Lucknow: Notorious gangster Vikas Dubey’s end came in the same dramatic manner as that of many others who have had their share of infamy in the world of crime. India has seen his kind before – men whose names spelt terror but destiny took them to their logical end when they finally fell to police bullets.
No one seems to dispute that Dubey deserved to meet his nemesis. Yet, the manner in which the Uttar Pradesh police silenced him forever has also conveniently shut the book of his chequered criminal career. That this book had unopened chapters which would have brought to the fore his obvious nexus with politicians who were there all along in his journey to making him an underworld don is what makes his killing in an encounter on Friday so controversial.
Dubey’s rise from local hoodlum to the position of a privileged gangster would not have been possible without the active patronage of successive UP state governments and their leaders, who were always ready to keep their doors open for him. The gangster came in handy for them when they needed his support at the time of elections – not only to garner the local Brahmin vote in Kanpur (Dehat) district, but to also provide them muscle power.
Dubey earned his spurs as a dreaded gangster with the sensational daylight murder of a prominent Bhartiya Janata Party leader, Santosh Shukla, whom he gunned down inside the precincts of a rural police station precisely 19 years ago. It was a bright and pleasant afternoon on October 12, 2001, when local villagers and policemen helplessly watched Dubey pump half a dozen bullets into Shukla’s temple and chest from point blank range.
That was the day his area saw the birth of a don. When the trial court eventually acquitted him, he quickly rose to become the uncrowned king of the world of crime in and around Kanpur (Dehat). “Lack of evidence” and the absence of a single eyewitness set him free. Though there was nothing unusual for ordinary eyewitnesses in UP to turn hostile when it comes to deposing before a court of law, what Dube managed to do was exercise his undue influence even on uniformed policemen drawing their salaries from the state exchequer. Each of the two dozen odd policemen present in the police station at the time of Shukla’s murder deposed before the court that they had not seen anything. Sure enough, if the government of the day wanted – the state was ruled by a BJP regime headed by Rajnath Singh when Shukla was killed and the trial ran – no policeman could have dared to depose in a manner that would help the murderer to get away. Yet, that is what happened – despite the fact that Shukla was senior enough in the party’s pecking order to have been accorded the rank of a minister in the government despite losing his own election.
Shukla held Dubey responsible for turning the election tide against him by extending support to his Bahujan Samaj Party rival, Harish Chandra Srivastava. He made it a point to get several criminal complaints registered against Dubey, who did not figure in the list of local criminals until then.
Sure enough, Shukla’s cold blooded murder followed by Dubey’s acquittal became a turning point in his career of crime. Governments came and went in the subsequent years but Dubey’s clout grew with each ruling dispensation – be it the BSP, Samajwadi Party or the BJP. The reason was simple – everyone found his caste and muscle potential “useful” in serving their respective political ambitions.
The caste-ridden politics of Uttar Pradesh led him to emerge as some kind of a Brahmin strongman, who could ensure the votes of his community within his domain of influence that was growing by leaps and bounds. Irrespective of political party, his followers would go all the way for whoever Dubey backed. And the parties paid him back too with their support. When his wife contested a zila panchayat election, he managed to get her the support of both the SP and BJP. Posters with leaders of both parties were put up on display.
Among the leaders of various parties the gangster was seen posing proudly in pictures for is Brijesh Pathak, once a BSP MP and currently law minister in the Yogi Adityanath government.
Known for switching loyalties with every change of guard in Lucknow, Dubey had his well-wishers in all parties. It was his close connections with people who matter that made it convenient for him to get “arrested” on Thursday outside the Maha-Kal temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain, where he managed to reach after travelling at least 1400 km via Delhi, Faridabad and Rajasthan.
By effecting his arrest in Ujjain in full view of the public, Dubey hoped to save himself from an ‘encounter’ which he felt the UP police was bent upon carrying out. However, whatever assurances he had received proved to be useless. Within hours of being handed over to the UP police, he was shot dead. And with that, the lid has been put on a Pandora’s Box that could have spilled the identities of political bigwigs in his network. That the dead do not speak is a big source of relief for all those who had their nexus with him and were worried about getting exposed were he to survive.
And that clearly includes not only those belonging to the political class but also the black sheep in the police.
So it came to pass that the dreaded gangster who meekly went into custody – when he was supposedly spotted and cornered in an Ujjain temple by a priest and flower-seller, who tipped off temple security and in turn, the police – mustered enough courage to not only snatch a gun from the policemen who were bringing him home in a highly secured vehicle escorted by four other vehicles but even fired shots at them.
If the UP police are to be believed, he also managed to flee from the police vehicle, which tumbled somewhere along on the route after encountering a “herd of cows” (what else!), thereby compelling the contingent of some six dozen policemen to shoot him down after a brief “chase”.
If the police had taken care to corroborate their outlandish script, the officer who proved incapable of protecting his own service weapon should have been suspended or fired by now. In any case, less said the better about a a well-equipped police contingent being unable to keep a dangerous fugitive under their physical control.
Top criminal lawyers of Lucknow find the story “too naïve” and “utterly weak”even for a fourth-rate Bollywood thriller. “Vikas Dubey’s encounter shows that the UP government does not believe in the criminal justice system laid down in our democratic constitution; they neither need courts nor lawyers; their police decides who is a criminal and they award the punishment”, senior advocate I.B.Singh told The Wire. “In my long judicial career I have come across several fake encounters, but never before have I experienced any carried out as shoddily as this one , which simply reflects the contempt that the UP police has for the law of the land of which they are supposed to be the guardians.”
Another senior lawyer, L.P.Misra, said, “I wonder if we are still living in a democratic state where the police appear to be turning into criminals…. First, the cops went about demolishing Dubey’s house in gross violation of law and in the bargain also destroyed evidence. And now they have killed him in cold blood – and they call it encounter.”