Lucknow, April 25: A former journalist’s tip-off has helped Uttar Pradesh police blow the lid off a young crime reporter’s alleged links with gangster Babloo Shrivastava, now lodged in Lucknow jail.
Police are now chasing journalist Mamta Tiwari, the 23-year-old daughter of Samajwadi Party leader Dharmanand Tiwari.
Rajiv Ranjan Verma, senior superintendent of police, Special Task Force, said Mamta’s name figures in the FIR registered on Wednesday against 19 Babloo associates. “We have arrested nine and are looking for the rest,” he said.
“There is no need to get a warrant issued against them because the police can arrest anyone without a warrant in a case involving a cognisable offence,” Verma emphasised.
Delhi-based businessman Sheetal Singh, a former journalist, first put the police on Mamta’s tracks after Babloo threatened him to lay off a multicrore contract for high security car registration plates.
Sheetal had first come in the line of Babloo’s fire about 10 years ago when he wrote in an Urdu weekly about the gangster’s links with a top state BJP leader. Babloo had threatened the weekly’s editor against carrying the article.
Acting on Sheetal’s tip-off, the task force tracked down Babloo’s network through electronic surveillance two days ago.
“Babloo had been conducting his operations through his cellphone in the jail. Mamta Tiwari had been visiting the don regularly and used to pass on his messages to members of his gang,” Verma said.
“She had even helped him talk to his aides through teleconferencing on her mobile. It was Mamta who had used her clout as a journalist to get 11 BSNL SIM cards for Babloo. Her visits to the jail did not attract much attention as she used her journalistic activities as a cover-up.”
Mamta has been absconding ever since her alleged links with the former Dawood Ibrahim hitman was exposed. “Mamta played a key role in the gang’s operations that Babloo ran from Lucknow jail with the connivance of some officials of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited,” a police officer told The Telegraph.
“The BSNL officials liberally provided him cellular SIM cards inside the jail and Mamta and others ran errands for him outside the jail,” the officer said.
When contacted today, almost all senior BSNL officials refused comment. They also declined to give out the names against which the 11 SIM cards were bought.
“We have sent them (BSNL) three letters seeking details of the 11 mobile SIM cards being used by Babloo, but we have got no response,” Verma said. “We even gave the BSNL officials guidelines for lawful interception and monitoring of telephone services, but it has been completely futile.”
BSNL officials are now reportedly refusing to cooperate with the task force.
According to police, Mamta’s job as a crime reporter was a cover. “One of her brothers was known to work for the Babloo gang. He was arrested last year in connection with the kidnapping of an Ahmedabad businessman and later committed suicide,” a police officer said.
Mamta’s father, however, claimed she was being framed as she intended to “expose” the task force.
Task force officers denied the charge and said “we have sufficient proof about the girl and her nexus with Babloo and will reveal it at the appropriate time”.
According to task force sources, Mamta’s arrest could also throw light on the nexus of other journalists with Babloo as the tapes of conversations between the two are interspersed with references to, at least, three other scribes.
Among those arrested were a builder, a businessman and a former student leader, all of whom were operating on Babloo’s orders.