In Uttar Pradesh, the lexicon of criminology is deeply layered and has at least half a dozen terms to describe a dodgy character. Sadly, most people who mouth epithets like don, gangster (pronounced “gangeestar” with relish), “bahubali”, history-sheeter and “baagi” for criminals, do so freely and interchangeably, without bothering to probe their etymology as long as they sound ominous and foreboding.
So in UP, while every gangster may be a baagi, a rebel, because the person defies the system and overrides it, every baagi may not have the good fortune to be elevated to the status of a don. Someone who rules over a fief after negotiating a “peace” with the overlords -- which of course comes with a heavy price, and allows him to either live in relative calm or transmigrate to the role of a “neta”, the surest way a criminal can earn legitimacy.
The news of Vikas Dubey’s killing in a police encounter has put the gangster’s life and times on the front page of every major Indian newspaper in the last two days. But how exactly does the man, who was accused in the killing of eight policemen in Kanpur, feature in the pantheon of criminals in UP?
Digging up the past
In 2008, a senior Kanpur policeman, imbued with the zeal of a reformer, embarked on a self-styled mission to reconcile the staggering number of the district’s most dreaded criminals and rein in those above the age of 70 and past their prime. The cop hosted a large congregation where, in the midst of a heartening and moving address (which reportedly reduced some invitees to tears), he dramatically tore up the case sheet of one individual, who was in his 40s. That criminal was Vikas Dubey.
Although Dubey’s reputation and notoriety had, by and large, remained within the confines of Kanpur, his case file was sufficiently bulky. In 2001, he killed a BJP minister, Santosh Shukla, in the presence of a huge police contingent, on the Shivli ‘thana’ premises in rural Kanpur. In 1999, he murdered Jhunna Baba in Bikru, his village in rural Kanpur, and appropriated his land. In 2000, he killed Siddheshwar Pandey, his former teacher at Kanpur’s Tara Chand Inter College, and also gunned down a cable operator, Dinesh Dubey, over a petty cash dispute, although the two crimes were unconnected.
The import of the top cop’s action, as though he was signalling the end of Dubey’s reign of tyranny, was not lost on anyone. “It was supposed to be a symbolic gesture. Those of us on the crime beat knew the police officer was well aware of Dubey’s clout with politicians and, therefore, had pardoned him,” says a veteran Kanpur journalist. “It was principally a message to the rest of the cops not to meddle with Dubey.” Besides, the public clemency granted by the police officer also reflected not just his influence, but reinforced the nexus between the lawbreaker and the “neta”, with the cops serving as mere intermediaries to preserve the status quo.
Curiously, until July 2-3, when the eight policemen who set out to ambush him at Bikru were killed, Dubey did not feature in UP’s list of top 10 most wanted; he was tagged an eleventh, as though in hindsight. Brij Lal, a former UP director general of police, expresses surprise at the omission. “For the first time in my career, I saw an over-ground criminal shoot my men and pile up their bodies to set them on fire so that he could destroy the evidence,” says Lal, clearly disappointed at how the police operation was “shoddily planned and executed”.
Dubey would recruit his associates from colleges, from among his extended family and from poor Kanpur neighbourhoods, and mobilise funds from property disputes, blood money, gambling, illegal sand mining and local industries (despite having fallen on bad times, the city remains UP’s industrial hub), and by demanding protection money from the cops and politicians. Although he was not into trade unionism, some one-third of the employees at a detergent company owed him their jobs.
“He never fought a student election but would help the candidates win elections,” recalls a Kanpur old-timer. “He was not affiliated to the ABVP, NSUI or the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha [the BSP does not have a student wing], but would push the roughnecks around and use them for his extortion rackets.”
Still, Dubey was no Robin Hood, like the “bahubalis” of east UP who disbursed their earnings to help the indigent and ingratiate them into giving their votes to them or to a politician of their choice during the elections. In fact, he was brazen, hot-headed and barbaric.
Devendra Mishra, the circle officer who led the aborted ambush, referred to Dubey as “langda” (the lame one) because he had one damaged leg that was propped up by a rod. Dubey despised Mishra the most for this ridicule. When he killed Mishra, he sprayed extra bullets into his legs as retribution. Although success and fear gave him a rockstar status in Kanpur’s mohallas, locals say Dubey “ruined the households” from where he recruited his soldiers. “A whiff of disloyalty and the victim had had it,” says a source.
Dubey pampered the police by giving out the illegal properties he had amassed “to let them have fun in hiding”. He was sought after by the political class because he brought the Brahmin votes from Chaubeypur, the belt that housed his village, and he belonged to that caste. His writ ran in the panchayats that elected his wife, Richa, and his brother, Deepu. Dubey himself had been a village pradhan for years — a significant post in a chain of elected representatives that has an MP at the apex. He allegedly “donated” money when BSP supremo Mayawati held her birthday jamborees.
How then did Dubey — who could curry favour from politicians and seemingly had the protection of the police — wind up dead by a gunshot in retaliation, after he refused to surrender and fired at officers — an encounter everyone is finding suspect?
“Raaz… he knew too many secrets,” says a Kanpur politician dramatically. If he had lived, he would have revealed things and that would have compromised political reputations. Photographs of him posing with bureaucrats and politicians, now being circulated on social media, have also set many tongues wagging.
“That means nothing because in north India, criminals often get photographed with powerful people and then flaunt the photos as a shield when they run into trouble,” adds the politician. UP’s law minister, Brajesh Pathak, who is from Kanpur, was photographed with Dubey, as was Satish Nigam, a former Samajwadi Party MLA. “He stood next to me at a wedding. In a crowd, how is one to tell apart an offender from a genuine person?” Nigam asks.
