Asia World

Sat 30 March 2024:

New Delhi: Three months after his lawyers moved the Supreme Court about the possibility that he may be eliminated in custody, jailed former legislator Mukhtar Ansari died on Thursday, March 28 due to “cardiac arrest” after he was rushed to a hospital from Banda jail in Uttar Pradesh.

Government doctors said Ansari had fallen unconscious but two days before his death, his brother Afzal Ansari, a former Member of Parliament and Samajwadi Party candidate from Ghazipur in 2024, publicly alleged that he was being poisoned in jail as part of a “conspiracy” to murder him.

In December 2023, Mukhtar’s younger son, Umar Ansari, had approached the Supreme Court apprehending that the state government was planning to assassinate him in Banda jail where he was lodged as a convict and accused in several criminal cases.

Ansari, who was under the radar of the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government ever since it came to power in the state in 2017, fainted in his cell and was taken to the Rani Durgavati Medical College at around 8:25pm on Thursday, after vomiting and losing consciousness, said a medical bulletin of the hospital.

He was taken to the emergency ward where a team of nine doctors immediately treated him but despite best efforts, he died due to cardiac arrest, said the bulletin.

Ansari was 63. Security has been beefed up in several districts in east UP.

On Tuesday, March 26, Ansari was hospitalized for several hours after he complained of abdominal pain.

The UP prison department said Ansari was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after his health “deteriorated suddenly” at night and “he fell in the toilet.” He was transferred to the Banda medical college in the middle of the night.

The hospital had said he was admitted on March 26 at 3:55 am with “complaints of pain [in the] abdomen and [being] unable to pass stool and flatus for 4-5 days.” The 8 am bulletin of the Banda Medical College had said, “Patient is admitted and conservative treatment is started. Patient is stable currently.”

Ansari was later discharged from the ICU of the hospital and taken back to jail.

On that day, Afzal Ansari alleged that his brother was fed food mixed with a “poisonous substance.”

“There is a conspiracy to murder him in jail,” Afzal told reporters.

In an application filed in the MP/MLA court in Barabanki on March 21, Ansari had said that on March 19 he was fed some poisonous substance along with his food in jail, following which he felt uneasy and felt pain in his limbs. Around 40 days before that, he was given a “slow poison” with his meal, he alleged.

The SP politician, who won the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Ghazipur, said his brother’s health was fast deteriorating and he had even unable to even attend the virtual hearings in his case for the past few days.

Mukhtar’s son Umar Ansari had filed a writ petition in the SC last December praying that his father be moved to a jail outside UP. On December 15, 2023, the Adityanath government assured the apex court that “necessary augmentation of security as needed will be made,” to ensure that no harm was caused to Ansari while in custody. In his petition, Umar Ansari had expressed concern for his father’s well-being by drawing attention to the murder of former Lok Sabha MP and tainted politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf Ahmad while they were being escorted by a team of policemen for a routine medical check-up in Prayagraj on April 15, last year. The Ahmad brothers were killed in front of reporters and the footage was relayed live on television.

On January 16, 2024, a division bench of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Prashant Kumar Misra had directed the UP government to continue with all the security arrangements to ensure that Ansari “is fully protected from any security breach and consequences.” During this hearing, K.M. Natraj, additional solicitor general, referred to the “elaborate security arrangements” made for Ansari.

The court then listed the matter for the third week of July.

A five-time former MLA from Mau in eastern UP, Mukhtar was under the radar of the Adityanath government, which after coming to power in 2017 unleashed the police and the force of the administration against him, his family and supporters. The state government designated Mukhtar a “gangster” and head of gang IS191, and lodged numerous criminal cases against him, his sons, including current MLA Abbas Ansari, his brother and former MP Afzal Ansari and other associates. The government has seized, demolished and freed from “illegal occupation” property worth crores belonging to the Ansari family, said police.

Till December 2023, the police had had shot dead five persons linked to Ansari in alleged encounters and taken legal action against 292 persons linked to him; booked 164 of his associates under the Gangsters Act, six under the National Security Act, 67 under the Gangsters Act, expelled 60 of his associates from their districts, arrested 186 and cancelled 175 weapon licences.

In December 2023, in a writ petition filed under Article 32 of the constitution, Ansari’s son Umar Ansari had sought protection for his father from the apex court in the form of a transfer from the Banda jail to a prison outside the state. Mukhtar faced an “immediate and grave threat to his life and limb” in UP, said Umar.

Arguing for Ansari, senior counsel Kapil Sibal had submitted that despite directions by the Allahabad high court to ensure the safety of Ansari, Sanjeev Maheshwari alias Jeeva – a co-accused of Ansari in the murder of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai in 2005 – was shot dead inside a courtroom in Lucknow on June 8, 2023, while he was being brought from jail.

The Allahabad high court had in May 2023, on a petition filed by Ansari’s wife, directed the DGP UP to ensure her husband’s security inside the jail as well as outside it. The court had directed the police to ensure that “full security” be given to Ansari while shifting him from one jail to another and while producing him before any court from jail and on the way. The HC had taken into consideration the murder of Atiq Ahmad and his brother while passing the directions, and said:

“Media person would not be permitted to interview him. He would be accompanied by the police personnel during his ingress and egress from jail. This order is being passed seeing the recent episode which occurred in the State of Uttar Pradesh, wherein in the garb of media persons some criminals had killed two under trial prisoners, who were in the custody of the Police Personnel, which matters are pending before the Apex Court.”

In his petition, Mukhtar’s son accused the Adityanath government of taking an “inimical position” against the former MLA and hatching a “larger conspiracy” to eliminate him while he was in jail. The threat perception was based on “reliable information” Mukhtar had received that his life was in grave danger and that there “is a conspiracy afoot involving several actors within the state establishment” to assassinate him in Banda jail.

In the last year or so, Mukhtar Ansari had been convicted in more than seven different cases. On December 15, a court in Varanasi sentenced him to six years and five months in prison for a case lodged against him in 1997 on charges of criminal intimidation. The other convictions include a life sentence awarded to him by a Varanasi court in June 2023 for the murder of Awadesh Rai, the brother of Congress state president Ajay Rai, and the 10 years imprisonment awarded to him for kidnapping a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader in connection with the murder of Krishnanand Rai in 2005.

In his petition, Umar Ansari said that out of the persons accused of murdering Rai, four, including Jeeva (mentioned above) had already been murdered. While Firdaus was gunned down by the STF in 2006, Prem Prakash Singh alias Munna Bajrangi was murdered in Baghpat jail in 2018 by another convicted gangster Sunil Rathi. More than a week before his murder Bajrangi’s wife Seema Singh had in a press conference in Lucknow on June 29 that year alleged that the UP police along with some political leaders and officials were conspiring to get him eliminated outside the jail in a “fake encounter.” Singh had also claimed that during his stay in Jhansi jail there had been an attempt to poison her husband.

Another aide of Mukhtar, Rakesh Pandey was shot dead by the police in an alleged “encounter” in August 2020 after the SUV he was purportedly travelling in along with four other persons crashed into a tree in the early hours of a Sunday morning. Pandey’s family had accused the police of picking him up from home in Lucknow and then killing him.

Mukhtar’s eldest son Abbas Ansari, an MLA, is also in jail.

-The Wire








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