Luvlesh Tiwari, 22, is one of the three people arrested for Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf killings last Saturday. His story goes from Banda to Prayagraj and includes shooting at a wedding where he was kicked out, a stint in POCSO jail, knocking on a door for a job two weeks ago, and shooting Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf.
When Luvlesh’s brother Rohit failed his Class 10 board exams in 2006 or 2007, their father, a school bus driver in Banda named Yagnya Tiwari, scolded the oldest of his four boys. Rohit tried to steal money from his landlord’s house that night, but he was found. Yagnya was angry, so he kicked him out of the house and told him never to return.
A decade later, Rohit came back to the city. He was now a sadhu with matted hair, a long beard, and sandalwood paste on his temples. He lived in Jabalpur in an ashram.
Luvlesh, Yagnya’s third son, also failed his first-year BA exams at a college in Lucknow a few years ago. Two weeks ago, he went to a shopkeeper in Kyotara Mohalla, a low-income neighbourhood where the family lives, looking for work because he had been unemployed for a long time.
And Luvlesh left home a week ago, telling his family and friends that he was going to look for work. Last Saturday, they were horrified to see on live TV how Luvlesh shot Atiq Ahmed multiple times as police led the former gangster-turned-politician away.
“It’s all about the people you hang out with. Luvlesh was a good boy who got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Sona Singh Gautam, Yagnya’s previous landlord in Kyotara Mohalla, said, “I heard that Rohit was taken in by the temple priest, where he slept the night after he left home.” Rohit had tried to steal money from Gautam’s house.
The Tiwari family now lives in a two-room apartment right next door to Gautam. It’s locked, and the family is thought to have left.
“When Luvlesh shot those shots like a sharpshooter, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. People have seen him take his first steps on these streets,” Gautam said.
Locals who knew the family said that Yagnya had trouble making ends meet but worked hard to keep the family going. People said that his hope was that his kids would do well in school and get the family out of poverty.
Mohit, Yagnya’s second son, is a priest in Lucknow. He is the only one of his kids who makes money right now. His younger son, Dev, is taking a BTech course at a college in Banda.
The pandemic made things harder for the family. “Since the schools were closed, uncle didn’t have a job for a long time. Even rent was too much for the family. He only got his job back and started paying back bills about a year ago. Shivam Dwivedi, Luvlesh’s friend and neighbour, said, “Before he left a week ago, Luvlesh told me that the family still owed rent for the last four months.”
He says he doesn’t know why Luvlesh became a criminal. “He loved his family and wanted to help his dad… He had also gone out to look for work, but after a year, he came back… Anyone who needed help could always count on him… “A few years ago, he even led a candle march to get justice for a local boy who died under suspicious circumstances,” Dwivedi said.
A big poster the size of a wall is in the area right outside Kyotara Mohalla. A local group called “Brahman Samaj” put up a sign advertising a “Vishal Tiranga Yatra” for January 26, 2023. Luvlesh’s picture is among the over two dozen people who helped plan it.
Residents say he was also briefly involved with Bajrang Dal. On his Facebook page, where he calls himself Maharaj and has shared photos of himself praying in temples, he is listed as “Jila Sah Suraksha Pramukh at Bajrang Dal.” On the other hand, a local leader of the Bajrang Dal said he was not an office holder.
Dwivedi said, “His problem was that he was quick to anger and often got into fights.”
In 2020, he got in trouble because of this. Police sources said that in March of that year, after one of his friends made lewd comments to a young girl who told them to stop, Luvlesh yelled at and hit the girl.
On the girl’s family’s request, cops arrested Luvlesh under the POCSO Act and put him in jail. “His father was so upset that he stopped talking to him. He didn’t even have enough money to pay a lawyer to help him get out of trouble. “In the end, people helped him out and got him out of jail,” Gautam said.
The Kotwali Nagar SHO says that Luvlesh was in jail for more than a month.
Residents said that he started hanging out with people his father didn’t like when he got out of jail.
A friend said that Luvlesh and someone else was kicked out of a wedding because they fired two celebration shots from a country-made pistol someone else had brought.
Local police say that there are four cases against Luvlesh. Three of them were filed at the Kotwali Nagar police station, including the one that put him in jail, and one was filed at the Baberu police station. Most of them are for small crimes, like being rude online, hitting people over small things, or having more alcohol than is allowed.
“There was nothing about this boy that would make us notice him. These FIRs are in every police station. Young guys in this area get into such small problems all the time. “After the shooting in Prayagraj, we started to look into his cases,” said Banda Nagar Circle Officer Gajendra Gautam.
Sona Singh Gautam, who used to rent to Luvlesh, says he ran into him last week as he was leaving town. “‘Where are you going all dressed up?’ I asked him. “Out of station for a job,” he said with a smile. Gautam said, “I didn’t have the slightest idea that this was the job.”