Days before her alleged murder inside Byculla prison, convict Manjula Shetye had written to the jail’s Superintendent of Police, requesting to be shifted to their Kalyan facility.
Sources in the prison department said that Shetye, who was appointed a warden at the Byculla jail, had a reputation of being a “tough task master” and some inmates had even complained against her to the jailor. The jail staff was also “annoyed” with Shetye as she would argue with them and failed to perform her warden duties properly. Following this, she recently wrote to the superintendent of the jail to move her from the Byculla facility.
“Shetye was the warden and was assigned the task of keeping a vigil on inmates. This included monitoring the mulaqats ( time when prisoners meet their relatives). A few weeks ago, two prisoners complained Shetye didn’t allow them to meet their relatives for the permitted duration, and asked them to wrap up their interactions within 15-minutes,” said a senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“The jail staff too thought Shetye did not perform her duties diligently. So, she recently wrote to us, asking to be moved to the Kalyan jail as her family stayed there,” added the official.
Meanwhile, in the departmental inquiry being carried out by the prisons department into the incident, while the six jail staff accused of killing Shetye have confessed to a confrontation with her on Friday, they have denied assaulting her. Six staffers — jailor Manisha Pokharkar and guards Bindu Naikode, Waseema Shaikh, Sheetal Shegaokar, Surekha Gudve and Aarti Shingane — were suspended over the incident.
The inquiry shows that while the confrontation took place between 1 pm and 2 pm on June 23, Shetye collapsed in the bathroom in the evening. An inmate noticed Shetye lying in the bathroom with her dress soiled. She raised an alarm and other prisoners tried to revive her by sprinkling water on her. Hearing the commotion, jail staff rushed in and the resident doctor was called, who said Shetye be rushed to the hospital. However, she was declared dead on arrival by the JJ hospital.
“Around 1 pm on Friday, two inmates complained to the jailor (Manisha Pokharkar) that Shetye took away the eggs supposed to be served to them. Pokharkar then confronted Shetye. An argument ensued and Shetye was punched by the staff. They then dragged her to the stairway, which is not under CCTV coverage. We suspect she was roughed up there too. She was then dumped back in her barrack,” said the official. “ A few hours after the confrontation ,Shetye went to the bathroom, where she collapsed. It was an inmate who raised an alarm,” added the official.
On Tuesday, the prisons department received a letter from the Nagpada Police to hand over CCTV footage of the premises. “During the riots that broke out the day after Shetye’s death, the inmates broke some CCTV panel and cameras. The feed room is located inside, therefore they couldn’t enter that. We have the footage of Friday, but since a few cameras were broken on Saturday, those feeds are missing. The available footage will submitted to the police soon,” said the official.
Sources say that the post morterm indicates assault and states “evidence of multiple contusions” as the cause of death”. The probe has ruled out the allegation of sexual assault or those of Shetye sustaining injuries on her private parts. “While the inmates have complained of Shetye being beaten on her private parts, it has been ruled out in the medical report. We have sent her viscera samples for further examination,” added the official.
‘Indrani, Divya Pahuja guided inmates’
Other than Indrani Mukerjea, the police has identified Divya Pahuja, a Gurgaon resident arrested in the Sandeep Gadoli encounter case, as one of the prime instigators of the prisoners’ riots. “On Saturday morning, when the acting superintendent broke the news (of Shetye’s death) to the inmates, they started sloganeering, which soon turned into a riot. It was Mukerjea and Pahuja who directed the inmates to gather on the terrace so they could be seen by the media. Pahuja even asked them to use children as shields. They were the ones who raised a series of demands, including calling the press and being allowed to talk to their lawyers,” said an official privy to the case details.
The inmates used utensils given to them for meals as weapons. “A Thai national lodged inside the jail has the permission to smoke and is therefore allowed a match-box. They took that from her and set files on fire,” said the official. Among the items recovered during police searches are piles of ‘bra underwires’. Officers are yet to ascertain their use.
Kadam wants action against jail staff
On Wednesday, NCP leader Ramesh Kadam, accused in a money laundering scam, submitted a letter to Mumbai Police Commissioner DD Padsalgikar, asking him to take action against the Byculla jail staff. Kadam has alleged: “There have been instances of complaints of the inmates being recorded against them and them being labelled “trouble makers”. Inmates’ signatures and thumb impressions are taken on blank papers to make false counter allegations,” reads his complaint letter.
A prisons department official told The Indian Express that a few months ago, Kadam had had a brawl inside the jail, and had written to the commissioner to “settle his personal scores”.