The line between reel and real often blur in the wild west of Uttar Pradesh, where gangsters call the shots, just like in the blood-soaked web thriller Mirzapur. The storyline of the hit web series appears to have replicated over the past week when eight police personnel were killed by henchmen of a powerful history-sheeter Vikas Dubey. The slain policemen were among a 50-member team that had gone to arrest the gangster in Kanpur’s Bikru village. Dubey has some 60 criminal cases against him, including murder and extortion. He had also been accused of killing a BJP leader inside a police station in 2001 but was acquitted for lack of evidence.
The most sinister part about the episode is the alleged tip-off about the police action that seemed to have come from somebody within the police. Daya Shankar Agnihotri, one of the gangster’s men, caught by police later, claimed that the tip-off came from Chaubeypur police station. The station officer Vinay Tiwari and three other policemen have been suspended on suspicion. But the most damning revelation about the deep nexus seems to be a purported letter, written by DSP Devendra Kumar Mishra, who died in the shootout, to the senior superintendent of police (SSP), Kanpur, three months ago.
The letter says Tiwari diluted an extortion case against Dubey, used to meet the gangster often, and therefore, his integrity was suspect. In addition, Mishra’s letter recommended action against Tiwari and expressed fears that a serious crime could happen if Tiwari did not change his ways. It’s been over several days since the encounter but the authorities have not been able to trace the gangster. His house has been razed by the district administration. Dubey’s political connections, which seem to transcend party lines, make the whole thing even murkier. In a video said to be from 2017, Dubey is allegedly speaking to officers of the police’s Special Task Force, boasting about his links with two BJP legislators and a Samajwadi Party leader.
Vikas is the main accused in the 2001 murder of UP minister Santosh Shukla. This aside, several high-profile murders were attributed to the criminal—among them the killing of Siddheshwar Pandey, assistant manager of Tarachand Inter College in Kanpur in 2000. Vikas is also accused of hatching a plot from jail to murder Rambabu Yadav, a former minister in the Samjawadi Party government. His name emerged as a suspect in cable TV businessman Dinesh Dubey’s murder in 2004. The list goes on, but he has managed to keep the law and the lawkeepers at a distance—some say, with good help from the lawmakers. N.C. Asthana, a former Kerala Police chief, gave his perspective, writing on Twitter that hunting down a fugitive isn’t the problem, but “the big problem is to cover up all his now inconvenient connections in the police and with politicians”. And so, Vikas’s fate is sealed—he will be found and killed to erase all traces of the nexus.