HIGH DRAMA was witnessed at the Gurdaspur Central Jail on Friday after a group of inmates went on the rampage inside the jail in the afternoon, setting fire to quilts and blankets on a staircase and challenging jail officials from atop a roof in the jail. The jail officials had to fire in the air when the rampaging inmates started dismantling some portion of the jails and a wall to gather bricks to use against the jail staff, the police said.
The Gurdaspur jail administration has asked police to register a case against the inmates for rioting, causing damage to public property and interfering in government duty among other offences.
Additional Director General (Jails) Rohit Choudhary, who rushed to Gurdaspur after the violence broke out, said the group of inmates involved in the incident was upset due to strict measures taken by the jails department. In recent weeks, mobile phones and even drugs have been recovered during searches being conducted on a massive scale. There was also a crackdown on gangsters getting massages from “junior” inmates.
Choudhary said the inmates, who created ruckus, were led by a notorious gangster, Shamsher Singh Shera, who was facing “seven to eight cases of murder”. They were lodged in a special enclosure made for gangsters and hardcore criminals.
“We were anticipating some reaction when we tightened the restrictions and they were no longer getting their luxuries. The only drawback we have is understaffing in the jails. I had earlier written that the police should provide us with 12 cops for each such enclosure made across jails in the state,” Choudhary said.
The drama that began around noon when inmates were being sent to the barracks ended in the evening, more than six hours later.
“As many as three jail warders were injured in the clash which began after inmates beat up a jail warder in the special enclosure and later fanned out to another section of the jail where inmates lodged under NDPS Act cases joined them,” Choudhary said.
The ADG said inmates involved in the ruckus would be shifted to other jails in the state.
Earlier, around 300 prisoners were seen standing on the second-floor roof. A total of 968 prisoners are lodged in the jail. Allegedly, the inmates also damaged some CCTV cameras. District police rushed to the spot, cordoned off the area and began negotiations.
The backlash also put a question mark on security measures inside the jail and the claims of seizures of mobile phones as some local journalists claimed to have received calls from the inmates when the ruckus was on.
“Police have been misguiding media. They have been claiming that two groups of prisoners have clashed with each other. They may take advantage of this misinformation to open fire on us. Our lives are in danger. We want to make it very clear that there is no tussle between inmates. Our fight is with the jail staff,” a local reporter, who claimed to have received a call from inside the jail, quoted an inmate saying this.
“They have not been allowing us to meet visitors. They are imposing unwanted restrictions. Quality of food is very bad. We had demanded gym for the prisoners. But none of our demands was met. Prisoners have been tortured by the jail staff. We are ready to give our names,” said another inmate on the phone, according to the local journalist.
Choudhary, meanwhile, said things were brought under control in the evening. “Things have returned to normalcy. Inmates have been served dinner. We had called the members of panchayats of the villages (to which the inmates belong) and they have expressed satisfaction over the strict measures put in place by the jail administration.”