Vikas Dubey and the Mahakal Temple: A mere Brahmin’s visit or a bid to save his life?

Sanika Athavale
Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga a.k.a Mahakal Temple is deep-steeped in the history of Sanatan Dharma and is said to be one among the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’ of Shiva.


A lot of questions have been raised since the dreaded criminal and gangster, Vikas Dubey was killed in an encounter with the Special Task Force of the UP Police on July 10. Some pertinent questions even landed in the Supreme Court in the form of petitions. However, his stopover at the Mahakal temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain city has been a notable feature of the entire chase which began from the wee hours of July 3.

The Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga a.k.a Mahakal Temple is deep-steeped in the history of Sanatan Dharma and is said to be one among the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’ of Shiva. It is placed among the ranks of those shrines which are believed to be the most sacred abodes of the Hindu god. The believers and regular temple-goers strongly trust that the ‘linga’ in the temple has been manifested by Shiva himself.

Interestingly, Dubey, who was also hailed to be a ‘devout Brahmin’ by the members of his caste, took his break from the chase at the ancient Ujjain temple, changing the entire course of his hunt. 

While some have referred to his presence at the temple as a matter of faith, others have also hinted that cunning ideas of a symbolic surrender might have run through Dubey’s mind before entering its premises. 

Sakal Times made attempts to speak to all the official parties that have had an interest or a role in the entire incident and two stories around the gangster’s presence at the Mahakal Temple emerged.

Story #1: From terrorizing gangster to the ordinary worshipper, he tried optics of sympathy

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Delhi-based senior journalist told Sakal Times that Vikas Dubey’s ‘mandir appearance’ was his attempt at “making a victim out of a criminal”. As per the seasoned scribe, the gangster’s portrayal in media footages changed the minute after he screamed “Main Vikas Dubey hoon, Kanpur wala.”

“It was a major role reversal. One minute he was a terrorizing gangster and the next he was a religious person offering prayers. This had been done to evoke sympathy from the Brahmin community,” he said. 

Undeniably, after Dubey’s encounter, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were immersed with the posts by Brahmins who had been angered by the death of the gangster. Many of them claimed a moral high ground by saying that they (Brahmins) acquiesced to the criminal’s encounter while several other Indian communities dissented the Centre for the arrest and execution of others. 

“This encounter has underlined the Brahmin-Thakur political faultlines in Uttar Pradesh. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long tried to fill these gaps and bring the two powerful castes under the umbrella of Hindutva but this encounter has brought the intersectionality of power, caste, and crime to the fore,” he added. 

Speaking on the same lines, Dr Udit Raj, who is now a member of the Indian National Congress (INC) and used to be a BJP MP, told Sakal Times that his tweet which sparked off the discussion around the Brahmin-Thakur faultlines was based on ‘recent data’.

“I tweeted after looking at the collected data. The information I had accessed is of the last 2-3 years. It shows us that around 500 Yadavas have been targeted along with people from Dalit and Muslim communities in these police encounters.” 

But stressing on the fact that Dubey decided to ‘surrender’ in a BJP-ruled state while he was escaping a BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, the senior journalist cried foul. “He chose Madhya Pradesh on the basis of some understanding,” he maintained.

Upholding the same view, Dr Raj said that the gangster had been allegedly taken into confidence by some ‘bigshots’ in the state, adding that Dubey was “asked to surrender” at the Mahakal temple for its perceived pavitrita (sanctity).

Sakal Times tried to verify this claim with police officials and other journalists who had been covering the entire story from the beginning. Albeit, no official statement was made, it was informed that the Madhya Pradesh media ecosystem is resounding with the name of its incumbent Home Minister, Narottam Mishra - who was BJP’s top man in Kanpur during the legislative assembly elections of 2017. 

“He is a Brahmin leader here and is known by his caste identity,” said a local news writer from Madhya Pradesh. “There is a big hunch that he was trying to broker a deal with Mishra but the UP Police got their hands on him before that worked out,” he added.

“I had heard Narottam Mishra’s name in the news. It is a fact that Mishra is a Brahmin and Dubey was also a Brahmin, but I do not know whether the news information is true or false,” Dr Raj further said.

We tried to get in touch with Narottam Mishra but his phone was consistently switched off. His personal assistant, Sahu, told us that “Sir manch par hai” (Mishra is on the stage) and when we tried to ask him if he knew anything on the matter he denied having any knowledge and cut the call.

Highlighting that Dubey had a reputation for being hot-headed and cunning, the senior journalist said that his surrender at the Mahakal Temple was meant to be symbolic and he had hoped that such demagoguery would save his life. “He was also aware that the MP Police will not fire at him because of the dense crowd at the religious site.”

One of our sources from Madhya Pradesh validated this claim. We were informed that the state’s news industry is aware from “off-the-record” conversations with police officials that Vikas Dubey is supposed to have said: “I went in to apologise. If I stay alive, I will visit again.” 

