After spending over two years in a Punjab prison, gangster- turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari was brought back to Banda jail early Wednesday morning.
He was ferried in an ambulance, part of convoy carrying gun-toting policemen, throughout the 900-km journey from Rupnagar to this Uttar Pradesh town in the Bundelkhand region.
Hours later, his brother Afzal Ansari accused the police of treating him in an “inhuman” manner during the journey, claiming he was not given food or water.
But he did not substantiate the allegation and, according to the UP government, a medical panel examined the 57-year-old after his arrival and found no immediate health concerns.
The Bahujan Samaj Party MLA from Mau faces trial in Uttar Pradesh in several cases, including attempt to murder and murder. His transfer from Punjab was ordered by the Supreme Court after the UP government approached it, seeking the politician's custody from Punjab.
An Uttar Pradesh Police team arrived on Tuesday at Punjab's Rupnagar jail, where Ansari was lodged in connection with an extortion case in Punjab. The hand-over formalities at the jail took about two hours
The police convoy – which including the ambulance equipped with life-saving equipment and an anti-riot Vajra vehicle – raced across newly built expressways on an over 14-hour journey.
At 4.30 am Wednesday, the ambulance and three other UP police vehicles entered the Banda jail premises.
Afzal Ansari, who is the BSP MP from Ghazipur, accused police of ill-treating his brother.
“In the over 15-hour journey, he was not given water and food and was also denied medical aid. Due to this, he became unwell and reached Banda jail in a semi-conscious state," he alleged.
Afzal Ansari, however, did not elaborate how he got to know about the alleged treatment meted out to his brother.
The Uttar Pradesh government, however, said a team of doctors from the Banda Medical College examined Mukhtar Ansari at the jail and found no immediate health issues.
The family has earlier expressed concern over Ansari's safety while in UP, expressing apprehension about possible attempts to eliminate him.
The Supreme Court will hear on Friday Afshan Ansari's plea seeking directions to the Uttar Pradesh authorities to ensure protection for her husband.
On the way to Banda, at Kanpur Dehat, the police convoy was forced to a stop around 1.30 am with stray animal blocking the road between Bhognipur and Ghatampur.
Policemen stepped out from their vehicles to drive them away.
Minutes later, the vehicles stopped at Satti police station. Policemen there evaded questions from reporters about the sudden halt, but a police official later said it was just a five-minute bathroom break for Ansari.
The Banda prison area looked like a cantonment zone with policemen keeping a strict vigil.
The five-time MLA will spend time as an undertrial in barrack number 15 of the district jail, where he was lodged in the past before being shifted to Punjab.
Additional police force has been deployed at the request of prison authorities. He will be guarded by three security personnel round-the-clock inside the barrack.
"Security personnel have been posted inside as well as outside the jail premises," Banda jailor Pramod Tiwari had said earlier.
High towers have been put up outside the jail and extra police pickets have also been set up to keep watch on visitors.
The legislator is facing 52 cases in the state and elsewhere, and 15 of them are at the trial stage, according to UP authorities.
The BJP-run Uttar Pradesh government had earlier accused the Congress government in Punjab of shielding Ansari for several months by not letting the state take custody.
The Punjab's home department had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to take Ansari's custody by April 8, following the March 26 Supreme Court order that had set a two-week deadline.
The apex court had noted that Ansari was allegedly involved in cases of murder, attempt to murder, cheating and conspiracy, apart from offences under the Gangsters Act.
It said his custody was being denied to the Uttar Pradesh Police on trivial grounds under the guise of medical issues.
The SC also said a convict or an undertrial who disobeys the law of the land cannot oppose his transfer from one prison to another and the courts cannot be helpless bystanders when the rule of law is being challenged with impunity.