In a nearly day-long ruckus inside Varanasi district jail, scores of inmates assaulted deputy jailor Ajay Rai, leaving him seriously injured, and held jail superintendent Ashish Tiwari hostage for hours, as the administration and police officials struggled to negotiate his release and take control of the barracks.
Officials eventually took a local Samajwadi Party leader, whom the inmates reportedly asked for, inside the barracks to talk to the prisoners who held Tiwari hostage. Pulled inside a barrack that was locked up from inside at 9.30 am, he could be released only around 4.30 pm after district magistrate Raj Mani Yadav, accompanied by SP leaders, held the negotiations.
Later in the day, Tiwari was transferred.
While the inmates claimed one of the prisoners had been beaten up by jail officials leading to the violence, DIG, Jails (Allahabad Region), Santosh Srivastava denied this and said the “strictness” shown by officials had provoked the prisoners. He said the ruckus was “pre-planned”.
Rai was assaulted when he was supervising the morning headcount of inmates. He suffered head injuries. Other warders and inmates involved in the scuffle escaped serious injuries.
Srivastava said the inmates had assaulted warders, damaged CCTV cameras and ransacked the jail property. The DIG denied calling SP Varanasi president Rajkumar Jaiswal to help talk to the inmates, saying it was possible he may have come on his own.
Jaiswal, however, said he had been called by the DM to help the negotiations. “I went to the jail because the inmates were not ready to talk to officials. They told the officials they trusted me alone. First I met the inmates alone. Later I talked to them with the DM and they agreed to release the superintendent.”
According to Jaiswal, the inmates were angry over “bad food” and “harassment” by jail officials, saying they were forced to work and faced problems during meetings with families.
Jaiswal said Tiwari was transferred due to this reason, and the DM had assured inmates that they would not face “excesses” any more.
Srivastava, however, said the transfer was purely on “administrative grounds”. Admitting they were yet to identify the inmates who had participated in the violence, he promised action against them.