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Ghaziabad polls: Kin of murder victims go toe to toe with rivals

Fifty two-year-old Ved Pal, 24-year-old Mohammad Arif and 31-year-old Reena Bhati will contest the polls against the family members of alleged conspirators or killers of their relatives.

noida Updated: Nov 24, 2017 21:45 IST
Peeyush Khandelwal
Peeyush Khandelwal
Hindustan Times
Ghaziabad,polls,Reena Bhati
Reena Bhati is contesting on a BJP ticket.(Sakib Ali/HT File)

Fifty two-year-old Ved Pal, a former wrestler, is now contesting on a different turf. He is among the 13 candidates who are engaged in a hectic election campaign to bag the councillor’s seat from Shahpur-Bamheta, a village famous for its wrestlers. His main rival is his neighbor and former councillor Phool Kunwar, who allegedly hatched the conspiracy to murder his son and nephew ahead of the local body polls.

“We were preparing for the local body elections and either of the two could have been our candidate. They both were gunned down at the behest of Phool Kunwar. It was a rivalry that started after an altercation during the previous polls in 2012 and claimed the lives of two young men five years later just ahead of the 2017 polls,” Ved Pal said.

Pal lost his son Joginder, 32, and nephew Jugni, 30, to indiscriminate firing by armed assailants on the night of June 8 in Bamheta. The brothers were returning late at night from a ‘jagran’ in the locality and were cornered by a group of assailants.

Ved Pal (extreme left) is contesting from Yadav-dominated Bamheta village after twin murders in his family in June. (Sakib Ali/HT Photo)

Police arrested the shooters and also Phool Kunwar, who allegedly wanted to maintain political edge and allegedly hatched the conspiracy to kill the two brothers.

While campaigning Ved Pal remains flanked by two personal security guards and four police personnel, including a sub-inspector.

“The deaths have been a blow, but I am undeterred and now I am contesting instead of my sons. A win or loss will not matter, it is the grit to stand up and contest that matters,” said Pal who promises a marriage banquet hall and sports facilities for youth as Bamheta has only six akharas—traditional wrestling pits. He also promises an inter-college for girls in the village as students face difficulty in travelling to colleges in the city because of inadequate public transport facility.

Bamheta, which has 14,897 voters, is a Yadav-dominated village and has always been a stronghold of the Samajwadi Party, but the BJP took the lead in the 2014 general elections and the recent state assembly elections.

Ved Pal has decided to go it alone instead of joining hands with any political party.

“A major political party approached me but I denied their ticket. Had I joined hands with them I would have lost votes from certain sections of the society. As an independent, wherever I go, people meet me and often cry remembering the loss of my sons,” he said.

After the double murder in his family, Ved Pal is banking on sympathy votes. Phool Kunwar’s family is also hoping for something similar.

Despite being in jail, Kunwar has filed his nomination as an independent. His wife Archana is also contesting as an independent candidate.

“His mother (Gyanwati Devi) was also contesting but she died on November 24 because of a heart attack. This is a blow to us. But we will garner votes,” Phool Kunwar’s nephew Ankit Yadav said.

Kunwar’s family brushes aside his hand in the conspiracy leading to the double murder. They say he has been falsely implicated in the case to stop him from contesting elections and had no connection with the shooters at all.

“Ved Pal’s supporters create hurdles for us while campaigning but we have not responded since my uncle is in jail; we don’t want to complicate things. My uncle is soft spoken and had good relations will locals,” Yadav said sounding confident.

The local body election in Ghaziabad will see several rivals pitted against each other in the aftermath of bloody battles allegedly planned and fought for gaining supremacy in local politics.

Redressal gone wrong

Similar determination echoes in the words of 24-year-old Mohammad Arif whose father Haji Harun, 50, was gunned down by bike borne assailants on September 14 in Maharajpur locality under the Link Road police station. The Maharajpur ward has 12,046 voters and is a Muslim dominated area in Sahibabad industrial area.

On November 14, the police unearthed the reason behind Harun’s murder with the arrest of three persons, including Mohammad Zakir who allegedly hatched the conspiracy to kill Harun.

Police revealed the murder plot saying that Zakir had grabbed some land in Maharajpur which was restored after Harun’s wife became a councillor in 2006 sowing the seeds for rivalry.

