The Banda district jail on Police Line Road has seen a flurry of activity in the past few days. Even DIG (Jails), Prayagraj range, P.N. Pandey, was camping here, ostensibly to strengthen the jail’s security system. The preparations were for mafia don-turned-neta Mukhtar Ansari, 63, who arrived here in the wee hours of April 7, after traveling 900 km from Ropar Jail in Punjab escorted by a 150-strong police patrol. His relocation followed a Supreme Court order on March 26, which backed the Uttar Pradesh government’s plea that he be brought back to the state. Ansari should be familiar with the place—he was in Banda jail for 21 months before being shifted to Ropar in January 2019 based on a warrant from the Mohali court there.
Citing the fact that he had missed his hearings, the UP government had filed a petition in the Supreme Court saying there were serious criminal cases pending against Mukhtar in the state. Mukhtar’s counsel had opposed the plea, saying there was a threat to his client’s life in UP jails (he was earlier shifted from Lucknow Jail to Banda for this very reason). Barrack No. 15 will be Mukhtar’s new home, same as earlier. The tanhai (isola tion) cells will have a new entry gate, a half platoon of the PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) and 10 new CCTV cameras in Barracks 15-16 as part of the new security arrangements.
Meanwhile, a pall of gloom has descended over Mukhtar’s ancestral residence in the Tailor Tola locality of Yusufpur in Ghazipur district, about 400 km from Banda. Mukhtar may be a known ganglord, but his family has an illustrious history. His grandfather, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, was a freedom fighter and president of the Indian National Congress in 1926-27 as well as a founding member of the Jamia Millia Islamia University. Mukhtar’s father, Subhanullah Ansari, was a Communist leader. Former vice-president Hamid Ansari is also a relative.
MUKHTAR HAS BEEN A CANNY OPERATOR, ALMOST NEVER IMPLICATING HIMSELF IN ANY OF THE MURDERS HE HAS COMMITTED” Brijlal Former DGP, Uttar Pradesh
The youngest of three brothers, Mukhtar’s early schooling was in Yusufpur, and he got a bachelor’s degree from the Ghazipur Government PG College in 1973. Lawyer Azizul Halim, also an alumnus of the PG College, says, “Mukhtar was quite handy with the slingshot. He was also in the cricket team and played many tournaments for the college.”
Mukhtar’s entry into the world of crime was in the 1970s when several development schemes were launched in the Purvanchal region. Of the different gangs that emerged to grab the public contracts, the Makanu Singh gang and the Sahib Singh gang called the shots in eastern UP. Mukhtar was the main henchman for the Makanu Singh gang, while Brijesh Singh, a resident of Varanasi, was his counterpart in the Sahib Singh gang. Later, Mukhtar and Brijesh formed gangs of their own and began competing with each other for railway and power department contracts in eastern UP. Then sub-inspector Pradeep Singh, who was posted in Mau in the 1980s, recalls: “In 1985, the gangs had a run-in over a plot of land in the Saidpur area of Ghazipur. This started the war between Mukhtar and Brijesh in Purvanchal.”
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