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Business News/ Politics / News/  First-hand account: A visit to ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur
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First-hand account: A visit to ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur

Mohammadabad town in Ghazipur is known to rest of India for ‘Phatak’ – the sprawling home of the Ansaris, the family of the gangster-turned politician Mukhtar Ansari, who died of a cardiac arrest on March 28.

First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's GhazipurPremium
First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur

A drive of 100 kilometres from Varanasi along National Highway-31, followed by narrow alleys, leads to Mohammadabad - a bustling town in Ghazipur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

With a population of about 40,000 residents, Mohammadabad has little to boast about to the outside world. However, it serves as a starting point of the Purvanchal Expressway, a 6-lane access-controlled highway connecting Ghazipur with the Uttar Pradesh capital, Lucknow.

First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur
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First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur

Yet, the town is known to rest of India for ‘Phatak’ – the sprawling home of the Ansaris, the family of the gangster-turned politician Mukhtar Ansari, who died of a cardiac arrest on March 28.

‘Phatak’ home to Ansaris

In October 2023, two colleagues and I visited 'Phatak' for a story. We didn't have an appointment, but a local journalist in Varanasi suggested that we take a chance and try to arrange a video interview with someone at the home.

Also Read : Gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari dies: A look at the life and times of the 'Bahubali’ of eastern UP

By noon, we arrived at the gates of 'Phatak.' An elderly bearded person led us to a roofed platform outside a room bearing the nameplate 'Afzal Ansari' in Hindi. Afzal Ansari, Mukhtar's brother, is the Member of Parliament from Ghazipur, a seat previously held by BJP leader Manoj Sinha, who is now the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur
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First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur

"Sansad ji araam kar rahe hain, aap intezaar kijiye (Afzal Ansari is resting, please wait)," said one of the attendants.

In the meantime, we began setting up our cameras and capturing some visuals. The attendant allowed us to enter the room with the 'Afzal Ansari' nameplate. Inside, the three walls and shelves were adorned with photographs of several generations of family members, some alone and others alongside political leaders such as Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. It's no surprise that leaders from the SP and BSP have expressed condolences over Mukhtar's death.

Illustrious family members

Apart from the family's political affiliations, the room serves as a reminder of the eminent personalities that the Ansari’s have given to the country. This includes Dr Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, the paternal grandfather who was freedom fighter and the Congress party president in 1927–28. There is also maternal grandfather, Brigadier Mohammad Usman Ansari, known as the ‘Lion of Nowshera’, who was a recipient of the Mahavir Chakra award. Hamid Ansari, a civil servant who served as Vice President of India between 2007 and 2017 also belongs to the same family. 

First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur
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First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur

We were served tea and sweets as we waited for the ‘Sansad ji’ to wake up. We assumed that he had been informed and agreed for the interview. To save time, we set up a chair, tested a frame, and adjusted the lights and camera on the tripod. A group of four people sat at a desk next to the room, attending to visitors. In one instance, a woman needed 2.5 lakh for her son’s treatment. One of the four people took her documents and instructed her to return after 5 pm. 

"Humare to bhagwan hai, Sansad ji," said the woman as she walked back towards the gate. Ansaris are known for charity, too, in the region.

By 3.30 pm, Afzal Ansari woke up. To our utter surprise, he was not aware of the interview. He refused and asked us to leave. Our driver, a local, left with his car before we could pack up, perhaps, out of fear.

“Muhammadabad ko Dhanbad mat banaye, hum log election jeet kea ate hai, mujhe pata hai aap log kya kahani banayege (don’t make a Dhanbad out of Muhammadabad. We have been winning elections. I know what story you want to make," said an angry Afzal before we left. 

Dhanbad, a district in Jharkhand (earlier in Bihar) used to be known for its coal mafia and crime.  Afzal Ansari, we were told, was angry after a story by an international media house allegedly painting Muhammadabad as a hub of criminal activities. 

We left the town and drove back to Varanasi.

Criminal history

The Ansaris are a family of contrasts. While it has had some illustrious members, it also has the two generations of members with criminal history.

First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur
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First-hand account : When I visited ‘Phatak’, Mukhtar Ansari’s family home in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur

In jail for most of the past 19 years before his death on Thursday, Mukhtar was allegedly operating his gang from behind bars in the last few years. His MP brother Afzal, said to be the brains in the family, wife Afsha Ansari, eldest brother and former MLA Sibgatullah Ansari, jailed son and Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Abbas Ansari and younger son Umar have all been booked in criminal cases. Mukhtar’s two brothers-in-law, Atif Raza and Anwar Shehzad, also have cases against them.

Also Read : From gangster to parliamentarian: Story of Atiq Ahmad's journey

There are at least 97 cases lodged against Mukhtar and his family, including 63 against him, according to UP police records.

After the death of another gangster-politician, Atiq Ahmed, the Ansari family is believed to have been on the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government's list. Properties owned by Ansari and associates valued at 575 crore have been seized and demolished by the state government.

 

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Published: 29 Mar 2024, 01:21 PM IST
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