The political storm over the encounter killing of Vikas Dubey, a history-sheeter from Kanpur whose notoriety acquired almost diabolical dimensions following the massacre of eight UP police personnel including a DSP by his gang at his native village on July 3, is yet to subside.
The focus is as much on the nature of the controversial encounter that allegedly took place on the outskirts of Kanpur while he was being brought back by UP police from Ujjain, where he was arrested after being on the run for about a week, as on the political patronage that he enjoyed and was responsible for his rise as a crime lord whose name spelled terror in Kanpur Dehat. The blame game is on between the major political parties of Uttar Pradesh, country’s most populous state that sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha and boasts of a 403 member-strong assembly.
In a way it’s a futile debate as each of the big parties with a stake in UP has to share the blame for the strong crime-politics nexus in the state. This nexus has been particularly strong in eastern Uttar Pradesh, better known as Poorvanchal comprising 15 districts including Varanasi, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Ghazipur, Allahabad and Gorakhpur. The notorious eastern UP don, Brajesh Singh, who hails from undivided Varanasi district and was nabbed by special task force (STF) of Delhi police from Bhubaneswar in 2008 after being on the run for nearly two decades, was elected to the UP legislative council in 2016. His arch rival, Mukhtar Ansari, who is also behind the bars, is an honorable member of UP legislative assembly.
The rivalry between Brajesh and Ansari intensified following the sensational killing of Krishnanand Rai, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Mohammadabad in Ghazipur in 2005. The convoy of Rai, who was considered close to Brajesh, was ambushed and sprayed with bullets from automatic weapons, including AK-47 assault rifles, in broad daylight. It was one of the bloodiest killings in Poorvanchal in which more than 400 rounds were fired.
Both Brajesh and Ansari enjoyed and still enjoy considerable political clout. But much before they emerged on the crime scene of eastern UP had come men like Hari Shankar Tiwari and Virendra Pratap Shahi whose rivalry often proceeded along caste lines, something not unusual in this part of India’s heartland state where caste feelings still run deep.
Hailing from Gorakhpur they are said to have used their muscle and fire power to corner lucrative government contracts in the 1980s. Both were elected to the UP assembly and Tiwari went on to become a minister. The dons seek entry into politics because of two specific reasons — one the legitimacy it confers on them and the other being the use of political power to strengthen their empires and to protect themselves when in trouble.
The close link between crime and politics is also quite visible in Bihar, the state that borders UP and often borrows criminals from there for executing big hits like the killing of former minister Brij Bihari Prasad in which Gorakhpur-born gangster Sri Prakash Shukla was one of the main accused. Suraj Bhan Singh, another accused in the case, has been a Lok Sabha member from Bihar which over the years has seen many “bahubalis” ( people with muscle power) enter the portals of state assembly and even the Indian parliament. It is time political parties stop patronizing criminals in the larger interest of democracy.