Hours after Uttar Pradesh police on Friday gunned down gangster Vikas Dubey, accounts about the extra-judicial killing and videos of the moments leading up to it raise serious questions about the credibility of the official version of events.

Dubey, who had been arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police from Ujjain’s Mahakal temple on Thursday, was killed early on Friday as the Uttar Pradesh police were transporting him to Kanpur. The Uttar Pradesh police say that one of the vehicles in the convoy turned over in an accident. They claim that the gangster took advantage of the confusion to snatch a pistol from a policeman and then escape.

The police say that the politically connected gangster opened fire at them when he was surrounded and asked to surrender. He was killed in retaliatory firing, the police claim.

“Vikas Dubey attempted to flee by snatching pistol of the injured policemen after the car overturned,” Kanpur Superintendent of Police Anil Kumar said. “The police [personnel] tried to make him surrender, during which he fired at the policemen. He was injured in retaliatory firing by police. He was later rushed to the hospital.”

Dubey had been in the news ever since he and his associates killed eight policemen on July 3 in Bikru village in Kanpur. A deputy superintendent of police, three sub-inspectors and four constables were shot dead while trying to arrest Dubey, who had 60 criminal cases against him. Four others were critically injured.

Several of Dubey’s aides have either been arrested or killed in custody by the police over the past week.

While the Uttar Pradesh police say that the gangster was killed was retaliatory firing, questions have been asked about their claims. Shortly after the police launched a manhunt for Dubey, several people had expressed the fear that Dubey would be killed. In fact, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday asking it to ensure Dubey’s safety.

Vikas Dubey being arrested in Ujjain on Thursday. Credit: PTI

Unanswered questions

The Uttar Pradesh police claims about the circumstances of Dubey’s death is eerily similar to the story that they put out about the death of one of Dubey’s associates, save for the vehicle overturning. Kartikey alias Prabhat Mishra, one of the 21 named in the FIR in the killing of eight policemen, was gunned down on Thursday when he was being brought to Kanpur from Faridabad.

Vikas Dubey aide Kartikey alias Prabhat Mishra being escorted to court in Faridabad on Thursday. Credit: PTI

According to the police, this killing in custody took place in Kanpur’s Panki area, when, curiously, the police vehicle had a flat tyre. Like Dubey, his associate Kartikey is also said to have snatched a pistol from the police and opened fire. He was then gunned down.

The site in Kanpur where Vikas Dubey's aide Kartikey alias Prabhat Mishra was killed on Thursday. Credit: PTI

What does it say about the Uttar Pradesh Police if, after facing this situation with Kartikey on Thursday, they managed to repeat the mistake with Dubey and let him snatch a pistol on Friday? Some people have also asked why Dubey was not handcuffed when he was being taken to Kanpur. The police usually handcuff even petty criminals, so it isn’t clear why they didn’t do so for a man responsible for killing eight policemen.

This aside, some on social media pointed out that the overturned vehicle had toppled over so neatly, curious bystanders are heard alleging in a video that it seems to be “planted”. Scroll.in could not independently verify the veracity of this video.

Curious arrest

The manner in which Dubey was arrested at Ujjain on Thursday led Opposition parties to question whether the gangster had really been arrested or if the entire sequence of events pointed to a staged arrest after he decided to surrender. Dubey was detained from the Mahakal temple after a flower vendor is said to have sounded out the temple security. The police claimed that Dubey bought a Rs 250 VIP ticket for the worship.

It is curious that a gangster in hiding decided to expose himself at a crowded temple. Even more curious was the fact that he chose to buy a VIP ticket and expose himself further in the less crowded section, making it easier for the public to identify him. It also belies logic that a gangster who had decided to surrender to the police would try to flee custody the next day.

Why was the media blocked?

Journalists also raised another doubt about the police version. On Friday morning, the Uttar Pradesh police suddenly halted media vehicles that had been following the police convoy taking Dubey to Kanpur, reports said. A video shared by reporters on social media showed a policeman explaining that this was a regular check point at which private vehicles were routinely inspected. But reporters say they had not been checked there when using that route before.

There has been speculation that the Uttar Pradesh police was attempting to prevent the media from recording the extra-judicial killing. However, if Dubey had indeed snatched a pistol and had tried to escape, media presence would only have helped the police establish this fact.

Cars switched?

Other questions have emerged in the sequence of events narrated by the police. A video circulated on social media showed that Dubey was in a Tata Safari when the convoy went through a toll booth on its way to Kanpur. But the vehicle that was found overturned was a TUV 300. Why did the police switch the prisoner to another vehicle in the middle of a highway even though his associate Kartikey had tried to flee from police custody while being transported to the city only the previous day?