Twenty-two inmates of the Ludhiana Central Jail were booked Friday for an attempt to murder, a day after prisoners clashed with the jail staff in which one inmate was killed in police firing. At least one prisoner managed to escape during the mayhem, Punjab Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said.
The missing inmate has been identified as Aman Kumar alias Deepak from Mandi Gobidngarh, an undertrial in a theft case booked under the sections 379/411 by Khanna Police.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Pradeep Aggarwal, who is also Ludhiana district magistrate, has started an inquiry into violence at the jail that also left at least six inmates and an equal number of policemen injured.
Randhawa, who visited the central jail to take stock of the situation and faced protests from the relatives and friends of those injured in the clash, ruled out any action against the policemen who opened fire at inmates.
“According to jail manual, officials can use arms and need no permission to open fire if a prisoner attempts jailbreak by any means. In fact, we appreciate the way jail officials handled the entire situation,” he said, announcing Rs 5,000 cash reward, promotion and commendation certificates for “officers who showed exemplary courage”.
Meanwhile, the family of undertrial Baba Ajit, who fell to the police bullets Thursday, said they would not let the cremation be done till a case of murder was registered against the persons responsible for his murder. His autopsy was done Friday late.
Ajit’s family protested against Randhawa as he visited Ludhiana Civil Hospital where injured are being treated.
Ajit’s brother Amanpreet Singh said, “We want the policeman who opened fire at my brother, to be booked for murder. He wasn’t among those who pelted stones at policemen. My mother had also gone inside to meet him. Police fired at him for no reason”.
The trouble started Thursday after a jail inmate, Sunny Sood, undergoing a trial in a drug case, died at a Patiala hospital Wednesday. Inmates alleged that he was tortured and beaten to death and wasn’t given proper treatment. The jail superintendent, however, claimed that Sood had consumed some poisonous substance.
Sood’s sister Renu Sood claimed that there were injury marks on his body and questioned how his brother managed to get poison in jail. “He was tortured and beaten to death. We want erring cops to be booked,” she demanded.
The families of injured inmates also protested and tried to gherao minister’s vehicle.
Meanwhile, the Ludhiana police filed an FIR against 22 inmates for opening attack on police party during the clash on Thursday. The FIR has been registered at division number 7 police station on the statement of jail superintendent Shamsher Singh Boparai under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of duty), 224 (resistance or obstruction by a person to his lawful apprehension), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance), 427 (committing mischief or damage to more than Rs 50), 148 (rioting) and 149 (unlawful assembly) of IPC.
Speaking to the media, Randhawa said that Sood, whose death triggered the clash, had no link with those who created trouble. “Sood was not linked to the gangsters in any way. They just took advantage of situation and provoked other inmates too as they wanted to escape. They plotted the violence as they were not being let out of high security zone,” he said.
He added that if autopsy report of Sood said that he was tortured, action will be taken against guilty officials.
Randhawa added that two cylinders were put on fire due tow which they exploded. An e-rickshaw for handicapped inmates and a vehicle of jail superintendent in which a meditation expert was ferried inside were also attacked by inmates. “It was not a gang war or clash between two groups but an attempt by some gangsters to break out of jail. The way staff handled situation needs appreciation despite manpower shortage,” he said.
Randhawa told reporters that in order to avoid recurrence of such incidents in jails, ‘Prison Action Force’ would be set up in the state prisons on the lines of the Rapid Action Force. Three companies of the central forces have been allotted to Punjab recently for the purpose, he added.
These would be deployed at Bathinda, Ludhiana and Amritsar, the minister said.
There are close to 3,100 inmates in Ludhiana Central Jail and 270 security officials on duty who work on rotational shift basis.