This article originally appeared on VICE IN.
All the personnel of a police station in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh are under investigation after they allegedly tipped off a gangster about a raid in which eight of their colleagues were killed.
Vikas Dubey, 53, with at least 60 criminal charges against him, is on the run. A manhunt - with 25 police teams looking for him in more than 100 locations across Uttar Pradesh, the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and the India-Nepal border - is on to nab him.
Dubey has allegedly had a cordial relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in the past: a video of him making such a claim is now viral on social media.
Dubey’s gang of more than 100 henchmen had a shootout in the Bikru village near Kanpur city with the police - who were trying to arrest him at his house - on July 3, Friday. Police officers said that the gangster received a tip-off about this raid and was ready for the police team, with shooters firing from the roof.
This encounter left eight police personnel - including an officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police - dead, while Dubey and his men managed to escape without any casualties.
An additional police team, which was sent in to rescue the cops getting fired at, claimed they managed to shoot two of the gang members during a combing operation.
Dubey’s associate Daya Shankar Agnihotri was arrested on July 4. He revealed how Dubey was in cahoots with local police officers, and was probably tipped off by one of them.
An employee of the area’s power supply station also admitted that they cut off the electricity supply during the raid after receiving a call from someone who claimed to be from the Chaubepur police station.
An analysis of the gangster’s call records further provided proof of his regular contact with at least 24 policemen - including an officer, and some cops from Chaubepur and Shivrajpur police stations in Kanpur.
Vinay Tiwari, the in-charge of the Chaubepur police station has since been suspended for his connections with the gangster. Tiwari had also gone missing from the scene of the encounter when Dubey’s gang began firing at police officials.
Following the encounter, the police demolished Dubey’s house on July 4 and found a cache of arms and ammunition stashed inside a secret bunker.
Dubey has been accused of 60 crimes including murder, kidnapping, extortion, and looting.
For the last three years, Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath has empowered policemen to use violence in what has been called an anti-crime campaign. It has however, been criticised for bypassing the justice system and for disproportionately targeting individuals belonging to certain communities. Around 103 accused have been killed across 5,000 “encounters.”
The list of suspected criminals did not include Dubey’s name, even as it targeted many lesser-known gangsters.
Among the various political parties Dubey has often been associated with has been the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to which Yogi Adityanath belongs. The BJP is also the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, in a sign of how fickle the politician-criminal nexus in Uttar Pradesh is, Dubey has also been an accused in the murder of a BJP leader: he allegedly killed Santosh Kumar Shukla, along with two cops, in 2001. He was acquitted after policemen who were witnesses to the crime refused to support the prosecution's case during trial.
In his three-decade long criminal career, Dubey has been arrested multiple times, but managed to get out on bail each time. An upper-caste man who found himself caught amidst rising caste-based disputes in 1990’s Uttar Pradesh, Dubey’s first visit to the police station was after a scrap with a lower-caste man, who he beat up for allegedly insulting his father.
In 1992, he was arrested for murdering two Dalit men, members of castes that were previously considered untouchables. These incidents projected him as a symbol of upper-caste pride.
Dubey often switched loyalties depending on which party was in power. Apart from PM Modi’s BJP, he has allegedly been associated with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP). The BSP has often been described as India’s largest party for Dalits, the very group Dubey has often been accused of targeting.
His wife Richa Dubey was even elected as deputy head of the district’s rural local body in 2015.
Uttar Pradesh accounts for 9.5 percent of cognizable crimes in India, according to a 2017 report by the National Bureau of Criminal Records. It also tops the list of crimes against women, with 3,59,849 registered cases of rape and exploitation of women.
Some of the country’s most notorious gangsters have origin stories in Uttar Pradesh. This includes Munna Bajrangi, a contract killer and politician responsible for murdering more than 40 people, Mukhtar Ansari, a gang leader who established himself as a politician and Man Singh, one of India’s most notorious dacoits.
Recently popular Indian true crime shows like Mirzapur and Paatal Lok, have drawn inspiration from the gritty real-life incidents that took place in Uttar Pradesh.
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