April 26, 2010 2:47:19 am
With Naxalites upgrading their warfare capabilities,three overcrowded prisons in hyper-sensitive Bastar region and another in neighbouring Durg district of Chhattisgarh which lodge a number of inmates with Left wing extremist leanings have become increasingly vulnerable to attacks.
These prisons are overcrowded. The number of inmates with cases related to Naxalite activities itself is much more than the actual capacity of the central jail at Jagdalpur in Bastar,district jails in Dantewada and Kanker as well as the Durg central jail,making them vulnerable to a possible Maoist attempt to free their comrades and supporters, said a senior official of the state Jail Department.
Apart from these prisons,all other district jails and sub-jails with Naxalites have been asked to beef up security following recent intelligence inputs about a possible Maoist attack on prisons or jailbreaks, a Jail Department source said,adding that the authorities felt that prisons could become Maoist targets as rebels were upgrading their warfare capabilities using weapons and ammunition looted from security forces.
After lying low for about six months,Maoist rebels earlier this month massacred 76 security personnel,including 75 belonging to the CRPF,in its worst-ever attack near Chintalnar in Dantewada district and also took away weapons and ammunition from the slain security personnel. In the fortnight since the attack,the rebels have been mounting pressure by firing random shots near paramilitary camps in an apparent bid to make their presence felt.
It is not that the state government and the Jail Department woke up to the Maoist threat to prisons after the spurt in Naxalite activities. After the Maoists and their supporters attacked Jehanabad jail in Bihar in November 2005 and released a large number of Naxalite prisoners,a team of officers from Chhattisgarh visited the town to get a feel of what went wrong there and to work out the steps to be taken to prevent recurrence of such attacks in the state.
However,no lessons were apparently learnt and in December 16,2007 in a jailbreak at the Dantewada prison 299 inmates,including more than 100 Naxalites,escaped. Subsequent investigations pointed towards the alleged involvement of Jail Superintendent B S Mankar,who was arrested and jailed,while DIG (Prisons) P D Verma was suspended. During initial investigations,the police claimed to have found that Mankar facilitated escape of the inmates. They even went public saying the accused would have to undergo narcoanalysis tests. However,the tests did not take place. Later,the charges framed against Mankar fell flat in the trial court,which ordered his release pointing out that prima facie there has been no evidence to show that he aided the jailbreak. But,Mankar was still dismissed from service after three separate departmental inquiries.
A Jail Department spokesman said security arrangements in all jails were reviewed and tightened after the Dantewada jailbreak in December 2007 and all prisons have been put on a general alert. Highmast lights have been provided in the central jails at Jagdalpur and Ambikapur and at Dantewada district jail.
Pointing out that shortage of staff was an area of major concern,the spokesman said the future plans of Jail Department include a special security package for prisons in Naxalite infested areas,multi-storeyed barracks to enhance capacity and video-conferencing to avoid movement of inmates to courts.
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