File photo of gangster Munna Bajrangi (Express Photo by Vishal Srivastav)
Hours before he was to be produced in court, Uttar Pradesh gangster Prem Prakash Singh alias Munna Bajrangi was shot dead inside the Baghpat Jail Monday by another gangster Sunil Rathi. The killing, which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called “serious”, took place a week after Bajrangi’s wife had alleged that her husband’s life was in danger.
The incident had senior UP officials rushing to Baghpat and the CM ordering a probe even as four jail officials were suspended. Bajrangi (51), who was named in 24 criminal cases, including murder and extortion, was to be produced in a local court on Monday in an extortion case for allegedly demanding money from former BSP MLA Lokesh Dixit in 2017.
Bajrangi’s advocate Vikas Shrivastava alleged that Bajrangi had stopped appearing in court after getting several threats. “His court hearing was through video conferencing and we had requested video conferencing for this case also, but the request was rejected,” he said.
“Bajrangi was shot dead inside the jail premises at 6 am on Monday. The shocking part of all this is that the administration was well aware of the threats to his life. Just a week ago, his wife Seema Singh addressed a press conference highlighting this. Even Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was made aware about the life threat,” alleged Shrivastava.
Bajrangi had unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Assembly polls from Mariyahu seat in Jaunpur on an Apna Dal ticket and was also known as gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s right-hand man in the 90s. Bajrangi and Ansari were allegedly involved in the gunning down of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai and six of his supporters in November 2005.
Munna Bajrangi’s body being taken for autopsy from Baghpat jail on Monday. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)
Additional Director General (Prisons) Chandra Prakash said Bajrangi was kept at a high-risk cell with 10 other inmates, including Rathi. “Rathi shot Bajrangi from close range after an altercation on Monday morning inside the jail premises. There were no CCTV cameras where the incident took place,” he said. Police sources said Rathi pumped 10 bullets into Bajrangi, of which three hit his head.
Rathi has been in the Baghpat Jail since July 31 last year and is now in police custody for questioning. “Ten empty shells of a .762 bore weapon and some live cartridges were recovered from inside the district jail. Three probes – by jail authorities, a magisterial inquiry and a judicial inquiry – are underway. An FIR was also registered by jail authorities,” said Deputy Inspector General (Law and Order) Praveen Kumar.
Four jail officials – Jailor Udai Pratap Singh, Deputy Jailor Shivaji Yadav, Head Warden Arjinder Singh and Warden Madhav Kumar have been suspended, said Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar.
Sources said Bajrangi and Rathi ran extortion rackets from different jails and Rathi considered Bajrangi his “older brother”. But things changed after Bajrangi allegedly demanded protection money from an associate of Rathi’s, said police sources, adding that they were also probing another incident where Rathi’s relative was assaulted in a jail in eastern UP.
Munna Bajrangi’s daughter and wife outside the mortuary in Baghpat, Monday. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)
Police believe Rathi tried to get rid of the weapon used in the murder. “More than one shot was fired. We are probing how the weapon was brought into the jail,” said Baghpat Superintendent of Police Jaiprakash. Sources said the pistol used in the killing was recovered late Monday with two magazines and 22 bullets from a water tanker.
Bajrangi’s wife Seema, who had called a press conference on June 29 to allege that her husband’s life was in danger, has demanded a CBI probe. “It was a custodial murder and a planned conspiracy hatched by the Uttar Pradesh police and jail officials. Several persons, including a former MP, are behind the murder of my husband,” she alleged.
According to Shrivastava, in March 2016, Bajrangi’s brother-in-law Pushpjeet Singh, who looked after his business, was shot dead at Vikas Nagar colony in Lucknow and his associate Tariq was shot at in Lucknow in December last year.
“We recently found that police had filed a closure report in connection with Pushpjeet’s murder and that a former MP was behind it. We were planning to disclose his name to the court and demand an inquiry against him, but they killed Bajrangi before the hearing,” he said.
As a teenager, Bajrangi is believed to have developed an affinity for arms and entered the world of crime at an early age. The first case against him was registered in 1982 on charges of physical assault when he was 17 years old and later that year, police booked him for attempt to murder and loot. He carried out his first major crime in 1984 after killing a businessman. He once carried a reward of Rs two lakh and was arrested in October 2009 by a team of Delhi Police Special Cell from Mumbai.