PRAYAGRAJ: Gunmen seemingly posing as journalists shot dead a former Indian member of parliament and his brother live on TV as they were being taken in handcuffs to hospital by police, authorities said. Atiq Ahmed, 61, who had been jailed since 2019 and was convicted of kidnapping, was answering reporters’ questions late Saturday when he and his brother Ashraf were shot at close range, the television images showed.
“According to preliminary information, three persons posing as journalists approached them and opened fire… The attackers have been held and are being questioned,” police official Prashant Kumar said. The TV clip in the northern city of Prayagraj shows the assailants shouting Hindu slogans after the brazen attack. The two victims were from India’s Muslim minority but police did not say whether they were investigating a possible sectarian motive in the killings.
The brothers were deeply involved in India’s criminal underworld—the ex-MP was reportedly facing more than 100 different cases—and press reports said the attackers were petty criminals. The pair were being taken to hospital for medical examinations and were surrounded by police officers at the time. Local media reports said one of the gunmen was even carrying a television camera and another a microphone with the logo of a television channel. Several days earlier police in the same state of Uttar Pradesh said they had shot dead Ahmed’s 19-year-old son and his accomplice in a shootout.
Both were wanted in a case of murder. Scores of people facing charges have been killed in the state in recent years in similar so-called “police encounters”, which rights groups say are often extra-judicial executions. Ahmed, who had been facing charges of murder and assault, last month had claimed in a petition to India’s top court that his life was under threat from the police. Following his shooting, gatherings of more than four people were banned Sunday across the crime-rife northern state of 200 million people that is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
The shooting sparked outrage among opposition parties accusing the BJP of ruling by fear. Hundreds of politicians belonging to all parties across India have criminal cases pending against them, with poor Uttar Pradesh a particular hotspot. These include nearly half of government ministers in the state including the state premier, according to independent monitoring group the Association for Democratic Reforms. – AFP