The mother of a 21-year-old undertrial, who was killed in police firing during clashes that broke out in Ludhiana Central Jail, Saturday claimed that DSP Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal “shot my son dead in front of me”, an allegation that has been denied by the senior police official as well as the jail superintendent who said the woman didn’t visit her son in the prison that day.
Inmates Thursday attacked the jail staff after a prisoner, undergoing a trial in a drug case, died at a Patiala hospital Wednesday. One inmate, Baba Ajit Singh, died in police firing.
In a written complaint (copy with The Indian Express) to Ludhiana police, Ajit’s mother Meera Rani claimed that around 11.15 am, when she reached the jail to meet her son, the main gate was open and situation was tense. She added that there was stone pelting and jail officials were abusing the inmates.
“I was inside the premises when I saw DSP standing (whom all the policemen were addressing as Dhaliwal Sir) along with jail superintendent. The DSP then asked superintendent for his permission saying that let us teach a lesson to all these inmates today (Hukam karo, ajj ehna saareya nu bande banaunde han). The superintendent gave his nod and soon Dhaliwal started firing with weapon in his hand. My son saw me there and came running towards me. He hugged me but soon, on orders of Dhaliwal, my son was dragged away by other policemen. I was standing there, trying to say something when Dhaliwal shot my son dead in front of me. He collapsed on the spot and died. My son was killed mercilessly and illegally in police custody. He wasn’t involved in any hooliganism or clash. He just ran towards me to meet me. Dhaliwal has destroyed our lives,” reads the complaint submitted by Meera Rani, a resident of Maha Singh Nagar.
Rani was accompanied by MLA and Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) leader Simarjeet Singh Bains at police commissioner’s office. Bains said they will move court if an FIR for murder was not registered in the inmate’s death. “If police can book 22 inmates for attempt to murder even when a magisterial probe is on, then why can’t there be an FIR for Ajit’s death to identify the culprit who opened fire at him. We will move court if FIR is not registered within two days,” said Bains.
Jail superintendent Shamsher Singh Boparai questioned the claims made by victim’s mother. He claimed that there was no written entry or any CCTV footage of Meera Rani’s arrival in jail on June 27. “Record of each visitor is maintained and as per records she last visited on April 22. There is no written entry or CCTV footage showing her entry in jail on June 27. It is all a concocted story. DSP Dhaliwal and other senior officials were busy in handling the situation. We have CCTVs installed at every point from entrance to meeting area. With a riot-like situation in jail, how was it possible that Ajit hugged his mother in front of us and then was shot dead,” he asked.
Responding to the allegations, DSP Dhaliwal claimed that he did not fire a single shot and the firing was being done by lower rank policemen. “I am posted as additional SP jail cum DSP maintenance. I was busy in handling the situation with other senior officials. At my rank, I do not need to fire in air. Firing was being done by lower rank policemen. I did not fire a single shot. The woman has also claimed that when she arrived, gates of jail were open. Is it even possible that in a riot like situation, we will keep gates open when inmates were trying to escape? Why will we even allow a women to enter jail premises when stone pelting was going on? Even if she entered, will we allow her son to hug her in front of us? And above all, am I that foolish that I will shoot someone in front of his family? I am not that foolish,” he said.
Meanwhile, an autopsy report indicates that bullet hit Ajit on left side of his chest and passed through right back side.
Ajit’s father Harjinder Singh said that the autopsy was done without their consent Friday late. “We won’t perform the cremation till an FIR is registered,” he said. The body is lying at Civil Hospital’s mortuary.
Harjinder Singh claimed that his son was arrested in a ‘false theft case’ in March. “I am a daily wager and I have no money to hire big lawyers but I will fight till the Supreme Court if justice is not served. I will sell everything. My son has been killed without a reason. My wife was in a shock so she did not reveal the entire incident to us immediately on Thursday. She was threatened by officials in jail that if she revealed this to anyone, her entire family will be killed. But last night she spoke up,” he said.
Ludhiana police commissioner Sukhchain Singh Gill said that a separate judicial probe is already ongoing in death of inmate. “We will take action as per judicial probe report,” he said.
Police on Friday booked 22 inmates on charges of attempt to murder. At least one prisoner, identified as Aman Kumar alias Deepak, an undertrial in a theft case, managed to escape during the mayhem.
Family of another inmate Sunny Sood whose death triggered the clash, performed the cremation Friday.