Atiq killing needs a transparent probe

Atiq killing needs a transparent probe

Did Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police have a foolproof plan to transport gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Khalid Azeem, alias Ashraf, who were gunned down in full public view? Did they do a recce of the hospital premises before bringing in such high-profile criminals? Why did they not drive closer to the entry? Were the credentials of the journalists who had gathered (the three assailants posed as reporters) checked beforehand? Is it usual to allow reporters to gather around high-value targets? Did the administration ask the court to allow health check-ups in custody to avoid taking them to a public hospital regularly? How did the three assailants smuggle in foreign-made firearms into what should have been a high-security cordon? How did they even get access to guns? How did they get together?

Forensic team members search for evidence at the spot where gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother Ashraf Ahmad were shot dead by unidentified assailants, Prayagraj, April 15, 2023 (AFP)

There are many questions swirling around the killings, which struck a blow to UP’s claim of having cleaned up its law and order machinery. These questions can only be answered by a thorough, independent probe. The state government has announced two — one by a retired judge of the Allahabad high court and another by a three-member special investigation team set up by the state police. Later this week, the Supreme Court (SC) will hear a plea for another independent inquiry into the matter.

Irrespective of how the SC rules, the murders need to be investigated threadbare, and the findings need to be made public. Ahmad and his dreaded gang ran riot across vast swathes of UP, terrorising ordinary people and bending the rule of law at will. But that cannot be an excuse to shortchange the legal process, which forms the foundation of any functional democracy. Only a transparent probe can dispel this miasma of scandal.

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