Type ‘Nabha Jail’ in Facebook search and Punjab’s high-security prison shows up as one of the most ‘checked-in’ locations in the state. Over 150 photographs have been uploaded on the social networking site by its inmates.
And it’s not just Nabha. Patiala and Faridkot jail inmates too regularly spring up on Facebook with selfies and other photographs from inside.
Still, even for Punjab jails, Saturday was an unusual day. FB activity from the prisons notched up a record of sorts when gangster Vicky Gounder of the Shera Khuban gang, currently lodged in Nabha jail, posted a claim to killing gangster Jaswinder Singh alias Rocky, and challenged Bathinda SSP Swapan Sharma to take action. Soon, more than five others from own jail cells had joined the queue on Facebook, claiming to have got Rocky killed.
Such was the rush that ‘prime suspect’ Jaipal, who is not in jail, felt obliged to post on Facebook too, rubbishing them all and saying he had done it. His Facebook update at 8 am on Sunday also placed him at Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh, where Rocky was killed.
ADGP Prisons M K Tiwari said that he was aware of the photos and updates being posted on Facebook from jails. But despite constant raids, he added, the smuggling of phones into jails continued to be “rampant” and police were yet to figure out the cracks in the system.
“Recently we conducted raids at Kapurthala, Nabha and Patiala, and recovered mobiles and other objectionable substances. We are not able to understand as to how smuggling of mobile phones is so rampant,” said Tiwari. A hint of despair in his voice, he added that he had ordered a fresh set of searches.
While the rush to lay claim to Rocky’s killing might be a first, jail has never come between Punjab gangsters and their social media accounts. In many status messages and photos posted from inside, prisoners, in fact, celebrate their jail stays.
‘Court te thana sadaa doja ghar na koi shaq, at Nabha jail, me with Sukha Patwari (Court and police stations are our second home, any doubts? Me at Nabha jail)’, reads one status by Mantu Grewal, updated on January 16.
The infamous Gourav Sharma alias Goru Bacha from Ludhiana, who is absconding since allegedly killing an autorickshaw driver recently, has on Facebook a photograph from his time inside Faridkot jail. Another photograph has him using a mobile phone with a handcuffed hand. The photos were uploaded by a friend.
‘Meri jaan jagdeep singh urf jaggu bhagwanpuria nd gourav sharma urf goru bacha …share as much as u can … fdk jail (My buddies Jagdeep Singh and Gourav Sharma… in Faridkot jail)’, says the caption.
Another picture of a handcuffed Goru using a phone in presence of the police is captioned, ‘Apna yaar Ludhiane wala Goru bacha yarra da yaar’ (The best of friends Goru)’.
In a Facebook post from jail, Nabha inmate Sukhi Sher Gill says, ‘Nabhe pain tareeqan ni tere vally yaar di aa (Your friend has his date with Nabha jail as of now)’.
In October last, two alleged gangsters Rajwinder Singh alias Laatu Sandhu and Ashu posted photos from Faridkot jail. ‘Ajj pinjre ch bnd. kal jit lao shareh. Waheguru g da khalsa waheguru g di Fatah (Today we might be imprisoned; tomorrow we will win the world),’ says the caption with Ashu’s picture. In another photo, he updated his status with two words: ‘Feeling fantastic’.
Of course, the unrestricted phone access isn’t reflected on just Facebook. Gangsters are also known to run extortion racket from jail cells, including Gounder, who was the first to claim he had got Rocky killed.
Bathinda SSP Swapan Sharma said, “These gangsters are becoming cult figures and people follow them blindly. Vicky Gounder with other gang members was running an extortion racket from inside. We will be taking the strictest action against them.”
A Bathinda police source said, “Almost every prisoner has a personal mobile phone. Whenever raids happen, phones are hidden in toilets and private parts. Drugs are hidden similarly.”
In a recent search at Modern Jail, Kapurthala, police recovered 11 mobile phones, seven SIM cards, three mobile chargers, one syringe, and some silver wrapper and material suspected to be used for consuming heroin.
Deputy Jail Superintendent Patiala jail Amandeep Singh Bhangoo, however, played down the Facebook activity, saying inmates were getting their friends to post on their behalf. “Just to stay active in their circle of gangsters, inmates often hire men outside jail who keep updating their IDs,” Bhangoo said.
Asked how inmates sent their selfies in jail to friends outside, he said, “I need to look into those pictures, I have not seen any such pictures of my jail so far.” As for the Rocky rush, Bhangoo said, “no mobile phone use was found from our jail. Still we are looking into who all have been tagged and who all have commented”.