Murder in Prayagraj on Day 1

The rechristened city registered its first crime within hours of new name

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 18.10.18, 1:22 AM
  • Updated 18.10.18, 1:22 AM
  • 2 mins read
Activists cover the Allahabad junction board with a banner mentioning Prayagraj on Wednesday. (PTI)

Prayagraj, the new name for Allahabad, registered its first crime within hours of the rechristening when a man with criminal antecedents was shot dead inside a Durga Puja pandal in front of six policemen and hundreds of people on Tuesday evening.

Neeraj Valmiki, 40, against whom two murder cases and many cases of robbery were registered, was attacked in front of his family when he had gone to the pandal at Radio Station Crossing to offer puja.

Eyewitnesses said Neeraj was sitting on a chair when an unidentified person took a seat beside him and began talking.

All of a sudden the man and his three aides attacked Neeraj. They hurled two bombs to scare away the people and then pumped multiple bullets into Neeraj. He was declared dead on arrival at SRN Hospital in the city.

The eyewitnesses said the three attackers walked away on foot and the policemen at the pandal entrance did nothing to stop them.

Police sources said this was the first crime registered in a police station in Prayagraj.

Nitin Tiwari, the senior superintendent of police, said: “Neeraj had been involved in two murders and many cases of robbery. We are trying to identify the killers from CCTV footage. The motive of the crime is not yet clear.”

Tiwari refused comment when asked why the police at the pandal did not act to prevent the crime or arrest the attackers.

Vishal Valmiki, Neeraj’s brother-in-law who was present at the pandal, said the policemen were mute spectators.

“The killers came on foot. They didn’t use any vehicle to escape either. They appeared relaxed, showing no fear of the police. The pandal was engulfed in smoke when they hurled bombs at Neeraj. Then they opened fire indiscriminately before leaving on foot,” Vishal told reporters.

He claimed that the cases against Neeraj were false. “The police used to book him for any crime in the cantonment area only because he was a Dalit and therefore an easy target,” Vishal alleged.

The Yogi Adityanath cabinet on Tuesday changed the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj. The chief minister told the media after the cabinet meeting where the decision was ratified that “I think a message has been sent across”.

“Those who are opposing the name change do not know the history of Allahabad,” Adityanath added, referring to the reservations expressed by sections of residents and academics.

Health minister Sidharth Nath Singh had said: “The change of name to Prayagraj would help popularise Indian culture across the world.”