his two police guards outside his residence in Prayagraj on February 24. On a complaint filed by Umesh’s wife Jaya Pal, a first information report was registered against 27 people, including Atiq Ahmad, his wife Shaista Parveen and sons Umar, Ali and Asad, and others. They were booked under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Explosive Substances Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act.

Since then, Asad was on the run, police said. “Sophisticated foreign-made weapons were recovered from the accused,” said Kumar. Visuals showed two bodies spread next to a motorbike at the site of the encounter. An ambulance later took them away.

UP STF additional director general (ADG), Amitabh Yash, who was monitoring the case, said the police team recovered a bike, a British Bulldog revolver and a Walther pistol from the spot.

Umesh Pal’s family welcomed the development. His wife, Jaya Pal, said she “wanted to thank Adityanath” and that justice has been served.

Asad — who had no other criminal charges against him — was caught on CCTV cameras when Umesh Pal was killed and was on the run for the past 50 days, police said. In one video, Asad was allegedly seen coming out of a white SUV and firing indiscriminately on Umesh Pal and his police guards, said police.

Kumar said the STF team tried to intercept Asad and Ghulam near Paricha Dham on the Kanpur-Jhansi highway on a specific tip-off about their movement. “Asad and Mohd Ghulam opened fire on the STF team when they tried to intercept their motorcycle and the police were forced to open fire in retaliation. The duo suffered bullet injuries in retaliatory firing and died on the spot,” said Kumar.

Three more alleged assailants in the Umesh Pal case remain on the run, he added.

This is not the first time that a police encounter in UP has generated a controversy. In July 2020, the state police shot dead gangster Vikas Dubey during what they said was a botched escape attempt. But the manner of the accident in which the car Dubey was in overturned and the encounter sparked accusations that the incident was staged. A judicial panel later cleared the administration.

A resident of Prayagraj’s Mehndauri area, Ghulam Hasan was the brother of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minority cell district president Rahil Hasan. Ghulam was named in eight criminal cases and, in 2013, was booked for the murder of a municipal contractor.

The encounter took place even as Atiq Ahmed and his brother were being produced before an MP/MLA court in Prayagraj in connection with the Umesh Pal murder. “I am totally reduced to dust, but please don’t trouble the women and children of my family now,” the 60-year-old former Samajwadi Party lawmaker told reporters from inside a police van.

A police officer said on the condition of anonymity that some intelligence inputs suggested that Asad was planning to free his father – who has been moved from Guajrat’s Sabarmati Jail to Prayagraj twice in a month -- from police custody, and came down to Jhansi to plan the escape.

Opposition parties raised questions over the killing and demanded a high-level probe.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party government was trying to divert attention from real issues with “fake encounters” and BSP chief Mayawati said the killing could be a repeat of the “Vikas Dubey incident”.

But the government brushed aside these concerns.

“After the encounter, CM Yogi Adityanath held a meeting on law and order. He praised the UP STF as well as the DGP, special DG (law and order) and the entire team,” said an officer in the CM’s office.

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