MOULDS FASHIONED to match keys to locks, a knife found near a drain and non-functioning CCTV cameras that cover Block B of Bhopal’s Central Jail.
These are some of the pointers that have led senior police officers in Madhya Pradesh to admit that the jailbreak of eight activists of the banned SIMI last Monday was a result not just of lax policing, but of insider help and complicity.
Hours after the jailbreak, the eight were gunned down in an encounter in Acharpura about 12 km away, with audio clips suggesting that the police were instructed to “finish them all”, and videos that show personnel shooting at bodies on the ground.
A senior police officer told The Indian Express, on the condition of anonymity, that the extent of “inside help” involved in the jailbreak was “staggering”.
When contacted, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said it was “impossible to escape without inside collusion” and alleged that the jailbreak was facilitated by “funding from outside”.
“It must have taken elaborate planning over two to three months because it is not possible to make duplicate keys so early and without help from an insider,” said Singh.
The first indicator of foul play is the non-functioning of the three CCTV cameras that point to where the undertrials were lodged in Block B. “There are around 50 cameras in the jail, most of which are working, but these three being off together is far too much of a coincidence. They had been turned off,” said the senior officer.
Each of these cameras had a residual memory of seven days, and had been switched off for longer, resulting in a complete lack of any video footage of the area for the past week, he said.
“One of the three cameras was brand new, installed a few months ago when Rs 20 lakh had been left over after three other jails in the state had cameras sanctioned for them. We put it in Block B because of the presence of those accused under UAPA and terror cases. That, too, was turned off,” said the officer.
What also points to complicity are the key moulds found by officers, that were used by the activists to break out of the barracks. The keys were fashioned out of hard plastic toothbrushes, standard issue for those in jail, as well as sticks, said the officer.
“So they took off the brush, and were left with a hard stick. But somebody seems to have made the moulds for the keys outside, and given it to them inside. One theory is that they found a way to heat the end of the toothbrush or stick, and fit it into the lock. But that is very hard because the locks to the barracks are not inbuilt, but dangle on latches outside. To get the groove markings, one would have to turn the lock,” the officer said.
Another officer told The Indian Express that when senior state government officials reached the jail, a little after 4 am last Monday, they also found a knife lying next to a drain, near a wall the prisoners scaled.
“There were sharp instruments fashioned from utensils as has been said, but the knife that was found near the drain was a long, standard one. No prisoner is allowed these, and there are meant to be regular checks. The rope itself, fashioned out of bedsheets, must have been 50 feet long. It was trailing on the ground on the other side of the outer 35-feet wall, which they scaled down. They had access to far too much material, and too much work went into this for it to go unseen,” said the officer.
The officer said that after the activists attacked and killed head constable Ramashankar Yadav and gagged the other, Chandan Ahirwar, there were no other personnel in their way. “The watch guards were sleeping. Many personnel were on leave because of Diwali, as well,” said the officer.