Satyadev Pachauri, the BJP MP from Kanpur, even denied reports that he had offered to hold a dharna to demand Dubey’s release after he was nabbed briefly in 2017. “I’ve never met him,” claims Pachauri, although Kanpur lore has it that every politician of any standing had, at one point or another, wooed Dubey personally or through an emissary, to coax out of him the Brahmin votes he purportedly “owned” in his Chaubeypur fief. “He helped galvanise the forward caste votes in the last few elections for the BJP,” says Sri Prakash Jaiswal, the former Kanpur MP of the Congress.
The only link that could potentially unsettle the Adityanath regime in the state leads to a senior and influential bureaucrat who is allegedly close to Jai Vajpayee, Dubey’s “accountant” and strategist. Vajpayee, who is currently being interrogated by the special task force at Lucknow, owned a paan kiosk and worked in a printing press before Dubey picked him up. It is learnt that Dubey, with the help of Vajpayee, routinely organised elaborate family functions for officers when they wanted. “Let the call records be disclosed to identify his high-level connections,” says Nigam.
Vajpayee mapped Dubey’s escape after tucking away his family at a safe house until they were eventually traced. Even a cartographer would find it hard to delineate his routes that meandered through Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and MP. Dubey’s final destination was Ujjain’s Mahakaleshwar temple. Perhaps he envisaged a ‘filmi’ end to the saga; his captivity/surrender culminating at god’s feet.
But the gods in Delhi had other plans. A day before he was “discovered” on the temple premises, it is said that Ujjain’s senior officials had conducted a recce. It left many asking if the event had been pre-arranged and if Delhi was tracking Dubey’s movements.
If that was the case, where was Dubey until he was ‘caught’? MP’s home minister, Narottam Mishra, was in Ujjain before the climax. Once Dubey was bundled inside a police van, Mishra was extravagant with his sound bites that heaped praise on the MP Police. Mishra, an adept organisational hand in the BJP, had endeared himself to home minister Amit Shah when he was tasked to monitor UP’s Bundelkhand region (which Kanpur is a part of) during the 2019 elections. He even positioned himself as the CM candidate after the BJP toppled the Kamal Nath government, but Shivraj Singh Chouhan beat him to the post. MP BJP sources say the subterranean Chouhan-Mishra conflict was a major reason for the delayed portfolio allocations after the recent cabinet expansion. Mishra looked as though he had bagged a trophy.
The political fallout
Meanwhile, a storm is raging in Lucknow. Chief minister Adityanath is said to have wanted justice by having action taken against Dubey in UP itself. “We felt humiliated when MP became the epicentre of all the action,” a UP minister admits. Adityanath allegedly pulled up his officials on the night of July 9, and decreed that the “prize catch” must be brought back to UP under any circumstances.
Memories of Phoolan Devi surrendering in 1983 must have come flooding back for the chief minister, although he would have been just 10 at the time. Arjun Singh, who was then chief minister of MP, had got the better of Sripati Mishra, his Congress peer in UP, when he agreed to house Phoolan in Gwalior jail rather than send her back to her home state. The international media spotlight fell on MP and Arjun Singh, and not UP, which was also the site of the Behmai massacre.
Adityanath, whose tenure is hallmarked with a slew of encounters, eventually had his way. Dubey being bumped off in extremely questionable circumstances is now being passed off as police overreach. “What do you expect the cops to do when their comrades have been killed by this gangster?” asks a UP government source. As the killing of Dubey shows, comradeship is non-existent among the UP police. There were more cops willing to tip him off than knock him off, sources say.
One fallout, say people in the BJP, could be a degree of alienation among the Brahmins in UP, who have stood rock-solid with their party since 1989, barring occasional departures. A veteran Lucknow journalist, who is a Brahmin from Kanpur, is quick to dismiss the hypothesis. “A rotten egg is a rotten egg, and Dubey was one,” he says. “The cops he killed were all Brahmins. Except for those who lived off him, the Brahmins are not sentimental over his death.”
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12 Comments on this Story
Ravindran Subramanyam72 days ago
It is very befitting that Vikas Dubey was encountered by UP police to avenge the death of 8 UP policemen. Vikas Dubey was a cop killer and a murderer of his school headmaster. He deserved no mercy. His trial would have been unnecessarily prolonged and a huge wastage of tax payers money. It is always better to get rid of such scums who were a damger to society unlike the "Robin hood" aura projected by the presstitutic main stream media. The opposition politicians also brought the higher caste angle saying that he was a brahmin. There are shameless Brahmins like Mani Shankar Aiyar, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Manish Tiwari and Anand Sharma in Congress who are ardent shoelickers of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadhera!! They have brought disrepute to the brahmin community by their anti brahmin, anti hindu, anti national, pro Pakistani, pro jihaadi and pro communist China statements. Now Congress is projecting it's "brahmin support" card to pathetically woo the non existent brahmin votes. Only muslims and Christians will vote for a hindu hating musalman party like Congress headed by a hindu hating Roman catholic Sonia Gandhi and a hindu hating pseudo janeudhari Dattatreya gothra seasonal brahmin like Rahul Gandhi.!!!!!!!!!?!
Krishna Ghosh72 days ago
Fake encounter to shield corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and police officers and constables who were the aides of Vikas Dubey. Life of a criminal starts at 17 and end at 40.
Shyam Koppikar72 days ago
Vikas could have spilled the beans about corrupt politicians. He will take those beans with him .