A Congress legislator’s demand from his government to ease restrictions in the Bhopal Central jail imposed in the wake of the alleged 2016 jailbreak by members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has prompted former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Wednesday to accuse the MLA of batting for terrorists.
In the intervening night of October 31-November 1, 2016, eight SIMI members had allegedly escaped from the facility after killing a head constable. They were gunned down within hours, not very far from the prison. Security measures in the prison had been tightened after the incident.
On Tuesday, Bhopal (Central) MLA Arif Masood had claimed that relatives of Muslim prisoners were not being allowed to bring food for their kin and nor was the prison administration making any arrangements for roza iftari (breaking the fast during the month of Ramzan).
In a video that surfaced on social media, the legislator was heard saying that he had asked Chief Minister Kamal Nath to remove the Director General (Jails) for for denying food brought by relatives of prisoner by citing security concerns. “I told the CM, you decide, or else I will decide,” Masood is heard saying.
Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was quick to take potshots at Masood, alleging that he was advocating the cause of terrorists. “It will embolden terrorists. The Congress has backed terrorists in the past,” he said adding that he wondered how a legislator could threaten the CM.
Owning up to his threat, Masood told The Indian Express it was wrong to deny eatables to 700 Muslim prisoners by citing a SIMI threat. Hitting back at Chouhan, Masood asked, “does he consider all prisoners terrorists? In Bhopal jail out of 3,200 prisoners only 700 are Muslims. Across all jails, the total number of Muslims is only around 20 per cent.”
When contacted, DG (Jails) Sanjay Chaudhary said the MLA was under the wrong impression. “I told him only the government can take a call. The instructions from the government are awaited,” he said.
“Arif Masood did not use the word terrorists. He spoke about easing restrictions for prisoners of all religions,” the Chief Minister’s media coordinator Narender Saluja said.
Home Minister Bala Bachchan said he was aware of the matter and the government would take a call after results for the Lok Sabha elections are announced and the model code of conduct is lifted.