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MADHYA PRADESH Home Minister Bhupendra Singh Tuesday said criminal cases were likely to be filed against jail officials because it would have been impossible for the eight SIMI activists to escape from the Bhopal Central Jail without their collusion.
“It is a serious security lapse and amounts to sedition. They were getting VIP treatment in their cells and enjoyed more facilities than other undertrials, probably because they were plied with cash. It’s not possible unless someone was funding them from outside,” Singh told The Indian Express.
“It must have taken an elaborate planning over two-three months because it is not possible to make duplicate keys so early and without help from an insider,” he said while ruling out an NIA probe into the encounter that followed.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Monday promised an NIA probe but Singh said it was only into the jailbreak. A special investigation team (SIT) was formed to investigate the encounter and it will submit its report to the DGP.
While claiming that he did not know why some CCTV cameras installed in the jail premises were not functional, the minister said the SIMI activists knew which part of the prison was not covered and used that portion to escape using a makeshift rope ladder made of bedsheets and blankets. When asked about the clothes, shoes and watches found on the bodies, he said they were undertrials and not required to wear clothes meant for convicts.
Jail Minister Kusum Mehdele, however, described the non-functional CCTV cameras as “a small lapse”. She said the fault had been rectified. When asked if the CCTV cameras could have been deliberately tinkered with, she did not rule it out, saying, “If someone is found guilty he will be punished irrespective of whether he is an insider or outsider.’’
A senior jail official blamed the non-functional CCTV cameras on a private company that has a contract to maintain it. One of the suspended jail officials on condition of anonymity said the SIMI activists had to tackle only two locks and claimed it was possible to make duplicate keys with some effort.
Meanwhile, Khandwa town to which five of the eight slain SIMI activists belonged remained tense on Tuesday. Firecrackers had been let off in the communally sensitive town Monday after the news of the encounter reached.
On Tuesday, the bodies of the slain undertrials were handed over to the relatives. The post mortem was conducted on Monday. Unlike the encounter site on the outskirts of Bhopal, there were very few people outside the Hamidia Hospital mortuary in Bhopal. Police had set up few barricades near the mortuary.
An ambulance carrying five bodies left Bhopal and reached Khandwa late evening. Though Sheikh Mehboob alias Guddu, Zakir Hussain, Amzad Khan, Mohammed Salik and Akeel Khilji lived in different localities, their bodies were taken to Gulmohar Colony and then to a burial place two km away. A Khandwa-based advocate said there was stone pelting when the funeral procession passed Tapalchal Mohalla.