The big boys in the '80s were Hari Shankar Tiwari and Virendra Pratap Shahi, who divided Poorvanchal into two caste gangs—led by Tiwari, a Brahmin, and Shahi, a Thakur.
If Brijesh was a rising star in gangland, Mukhtar was no shrinking violet. By the early 1990s, Mukhtar had become a household name in UP for his daring criminal activities, and his high profile, especially in the districts of Mau, Ghazipur, Varanasi and Jaunpur. In 1996, he fought from the Mau assembly constituency as an independent and won the election. His rising profile made him a serious threat to Brijesh's area of clout. In 2001, Brijesh led an attack on Mukhtar's gang, killing three of the latter's aides, but was himself injured in the shootout. After that, Brijesh disappeared from the scene. The UP police are not sure if he is underground or dead.Brijesh's absence from the crime scene left Rai the unopposed leader of his gang. It was this rise in his status that helped him win the assembly elections. However, it was a victory that sharpened the enmity between the two gangs, which had been taking each other head-on for control of gangland business opportunities—especially since Rai was a smooth operator, adept at arranging contract deals.So, whether it was
BSNL's cable laying work, road construction by the PWD, or track electrification and track laying for the railways, the mafiosi took over everywhere. They also extorted on a huge scale from businesses in the region, whether construction, liquor or carpets.And, of course, coal. The gangs fought for a share in the huge sums of money to be made in the unloading and distribution of coal coming into three depots in Poorvanchal—at Varanasi, Mughalsarai and Chandasi—from the Northern Coal Fields of Dhanbad and from Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh. Each depot gets two to five racks of coal every month, each rack containing 3,500 tonnes of coal. There is big money to be made by surreptitiously mixing different grades of coal. According to a railway official, "The bahubalis make more than Rs 1 crore a day from the coal business."And it was because he provoked the ire of the rival gang by grabbing a contract for the distribution of coal worth Rs 50 crore from the Chandasi coal depot that Rai was apparently killed.Ansari has been named in the FIR registered by the police after Rai's murder. He is currently behind bars, but it remains to be seen what challenge emerges to his supremacy. Watch out for the next episode in the Poorvanchal gangland wars.
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