Uttar Pradesh Police on Saturday suspended a station officer for his alleged connivance in the killing of eight of his colleagues, ambushed in his police station area Chaubeypur while they were going to arrest notorious local criminal Vikas Dubey.
As the eight policemen, who walked into a trap set by Dubey and fell to a hail of bullets fired from rooftops shortly after midnight on Friday, were given a tearful farewell, police began demolishing the criminal's lavish hideout in Bikru village, the scene of the bloody crime.
Swinging into action after the brutal deaths of the men, 25 police teams fanned out across Uttar Pradesh and other states to hunt down Dubey, wanted in 60 criminal cases, and his associates, officials said.
The attackers had fled, snatching weapons from the dead and the wounded policemen.
Police officials also said a surveillance team was scanning over 500 mobile phones and frantic efforts were on to retrieve information from the devices.
The needle of suspicion swivelled to Vinay Tiwari, the SO of the Chaubeypur Police Station, about 40 km from Kanpur city, under which Bikru falls.
"In view of the allegations levelled against SO, he has been suspended and all the allegations are being thoroughly looked into," IG Kanpur Range Mohit Agarwal told reporters.
"If his involvement or that of any other personnel of the police is found in this incident, they will be sacked from the department and also sent to jail," he said.
The officer, however, did not disclose the nature of allegations against Tiwari. He also refused to divulge details of how many people have been detained and which other states the police was focussing on in its hunt for Dubey.
"Operational and strategic things are not revealed by the police," he said.
An official indicated that about 30 people were detained for questioning.Another said there was a possibility that Dubey may have fled to Nepal or taken shelter in a neighbouring state.
The eight men killed in the line of duty, mostly in their 20s and 30s, included Deputy Superintendent of Police Devendra Mishra (54).
The others are Mahesh Kumar Yadav (42), Sub-Inspector Anoop Kumar Singh (32), Sub-Inspector Nebu Lal (48) and Constables Jitendra Pal (26), Sultan Singh (34), Bablu Kumar (23) and Rahul Kumar (24). Their bodies were taken back to their homes where senior police officers attended their last rites,
Seven others, including a civilian, were injured in the attack that took place in the dead of night on Thursday.
Hours earlier, Rahul Tiwari of Jadepur Gharsa village nearby had lodged an FIR alleging attempt to murder against Dubey and four others with the Chaubeypur police station.
Recapping the events of Thursday night that unfolded like a gangster film, sources said Vinay Tiwari initially led a small police team to Dubey's house in a bid to persuade him to settle the issue with Rahul Tiwari.
However, Dubey is believed to have thrashed and threatened the SO in his den.
Vinay Tiwari then informed DSP Mishra, who reached Bikru with a team drawn from three police stations in the vicinity to arrest Dubey.
But they were caught by surprise instead. Dubey's henchmen put up roadblocks to stop policemen from reaching their hideout. As they got off from their vehicles at one hurdle, there were caught by a hail of gunfire.
Later, police sealed the entire area and began a combing operation, which led to another encounter with Dubey's men in Nivada village in which two people were killed. Vinay Tiwari told reporters in a video widely circulated on Saturday that the team went to Dubey's house only to arrest him and did not anticipate the ambush.
He is also seen getting angry when questioned by reporters if he was lagging behind deliberately. "Do you think that this could have happened. It is the jurisdiction of my police station area, and I will be the person to lag behind others? Some people are floating this theory only to benefit Dubey," he said.
Minutes after the video appeared on local news channels, IG Mohit Agarwal ordered his suspension.
Bikru village appeared like a war zone.
The place was deserted with many houses locked. And the centre of activity was Dubey's house. Police personnel stood on guard and some passer-by watched as a bulldozer razed the boundary wall before bringing down the house. TV channels also showed visuals of luxury cars in the complex being crushed by the giant machines.
It was the same earthmover that was used to block the way of the policemen when they went for the raid.
“Most of the villagers said Dubey has grabbed people's land using muscle power, and built his house. He used to extort money from people. It was a hub of crime. There was anger among the local people, and there was a feeling of vengeance among them," Agarwal said.
The Kanpur Range IG added that family members of the criminals could have been attacked by the local people, but the situation did not go out of control due to police presence.
Local police sources also said Dubey, who was accused in 2001 of killing a senior BJP leader, maintains a private 'army' and recruits mostly local youth. He also provides them with weapons.
A senior police official in Lucknow ruled out "intelligence failure" on part of the police.
Late on Friday night, police also raided Dubey's house in the state capital's Krishnanagar area.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had rushed to Kanpur on Friday to meet the family members of the slain policemen and announced financial assistance of Rs 1 crore each to the bereaved families.