After spending more than two years in a Punjab prison, gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari was brought back to Banda prison early Wednesday morning.
He was transported in an ambulance guarded by a strong group of armed security officers throughout his 900 km journey from Rupnagar to this town in Uttar Pradesh, in the Bundelkhand region.
On a ruling from the Supreme Court, Uttar Pradesh police on Tuesday arrested the 57-year-old BSP deputy in Rupnagar prison and returned to Banda prison. It took about two hours to complete the formalities before he was handed over to the UP police after a medical check-up.
Once the convoy entered the state on Tuesday evening, the Uttar Pradesh Police Security Vehicle Fleet, which included an ambulance equipped with all life-saving equipment to meet any requirements en route to Banda, a ride that takes about 14 hours from Ropar, and a riot police vehicle “Vajra” whistled the newly installed highways.
Before the convoy entered Banda Prison at 4.30am, it slowed down near Kanpur Dehat as stray animals blocked the road along a patch of thick forest.
While the Punjab police had taken stringent security measures outside Rupnagar prison, the area of Banda prison resembled a cantonment area with policemen guarding all around.
The police convoy entered Uttar Pradesh via the Eastern Ring Road at Baghpat at around 6 p.m., Allahabad District Police Additional Director General Prem Prakash told PTI.
The Uttar Pradesh team had reached Rupnagar police lines at 4.30am Tuesday and left for jail around noon for transfer.
The convoy left the prison premises at 2:08 p.m. via a side door, avoiding the medics waiting outside the main door. As the convoy drove to Ambala, some media vehicles launched a chase but quickly gave up.
The five-fold MLA will calm his heels in Barracks No. 15 of Banda District Prison, where he was housed in the past before being transferred to Punjab. Additional police forces have been deployed to the prison at the request of the prison authorities.
It will be guarded by three security guards 24 hours a day inside the barracks.
“Security personnel were posted inside and outside the prison premises,” said Banda jailer Pramod Tiwari.
“In barracks number 15, where Ansari will be kept, the arrangements for light, drinking water and cleanliness have been stepped up,” he said.
Tiwari said that access to the barracks has now been denied to other detainees.
The main gate of the prison complex, which generally remains open, will now remain closed. Only prison staff who report for work will be allowed entry after proper screening, he added.
High towers were erected outside the prison and additional police pickets were also set up to monitor every visitor.
Meanwhile, the director of Government Medical College in Banda, Dr Mukesh Kumar Yadav, said a panel of four doctors had been assembled on instructions from the highest court to monitor Ansari’s health.
Ansari was held in Rupnagar prison in January 2019 in connection with an extortion case.
The Mau lawmaker in eastern Uttar Pradesh faces 52 cases in the state and elsewhere, and 15 of them are in the trial stage.
The government of Uttar Pradesh, led by the BJP, had accused the Congressional government of the Punjab of protecting Ansari for several months by not leaving the state in custody.
The Punjab National Department had asked the government of Uttar Pradesh to take custody of Ansari by April 8, following the Supreme Court’s March 26 order that set a two-week deadline.
The higher court noted that Ansari was allegedly involved in cases of murder, attempted murder, cheating and conspiracy, outside of the offenses covered by the gangster law.
He said police in Uttar Pradesh were refused custody on trivial grounds under the guise of medical problems.
The Supreme Court also said that a convict or sub-trial who disobeys the law of the land cannot oppose his transfer from one prison to another and that the courts cannot be helpless bystanders when the rule of law is contested with impunity.
As Uttar Pradesh takes charge of the high-profile trial, his wife Afshan Ansari has asked the Supreme Court to seek instructions from state authorities to ensure his safety, including after meeting with police.
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