All 291 inmates of Byculla women’s prison, including Indrani Mukerjea who is accused of murdering her daughter, have been booked for rioting and assaulting jail staff. “Since individual roles of inmates have not been assigned, all 291 female inmates have been booked in the case,” said a police officer. Murder convict Manjula Shetye’s death had sparked the rioting in the jail on Saturday.
“We suspect that it was Mukerjea who broke the news of Shetye’s death to the other prisoner after reading about it in a newspaper on Saturday,’’ said an official. “She and two other prisoners spearheaded the protest. When the police reached the jail premises, the prisoner had started attacking the jail staff.”
The official added that a few constables sustained minor injuries. “They wanted a few demands to be met and were ready to give up the protest only when a senior official spoke to them. Mukerjea was the one of the three inmates spearheading the protest and demanding the press be called in so that they could present their case and expose the poor conditions that the inmates are forced to live in.’’
Mukerjea’s lawyer, Gunjan Mangla, said she has been named in the case to divert attention from allegations of murder against the jail staff. “Due to the death of an inmate the prisoners felt unsafe and insecure. If she is found involved in the incident pursuant to the investigation being carried out by the police and prison authorities, necessary action will follow.’’
A police officer said that Mukerjea and a few other prominent inmates were given a microphone and asked to appeal to their fellow inmates to maintain order but their requests were not heeded. Several inmates allegedly rushed to the jail roof, where they set fire to clothes and newspapers and raised slogans.
An official said a fight over two prison inmates not being served eggs had led to a confrontation between the prison staff and Shetye. Her post-mortem reports points to evidence “of multiple contusions’’ as the cause of death.