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I AM DP, DON

DP Yadav may be a political pariah today. But he has come to command immense influence thanks to the politician-criminal nexus in West UP. Vineet Khare traces the rise of the man casting a long shadow on the Nitish Katara murder case

DP Yadav
 
To get a sense of the awe his name evokes, one needs to take a trip to the bylanes of Ghaziabad
What the Capital saw in the past two weeks — a brash display of money and muscle power by bahubali and former Rajya Sabha MP DP Yadav — was just a glimpse of the clout the man wields back home in the wild west of Uttar Pradesh. It was a sequence out of a third-grade gangster movie: DP’s men trooped into the city and made sure the drama they had come to stage — its central act was the long-awaited testimony of DP’s daughter, Bharti Yadav, in the Nitish Katara murder case — went according to script. On the appointed day, the court turned into a barrack, the State having summoned its own paraphernalia. DP’s lawyers rejoiced that the court had agreed to almost all their requests. “It’s the court which needs Bharti, not the other way round,” said one. And her deposition carried the DP footprint — she cleverly robbed the prosecution of a handle to drive her brothers in by saying they had no notion of her relationship with Nitish; motive for murder gone. And while Bharti testified in the court, brother Vikas, looking every inch an Omkara-style rogue, hair drooped over menacing eyes, his face wrapped in a shawl, slapped a photojournalist as he was led into court by policemen. Unlike the in-camera trial, this happened in full media glare; but that was perhaps the point. Here was the DP clan baring its muscle and getting away with it.

Uttar Pradesh has the distinction of producing the maximum number of prime ministers for India. It has probably also spawned the highest number of gangsters, be it Madan Bhaiya, Mukhtar Ansari, Atiq Ahmed or Arunashankar Shukla. Crime is a lucrative business. And when it alloys with politics, you’ve hit the jackpot — the honour and privileges of political office, plum contracts and government jobs, a whole cottage industry of money-spinning trades — supari killing, kidnapping for ransom, protection booty. Criminal gangs have come to occupy the centrestage in the politics of the region; if you don’t have one of your own, you are most likely allied to one because your adversary’s muscle power will have to be matched. And if there are worries over social censure, they are easy to overcome; there’s always caste and its tribal loyalties. If you command muscle (and, therefore, in most cases, also money and political influence) your caste will rally around you, as if you were a demigod, image be damned. DP is probably our most high-profile symptom of all that plagues public life in West UP. To get a sense of the awe his name evokes, one needs to take a trip to the notorious bylanes of Ghaziabad.

We met a local don whose house was surrounded by lean, gun-wielding cops and private musclemen. He told us DP can get him killed any day. “He doesn’t like to be challenged. He tracks all my movements and I always have to be on guard,” he said, as he was getting his head massaged. He would not be named. A senior scribe who runs a paper in Ghaziabad first lectured us about the falling standards of journalism and how scribes should cover “real” issues. When we asked about DP, he began stammering. “Everyone knows about DP. Why don’t you talk to someone else?” He would not be named. We spoke to a lawyer once close to DP but he cited the “lakshman rekha” of relationships. He would not be named. A state minister, who we knew was once close to DP, said he had never met him. Senior policemen promised to speak but changed their mind; their fear of being found out talking to a journalist was palpable. It’s not a done thing in those parts, you don’t go public on DP, or you do at your own peril.

DP comes from a humble family from village Sharfabad in Noida. His father was a farmer. DP ran a dairy in Jagdish Nagar. Initially, he used to load his milk on a cycle and hawk it in Delhi. But he was ambitious and always wanted to make it big. In the late 1970s, he came in contact with liquor mafia king Babu Kishan Lal. DP was hired for a paltry couple of thousands to bounce those who created trouble at liquor vends. Later, Kishan Lal made him a partner. The gang used to bring raw liquor from Jodhpur, then sell it under their label. The liquor was supplied to the surrounding states and beyond. DP’s core group comprised Jagdish Pehalwan, Kalu Mental, Parmanand Yadav, Shyam Singh, Prakash Pehalwan, shooter Chunna Pandit, Satvir Yadav, Mukesh Pandit and Swaraj Yadav. In the early 1990s, DP was charged by the Haryana Police with supplying illicit liquor that reportedly led to the death of over 300 people.

In and out: DP Yadav (second from left) joins the BJP; he was banished soon after
 
He has been charged in cases of murder, attempted murder, dacoity, extortion and even under TADA
A senior leader, who saw him rise through the ranks in his early years, said: “DP is a typical north Indian bully who likes to scare people and wants to remain unchallenged. He has money, so he knows how to get past the system. Also, western UP has no dearth of fresh fodder in the form of young people who are ready to commit a murder for as little as Rs 10,000. He is ambitious, articulate and knows what he wants.”

DP’s rise has been lightning. In the early 1980s, he came close to Balram Singh Yadav an influential caste leader from west-central UP then in the Congress. He made him the head of Ghaziabad district’s backward cell. The nameplate outside his office in Ghaziabad’s Navyug Market proudly displayed his designation. Among several tales about the early DP is one from 1984 when he wanted to garland VP Singh at Hapur. Singh refused. Later, DP asked him for an Assembly ticket; Singh refused. People close to him before 1989 describe him as a nobody in politics who was happy just to be clicked garlanding a well-known leader. His earlier shot at limelight had come in the 1970s; he attempted a career in the movies, which came a cropper.