Mohammad Arif (in green shirt) is the second of four brothers and has completed his BBA from Noida. He is also the youngest of the nine candidates contesting from Maharajpur ward. (Sakib Ali/HT Photo)

“My father was asked to mediate in the land dispute involving Zakir and one Riyaz. During the panchayat, the two groups clashed and there was firing in which Zakir was injured. The police arrested Riyaz’s son and sent him to jail. When I visited him in jail, it led Zakir and his family to believe that my father had planned the attack,” Arif said.

Zakir nursed ambitions to contest the local body polls, as did Harun. Zakir allegedly roped in his brother-in-law and a sharp shooter from the Jugla Gang to kill Harun.

The daylight murder changed many equations. Instead of Harun, his son Arif is now a candidate contesting on a Congress ticket. On the other hand, none of Zakir’s family members are contesting this time.

Arif is the second of four brothers and has completed his BBA from Noida. He is also the youngest of the nine candidates contesting from Maharajpur ward. He is considered a strong contender, especially with backing from Congress and his father’s relations with the locals.

“The family was obviously afraid after I decided to contest. After the murder, we even thought about leaving Maharajpur. But my mother, who is on four months of mourning after my father’s death, supported me. The party (Congress) offered me a ticket and I am contesting now,” Arif said, adding that if he gets elected, he will try to get a school built for children besides raising the issues of clean drinking water and better drainage in the ward.

Out of pardah

Like Ved Pal and Arif, political rivalry also changed the life of 31-year-old Reena Bhati in September when her husband Gajendra Bhati, a BJP leader, was gunned down by armed assailants.

Once confined to her house under a traditional parda, the mother to a six-year-old daughter has now assumed the role of a politician and is engaged in hectic election campaigning. Reena is out on the street and among the people as she is contesting from Khoda on a ticket from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the seat of the chairperson to the Khoda Nagar Palika.

As an indication of the support Reena has received from the BJP, she was seated with senior BJP leaders and chief minister Yogi Adityanath on the dais at an election rally on November 18 at Ramlila Ground in Ghaziabad; 100 other contesting candidates for the councillor seats (to the Ghaziabad municipal corporation) were seated on a separate stage.

Reena is now a known figure and is pitted against Mohini Sharma, wife of former MLA Amarpal Sharma, who is lodged in Dasna jail for allegedly hatching the plot of Gajendra Bhati’s murder. According to the police, Sharma allegedly hired two men to kill Bhati ahead of local body polls as he planned to contest for the seat. As fate would have it, the Khoda chairperson’s seat is now reserved for a woman candidate.

Khoda, with a voter base of nearly 1,55,681, goes to polls on November 26 for the first time since it was declared a Nagar Palika in 2016.

Reena Bhati is up against Mohini Sharma, wife of former MLA Amarpal Sharma, who is in jail for allegedly conspiring to murder Gajendra Bhati. (Sakib Ali/HT File Photo)

“I am here to contest. I know people will try to create hurdles, but my party (BJP) has stood by my side. I am contesting polls for development of my colony. My husband was also driven to develop our area, which has suffered under neglect for so long. I hope to continue my late husband’s work,” Reena said.

Not many would know that Reena’s family has also fielded Aarti Singh, wife of Gajendra’s brother Yogesh, as an independent candidate. The family said Aarti is a “backup candidate” in case something untoward happens to Reena.

“I have left it up to the people to decide if my husband was wronged. People of Khoda will reply on November 26 (polling day),” Reena said.

Mohini Sharma’s campaign convener CB Mishra maintains she is contesting to carry on her husband’s legacy. “The opposite camp tries to hamper our campaigns but we won’t back down. Former MLA has done a lot of development work in Khoda and has a mass following. Mohini Sharma is contesting as she had been a former head of erstwhile Khoda nagar panchayat and will continue the work of her husband. She is also out to convey message to people here that her husband was falsely implicated in the case,” he said.

Reena and Mohini are two strong contenders and locked in a fierce battle to fight battles both personal and political. Their fate, for now, will be decided on December 1, the counting day, along with that of 2,196 other candidates contesting from nine local bodies.

On November 26, Ghaziabad goes to polls in the second phase of local body elections in UP.

First Published: Nov 24, 2017 21:45 IST