The alleged involvement of a television reporter with notorious mafia don Babloo Srivastava has sent shock waves in journalistic circles in Uttar Pradesh.
Additional Director General of Police (law and order) Vikram Singh has named Mamta Tiwari, working for Sahara TV, as the conduit through which the mafia don kept in touch with his lieutenants and continued to run his extortion racket from behind bars.
As many as nine members of Babloo's gang were arrested by the Special Task Force of Uttar the Pradesh police on Wednesday.
Mamta was earlier working for the Lucknow edition of the Indian Express. The busting of the Babloo's 'still active' gang has also exposed the obvious patronage openly accorded to criminals, not only by politicians, but also police and jail officials in India's most populous state.
"From the facts we have gathered, it was amply evident that Babloo was carrying out his heinous business of kidnapping for ransom as effectively from jail, as he could have done as a free bird," Singh pointed out. Babloo was arrested by Interpol in Singapore a couple of years back and deported to India to be tried for several heinous crimes, including the murder of Additional Customs Collector L D Arora in Allahabad in the early nineties.
"The recorded conversations between this reporter and Babloo provides sufficient proof about her direct involvement in the criminal activities of the don with whom she obviously enjoyed much intimacy," Singh told reporters.
According to an STF report, there was enough evidence about Mamta spending hours with Babloo inside the jail. "She also used her influence with BSNL officials to get SIM cards not only for Babloo but his close associates, who were in the process of carrying out a new kidnapping assignment (when they were caught)," disclosed Senior Superintendent of STF Rajeev Ranjan Verma. "Babloo was in the process of giving the final 'go' to his plans for kidnapping the son of a well known Mumbai film producer K C Mohnani." He added that the gang had even hired a posh house in Aashiana where the hostage was to be kept. Three cars believed to have been arranged for commissioning the crime have also been recovered by the cops.
"Besides this, another plan was being worked out for the kidnapping of a prominent businessmen in Kathmandu for which Babloo had lined up yet another team here itself," Verma said. "What has astonished me that not only was Babloo using different mobile phones -- all BSNL -- round the clock, but had even dared to threaten some local businessmen for extortion whenever he was
brought to Lucknow for appearance before the court in different criminal cases pending against him."
Mamta's alleged involvement in crime comes close on the heels of two local journalists, Bishwadeep Ghosh and Ajay Shukla, who are currently facing trial over the murder of a youth a few months back. While Ghosh was the crime reporter of a leading national English daily, Shukla had worked as crime reporter with a top national Hindi daily.
The extent of Babloo's widespread network was visible in the arrests made by the STF. Those arrested for their alleged nexus with Babloo were Nadeem Ahmad of Nagpada in Mumbai, Amar Tandon of Lumbini in Nepal, Pradeep Kumar Gupta and Atul Kumar Gupta of Kanpur, besides Anand Khurana, Paramjeet Singh, Kamaljeet Singh, Ram Naresh and Jitendra Kumar Pandey from Lucknow.
Though the police were revelling over the busting of this notorious gang, no action has so far been ordered against police or jail officials known to be assisting Babloo Srivastava.
Barely ten days back it was Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act convict and independent legislator Mukhtar Ansari, who was not only seen strolling in Lucknow's posh shopping centre, Hazratganj but had also dared to walk into the state police chief's office to make a recommendation for the posting of a police sub-inspector. Ansari too was understood to possess a set of mobile phones during his stay in jail. He has also apparently used his proximity to Mayawati (whom he pledged support) to get himself shifted from the high-security Tihar jail in Delhi to the more 'familiar' district jail in Lucknow.