His political career really got underway when he latched on to Mulayam Singh Yadav in the late 1980s. Says an insider: “Those were the Jan Morcha days when Mulayam was short of funds. DP had made money from the liquor trade and extortion and his sugar mills in Punjab. He came to Mulayam’s aid. I remember Mulayam fought for giving him a ticket whereas other wanted Narender Bhatti. Since there was a Jan Morcha wave, DP won the Bulandshahr Assembly seat. And then to our surprise, he also joined the Mulayam Cabinet as the Panchayati Raj minister. In 1990, he made his man Chuna Pandit fight the MLC election from Bulandshahr. Pandit won defeating the official jd candidate, but no one objected. DP had made a heady leap to the top.” DP’s police record was touched up by Mulayam, and that gave him a clean bill of health. Those were the days when DP was forever visible at Mulayam Singh meetings.

But soon they fell out. Said a senior SP leader: “DP wanted to expand his clout and used to send expensive gifts and liquor to Yadav leaders. When Mulayam got wind of it, he felt threatened. DP was a young person who had already gained huge popularity because of his swift rise.” Since then DP has been in and out of most mainline parties; and although no major party patronises him today, he has managed to retain his clout. Says former Union minister Satyapal Malik: “Political parties have given respect to people like DP Yadav and helped them become a role model. All parties need to share the blame.”

DP is said to be worth more than Rs 500 crore, with interests in property, sugar, liquor and other businesses
The first case against DP was registered in 1979 in Ghaziabad’s Kavi Nagar police station. He has been charged in cases of murder, attempted murder, dacoity, kidnapping, extortion, as well as various crimes under the Excise Act, Gangsters’ Act, and even the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. He has cases filed in Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Badayun in western UP and in Jind and Sirsa in Haryana. By 1991, after he had entered politics, he had collected a pile of 20-odd criminal cases. Nonetheless, he was elected mla thrice from Bulandshahr, was a minister in the first Mulayam Singh Yadav government and became a Lok Sabha mp from Sambhal in 1996. DP, said a local politician, is seen as a hero by the Yadav youth who wish to emulate his instant success. It matters little to them that he is listed as a B-class (HS-2B) history-sheeter in Ghaziabad. A B-class history sheeter means the police think he is beyond reform, that he will remain a history-sheeter all his life.

Today, DP is said to be a man worth more than Rs 500 crore, with interests in property, sugar mills, liquor and other businesses. But that’s hardly surprising, says local Samajwadi Party leader Sameer Bhati. “Earning a few hundred crores in a decade or two is no big deal in western UP. Why single out DP? There are politicians, engineers, policemen, so many people who have made crores in no time,” he says.

Those who know Sameer and his late father Mahendra Singh Bhati, wouldn’t be surprised by his unwillingness to side with DP’s critics. Mahendra Bhati was gunned down 14 years ago at the Dadri railway crossing, allegedy by DP’s men. A strongman in his own right who was accused of having raked millions through illicit means, Bhati fell to gang and political rivalry. Ironically, it was he who was instrumental in bringing DP into politics. It was his support that helped DP win the Bisrakh (near Dadri in UP) block pramukh election in 1989, which marked his ascent in politics.

Sitting in a restaurant in Greater Noida, Sameer looked calm; no emotion crossed his face while discussing DP and his father’s death. Sameer, some say, knows he could face the same fate. We asked him about the relations between DP and his father, he refused any knowledge. After a little prodding, he said: “I remember I was home when I got the call that he has been shot dead. We always perceived a threat to his life. He wrote several letters to senior officers for protection, but to no avail.” Does he face a threat to his life? “No, I don’t. And, I won’t tell you how angry I feel about my father’s death.”

Bhati’s killing triggered a gang war. In 1993, DP’s brother-in-law, Kamal Raj Yadav, was killed to avenge Bhati’s murder. Vishal Yadav, accused in the Nitish Katara case, is Kamal’s son. Then, DP’s men allegedly killed Satbir Gujjar, a Bhati supporter. In 1997, DP’s brother, popularly known as Mahashay, was allegedly killed by Satbir Gujjar’s men.

When the BJP came to power post-Mulayam in 1991, Kalyan Singh proved to be DP’s nemesis. He flew in Shailja Kant Mishra, a tough, upright officer, from Varanasi, as ssp to tackle DP. He was arrested under the National Security Act. He had tried innovatively to save himself, though; he got a haircut, slipped into Bulandshahr and got himself arrested on a frivolous count.

It’s another matter that the same Kalyan Singh was staring out of posters with DP in 1998 when the don fought on a BJP ticket from Sambhal. Sambhal has a large Yadav population, with Jats, Kharagvanshis, dalits, Thakurs, Gujjars, Brahmins, Sainis, Valmikis, Tyagis and Vaishyas thrown in. DP parted ways with Mulayam just before the 1996 general election, complaining about the latter’s style of functioning and joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to successfully contest the Sambhal seat. He quit the BSP in 1997 and rejoined Mulayam in expectation of a ticket from Sambhal. That ticket never came, DP fought on a BJP ticket and lost. The BJP then assisted him into the Rajya Sabha. The party doesn’t support him anymore, indeed keeps him at arm’s length. But never be too sure that DP will remain a political pariah. The bitter battle for the UP Assembly is round the corner and the beleaguered Mulayam Singh has already given a call for all Yadavs to unite. Such is the hour DP thrives on.

Dec 16 , 2006
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