Story #2: “Give MP Police their rightful credit; Dubey was arrested, he did not surrender”

The Superintendent of Ujjain Police, Manoj Singh, rejected all theories around the temple’s symbolism and asserted that the ‘Kanpur wala’ had not surrendered but had been arrested by them. 

“He would often visit the temple in saavan (monsoon) and he had arrived there between 7 to 8 am on July 9 for a darshan (ritualistic visit),” the top cop told Sakal Times. 

While stating that he has all the CCTV footage and evidence to prove that Dubey was arrested, SP Manoj Singh said that his team was able to catch the criminal within three hours of his arrival in their district and state. “It was a complete arrest. After catching him, we retrieved a bus ticket that he had purchased to go to Indore,” he added.

“Dubey had come here by bus from Jaipur, via Jhalawar. He had plans to go to Indore from Ujjain. He had used the services of a travel company called ‘Babu Travels’ and was sitting on a seat numbered ‘6’. I have every bit of evidence,” he further elaborated.

Pandit Anand Shankar Vyas, who is a nemnuk (special) priest at the Mahakal Temple told Sakal Times that his daughter-in-law spotted the gangster when she was exiting the temple premises after her morning darshan. “He was entering when she was leaving and it was between 7-8 am in the morning,” the aged priest said. His daughter-in-law supposedly had a moment of deja-vu when she saw the man’s face because it had been in the news for the past 4-5 days.

“She also said that there were additional police personnel moving around,” Vyas informed. 

Another senior journalist gave us the commonly-accepted reason behind Dubey’s self-identifying screams at the gate of Mahakal Temple. “He had entered the religious site with the help of a VIP pass that costs a maximum of Rs 2000. The name on the pass read ‘Navin Paul’ and stated that the bearer was 28 years old. The temple authorities who checked it, found it rather dubious as he was visibly 50,” the journo told Sakal Times on the condition of anonymity. 

Thus, as per him, the ‘surrender theory’ holds no ground as the criminal had entered the premises shielding his real identity. “He shouted ‘main Vikas Dubey hoon, Kanpur wala’ for a reason. Had he tried to flee after spotting the police, he would have been shot in an actual encounter. To save himself from being killed, he shouted what he did and media persons captured the sensational moment,” he detailed. 

Still, one question does arise. If Vikas Dubey did not want to surrender and wished to save himself, why did he stop and enter a densely populated public-religious place?  

‘It was all a part of his Brahmin personality’ say the professionals and officials in the business of law and order.

Even Brijesh KR Srivastava, Additional Superintendent of Kanpur Police (Rural), confirmed that the Uttar Pradesh police’s version stated that Vikas Dubey was arrested and “he had not surrendered.”

He also elaborated on the raid of July 3, that started the whole chase from Dubey’s native village of Bikru. “We went to his house over a case that was registered in the police station. He was charged with ‘kidnapping and attempt to murder’. We were only doing our job,” the officer said.

Is it Yogi Adityanath’s iron fist, a ploy of powerful upper castes, or the wrath of UP Police?

Several media reports credited the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister for the arrest and encounter of the terrorising gangster. Stating that this was the CM’s iron fist on gangster-culture, some Twitter personalities told citizens that the ‘zero-tolerance to crime’ attitude of Yogi Adityanath needs to be appreciated for the elimination of Vikas Dubey.

However, Additional SP Srivastava added, “We were arresting and going after criminals the same way before, as we did on the day we raided Dubey’s house, and we continue to operate like that. We are doing our duties.”

But the Delhi-based scribe asked, “How does one justify the demolition of Dubey’s house and the way his family was treated?” He noted that the UP Police’s treatment of the family and the destruction of Dubey’s house with JCBs, reflected anger. 

“One must realise that UP has its own history and this is not a mere crime and law-order issue,” he stated conclusively.

On the other hand, Dr Udit Raj cited the example of how the assassinators of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have been dealt with. “There has been no greater assassination after India’s formative years, than that of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. Yet, the due legal procedure was followed then and it continues in their case,” he said.

As per the politician and SC/ST leader, there are two plausible reasons that led to the non-judicial killing of Vikas Dubey, “Either this is a political image-boosting game for Ajay Bisht a.k.a Yogi Adityanath, or the man was killed in an encounter by the UP police which was already angered over the loss of eight of its servicemen.”

Finally, the principal questions remain unanswered. Did Vikas Dubey visit the Mahakal temple to stage a Brahmin’s symbolic surrender in a bid to save his life? Or was it a careless mistake merely characterised by his Brahmin roots, en route Indore? 

Theories gathered from experts, professionals, and officials are hard to fully verify because of the opaqueness maintained amongst the higher ring of politicians. In the end, Vikas Dubey’s real motive behind his visit to the temple was lost with his life. 

Related News

​ ​