IN NOVEMBER 2004, Prayagraj, then known as Allahabad, witnessed unusual events that would culminate in a bloody end to a chapter of the political-criminal nexus in Uttar Pradesh. Atique Ahmed’s younger brother, Khalid Azim, better known as Ashraf, lost an election from the Allahabad (West) assembly seat. It was a seat from which Ahmed had won five times―thrice as an independent and once each on Samajwadi Party and Apna Dal tickets. He had vacated the seat only on becoming Phulpur MP.
Ashraf was devastated by the loss and cried on his elder brother’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, I will get you elected from the same seat soon,” police records quote Ahmed as telling his younger brother. In January 2005, Raju Pal, the Bahujan Samaj Party MLA who had humbled Ashraf in the polls, was killed in broad daylight on a busy street. Pal, who had tied the knot just days earlier, ran for his life, but was cornered and shot by Ashraf and his men, according to witness statements. In the byelection necessitated by Pal’s murder, Ashraf defeated Pooja, Pal’s young widow. Ahmed had kept his promise.
But, Pal’s murder was the start of Ahmed’s downfall. “I have seen Atique since he was in the scrap business in 1988-1989,” said O.P. Singh, former director general of police, Uttar Pradesh. “I was superintendent of police (city) in Allahabad when he entered politics and because he enjoyed a hold on the minority vote bank, he was wooed by many political parties at that time. His meteoric rise was disturbed by the murder of Raju Pal.’’
In the 2007 assembly polls, Pooja beat Ashraf by more than 10,000 votes. The same year, police registered a case against Ahmed for kidnapping Umesh Pal, a prime witness in the Raju Pal murder case. As it turned out, Ahmed’s win from Phulpur in 2004 on an SP ticket was his last electoral triumph. He failed to win back Allahabad (West) from Pooja in the 2012 assembly polls.
Though his political career nosedived, Ahmed remained a feared criminal, even when he was jailed. There were at least two instances of his victims being abducted and brought before him in jail to be beaten and asked to pay money. The Supreme Court put an end to his criminal activities from behind bars by shifting him to Gujarat’s Sabarmati Jail in 2019. With Ahmed finding it difficult to run his empire, people started coming forward to depose against him.
Ahmed, in a last-ditch effort to avoid a long jail term and re-establish his writ in Prayagraj, ordered a hit on Umesh. Guddu Khan alias Fuddu Muslim, also known as Guddu bombbazz (bomb thrower), an old henchman of Ahmed’s, was allegedly activated for the task.
Umesh was killed on February 24. Guddu, who is on the run, was caught on camera during the hit. Six other accused in the murder, including Ahmed’s son, Asad, 20, were killed in encounters. It is learnt that Ahmed shed tears when he heard the news. Meanwhile, on March 27, Ahmed and Ashraf were convicted for the kidnapping of Umesh in 2007―it was Ahmed’s first-ever conviction. When Ahmed’s criminal journey, which began in 1979, ended with his killing, along with Ashraf, on April 15, there were more than 100 FIRs against him and several charge-sheets and history-sheets against his associates. A crackdown on his illicit empire, too, had already begun.
Of Ahmed’s four surviving sons, two are in jail and two in juvenile shelters. His wife is on the run. The empire, built carefully over decades, is being dismantled brick by brick. Apart from the Uttar Pradesh Police (which has seized assets worth over Rs1,000 crore), the Enforcement Directorate has also stepped in. The ED raided 15 premises in Prayagraj and recovered documents related to over 100 properties, Rs84 lakh in cash, gold bars worth Rs60 lakh, and jewellery worth Rs3 crore, and over 30 electronic devices are being analysed.
ED officials said most of the properties were acquired by Ahmed using muscle power and he never paid for them. Soon, these properties will be attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. This would be the last blow to Atique Ahmed Inc.