NEW DELHI: On Saturday, a former Indian lawmaker and his brother were shot dead while being escorted by police in northern India.
On Saturday night, while Atiq Ahmed and his brother, Ashraf Ahmed, were being escorted by police to a hospital for a medical check-up, three guys shot them from close range while they were speaking to media in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.
After being shown live on local TV channels, many footage of the incident were widely circulated on social media. The brothers were handcuffed when a stranger pulled a revolver close to Atiq’s head, and Ashraf was shot a split second after.
“According to the initial information, three people came in the guise of media persons and they tried to take (sound) bites,” Prayagraj Police Commissioner Ramit Sharma told reporters on Saturday.
“At the time, they fired, and we arrested three people, including Atiq and Ashraf.”
The Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, established a three-member judicial commission on Sunday to probe the killings and report back in two months.
“Today there is a complete shutdown in Prayagraj, and people are in a deep sense of fear,” Prayagraj-based social activist Irshad Ullah told Arab News.
Following the attack, internet services and meetings of more than four individuals were prohibited throughout the state.
“No one is secure right now. The implication from this tragedy is that if the state does not like you, it can kill you at will.”
Atiq Ahmed, 60, has a long history in both politics and crime. He was a state legislator four times and had dozens of cases recorded against him over the last two decades, including kidnapping, murder, and extortion.
Ahmed had petitioned the Indian Supreme Court for protection two weeks previously, claiming that the police were threatening his life. On Thursday, his teenage son was shot dead by police in what was described as a gunfight.
“Crime has reached a peak in UP (Uttar Pradesh), and criminal morale is high.” When someone can be openly killed despite being encircled by a security cordon, one can only imagine how the general populace feels. “An atmosphere of fear is being created among the public as a result of this,” said Akhilesh Yadav, chief of the opposition Samajwadi Party, in a tweet.
The BJP’s spokesperson in Uttar Pradesh, Rakesh Tripathi, said a probe was underway.
“The incident in Prayagraj is unfortunate, and police are looking into it.” “The accused are in police custody, and we’re looking into the whole thing,” Tripathi told Arab News.
Human rights advocates and members of civil society are concerned about India’s rule of law in the aftermath of Saturday’s killings.
“Over a dozen bullets fired in the presence of the police and camera persons to kill gangster Atiq Ahmed and his brother without any retaliatory fire from the police personnel present points to the worrying truth that justice by the judiciary has been done away with,” Suhas Chakma, director of Delhi-based Rights & Risks Analysis Group, told Arab News.
“How could the police be so lax knowing he was a high-profile convict?” “How can three people come and kill him in the face of such a large police presence?” Prof. Roop Rekha Verma, a social activist and former professor at Lucknow University in Uttar Pradesh, told Arab News.
“My question is about the intentions of the police and the government,” she continued.
According to veteran Supreme Court counsel Sanjay Hedge, the killings constitute “a total negation of the rule of law.”
“The judiciary cannot turn a blind eye or be accused of complicity in a cover-up.” “It needs to be more proactive, asking the right questions and getting answers,” Hedge told Arab News.
Prof. Apoorvanand Jha, a political analyst based in Delhi, described the occurrence as a test for Indian democracy.
“This is an ominous sign for Indian democracy,” Jha said to Arab News. “Atiq Ahmed sought protection from the Supreme Court.” So we’ll have to wait and see if the Supreme Court takes suo moto cognizance of these atrocities and holds the Uttar Pradesh administration accountable.”