It was in June 1988, when the newly stationed kotwal at Allahabad’s Chowk Kotwali decided to nab a feared gangster. Navrang Singh gheraoed the entire chowk area and even though the gangster managed to flee, he was offended enough to attack the Kotwali the same night.
The bombardment kept people in nearby areas awake all night, such was the noise. Police had to close the monumental gates of the Kotwali to save lives.
The gangster is Shauk-e-Ilahi alias Chand Baba, known to have been the most feared gangster-cum-‘bambaz’ in the history of Allahabad, now officially called Prayagraj, in the 1980s. A ‘bambaz’ is a term often used for a person who has expertise in making crude bombs.
There are numerous theories of the relationship of Shauk-e-Ilahi and mafia-turned-politician Ateeq Ahmed, whose name hogged headlines after he was accused in the Umesh Pal murder case on February 24. Pal was a key witness in the murder of Raju Pal, the BSP MLA brutally murdered in 2005. Some call Chand Baba Ahmed’s guru while some others call him his friend.
“I doubt you can find name and details about Chand Baba on any search engines but it is well highlighted in the bold history of Allahabad and in police records,” said Abhaya Awasthi, a social scientist and former Allahabad student union president.
Shauk-e-Ilahi alias Chand Baba’s terror was at its peak during 1984 to 1989, said Awasthi. He said he strongly believed that Chand Baba was Ahmed’s guru.
It all began in November 1984 when Allahabad was struggling with a law and order situation following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi. It was then that the narrow lanes of Sabzi Mandi Mohalla in Chowk locality witnessed a murder of a seer-cum-quack, who was allegedly killed by a youth named Chand Haddi, as revenge for his elder brother’s death treated by the seer, Awasthi said.
Subsequently, Chand Haddi was arrested and sent to Naini jail. He came out on bail and murdered his brother’s friend in Thatheri Bazar area of Chowk and bombed his body, as per Awasthi.
Chand Baba’s lawyer was his third victim and he, too, was brutally bombed in broad daylight following some financial disputes. Back to back, three murders made him known among the gangsters of Prayagraj, a good majority of which also accepted him as their leader and those who opposed were bombed or murdered.
Since the first murder he committed was of a seer, he got famous as ‘Chand Baba’. It is said in 1986 when the list of cases against him was long, he surrendered before the court and was lodged in Naini jail.
“But this failed to deter his spirits. It is said the jail superintendent once dishonuored a demand by Chand Baba, who later assembled a bomb inside the jail, using raw material acquired from the jail and later attacked the superintendent who luckily escaped,” Awasthi said.
A local corporator Zia Ubaid Khan, who resides in Sabzi Mandi Mohalla – the same vicinity where Chand Baba lived – said, “By now, Chand Baba was a big gangster of Allahabad. And what made Baba, was his Robinhood image among locals, his image became larger than life when he got a nearby brothel in Rani Mandi, Chowk, vacated on the request of the locals.”
Chand Baba’s kind gesture was welcomed by all and made him all the more popular among locals and youths, who started seeing him as a youth icon. Due to his growing popularity, Chand Baba also got political patronage, Khanna said.
In 1988, on the advice of his political godfathers, Baba surrendered and went to Naini jail from where he filed nominations for the corporation election and, subsequently, won the election following which he came out of jail, boarded Ahmed’s open gypsy alongside him and marched out a roadshow from jail to his locality.
Khan said Ahmed, who had a good bonding with Chand Baba, expressed his willingness to contest the 1989 assembly elections, the date of which was announced only then. On his request, Chand Baba first gave him a go-ahead but after he was brainwashed by his political godfathers, he filed nominations from the same Allahabad West constituency from which Ahmed was contesting as an independent candidate.
On November 6, 1989, came the day when the Chowk area witnessed a gruesome gang war near Raushan Bagh Dhaal, in which Chand Baba was killed. The next day, the assembly election result was announced in which Ahmed won by around 25,909 votes whereas Shauk-e-Ilahi managed to secure only 9,221 votes.
It’s been almost 34 years since but memories of Chand Baba alias Shauk-e-Ilahi are still fresh in the minds of people.
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