Lucknow: Dreaded gangster Munna Bajrangi was shot dead inside a high security prison in Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh early on Monday, causing a major embarrassment to the Yogi Adityanath government.
The 51-year-old criminal was shot 10 times in the head and chest from close range with a sophisticated handgun and his body was then dumped into a gutter inside the prison premises, a police officer said.
What has embarrassed the government and the police is the fact that a high-tech pistol found its way inside the prison and almost in the same manner disappeared after the crime.
Chief Minister Adityanath ordered the suspension of four prison officials, including the jailor and deputy jailor, following the incident and vowed to take stringent action against the guilty.
His lawyer called it a “staged killing” and said the “administration and the state government had forced the jail authorities” to bring the unwell Bajrangi to Baghpat, setting aside pleas that the hearing be done through video conferencing.
His wife Seema Singh had alleged some 10 days back that a conspiracy was being hatched by the Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh police to eliminate her husband.
Bajrangi, who carried a reward of Rs 7 lakh on his head, was shifted to the Baghpat prison from Jhansi jail late on Sunday for a hearing in a district court.
Bajrangi, whose writ once ran large and wide in the eastern part of the state for almost three decades, was locked in an extortion case filed two years back by former Baghpat legislator Lokesh Dixit.
He was kept in a solitary cell.
Some sources said that the initial suspicion of the murder was on Sunil Rathi, another gangster languishing in the Baghpat jail.
The lawyer and family members of Bajrangi refuted this theory, saying the two had no animosity that could have led to the killing.
Bajrangi, who escaped two gun battles with police, once in New Delhi and another in Kolkata, was known to have killed 40 persons, including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Krishnanad Rai and BJP leader Ram Chandra Singh.
Vikram Singh, a former Director General of Police of Uttar Pradesh, said that though the deceased had a long criminal history, his killing inside a prison raised serious doubts on the security of jails in the state.
Bajrangi was arrested from Mumbai’s Malad area by Delhi Police on October 29, 2009 and has been languishing in jails ever since.
His killing assumes significance as human rights groups have been questioning the series of police “encounters” in the state leading to the death of criminals and those accused of crime.