Time To Take The Challenge Head-On
It has taken years for Uttar Pradesh to get rid of the image of being a state with poor maintenance of law and order. This image has been largely responsible for industrialists and investors being doubtful of putting their money in UP and setting up their units. The change of government in the state after the 2017 Assembly election was in fact was largely because the people had voted for a stronger government response to the twin challenges of organised crime and poor maintenance of law and order. The government headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had initiated several measures on these fronts in 2017 itself, and the unprecedented second term won by his government in 2022 is believed to be possible because of these actions.
The Chief Minister’s strong assertions on controlling crime, neutralising gangsters, and generally having a zero-tolerance policy against criminals have been hallmarks of his style of governance. These have been responsible to a great extent in attracting top investors from India and abroad to attend the recent Global Investor Summit (GIS) and pledge huge investment in the state.
However, the recent brazen shootout in Prayagraj, leading to the killing of Umesh Pal, an eye-witness in a case of murder involving a mafia gangster of Prayagraj, has shaken the Uttar Pradesh Police to the core and provoked the opposition political parties to attack the government. On the other hand, the Chief Minister has vowed strongest possible action in the case even as one of the alleged accused was killed in an encounter with the police, and houses of many involved in the crime have been razed.
Umesh Pal case
Umesh Pal and his police guard Sandeep Nishad were shot dead by unidentified men while he was getting out of the backseat of a Hyundai Creta SUV outside his home in Prayagraj. Pal was rushed to Swaroop Rani Nehru Hospital, where he succumbed during treatment. Another police guard died later during treatment. Umesh was the prime witness in the 2005 murder of Bahujan Samaj Party legislator Raju Pal. Pal’s autopsy report revealed that he was shot seven times.
A case under relevant sections of the IPC and Explosives Act was registered against former MP Atiq Ahmed, his brother Ashraf, wife Shaista Praveen and his sons and several others.Atiq, a mafia-turned-politician, is the prime accused in the murder of Raju Pal too. Raju Pal was murdered just months after winning the Allahabad (West) constituency on his electoral debut, after defeating Ahmed’s brother Ashraf.Atiqwas a five-time MLA from the Prayagraj constituency. He has been an MLA and an MP on an SP ticket.His family has been contesting the seat without a gap from 1989 to 2017. While AtiqAhmed is currently lodged in Sabarmati jail in Gujarat, his wife Shaista Parveen recently joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Meanwhile, Puja Pal, wife of Raju Pal and an SP MLA, has requested enhanced security cover for herself from Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. So far, Uttar Pradesh police have detained over 40 people, including Ahmed’s relatives, and are set to question him at Sabarmati jail.The murder of Umesh Pal has also forced BSP chief Mayawati to speak out and she has promised that Shaista Parveen would be expelled from the party if she was found guilty during the probe.
About 72 hours after the killing, Uttar Pradesh Police on February 27 gunned down 24-year-old Mohammad Arbaaz who was wanted for his alleged role in the killing of Umesh Pal. The police said Arbaaz was riding a motorcycle near Nehru Park in Prayagraj when he was surrounded by police and asked to surrender. “But he opened fire at the police, which retaliated and killed him,” said Prayagraj commissioner of police Ramit Sharma.
The Yogi government had taken several measures to tighten the law enforcement machinery in the state. These included:
- Introduction of the Police Commissioner system in major cities
- Creation of a quick response system
- Concerted campaign against organised gangs of criminals
- Heightened patrolling
- Opening of pink booths in major cities
- Strengthening of the police communication network
- Expansion of cyber-crime cells
- Recruitment to thousands of vacant positions in the police force
- Providing more vehicles to the force for better response time
- Setting up special cells to check crimes against women including anti-romeo squads
In view of these, a large number of mafia leaders were either eliminated or put behind bars. The killing of Umesh Pal in this background comes as a challenge to the Yogi government. The Chief Minister said in the State Assembly that in the past, criminals were granted political patronage which was not the case in this government.The Chief Minister asked the police force to take swift measures to capture or eliminate the killers, so as to restore the confidence of the people.