CHANDIGARH: In a jail break attempt that could have scripted history and perhaps inspired movies if it had succeeded, around 1,000 inmates of Gurdaspur Central Jail rose in rebellion and managed to drill a hole in the outer wall of the jail on Friday night.
Sources said that the inmates were agitating against alleged harassment by jail superintendent DS Saini and started raising slogans against Saini at around 10 pm.
The prisoners proceeded to go on a rampage after they came out of their barracks into the jail compound. They first targeted the Langar hall where food stocks were kept and then broke down the mobile phone jammer. Then they ransacked the room where gardening tools were kept and picked up tools to drill a hole in the compound wall. All efforts by the police to stop the inmates using tear gas shells went in vain. Another strategy the inmates used to keep the police at bay was threatening them by saying that they would upload videos of police atrocities on the internet using mobile phones. The police seemed to have no clue about how the inmates had mobile phones which are banned in jails.
Around 2 am, the jail resembled a battleground as the 1000-odd force drilled a hall in the outer wall of the jail which was big enough for one person to pass through. But luck ran out for them at this juncture as reinforcements came in the form of 4,000 police personnel who were called from neighboring districts of Tarn Taran, Batala, Amritsar and Pathankot. The armed posse used gun power and tear gas shells to bring the mob under control. After around seven hours of mayhem, the prisoners started retreating to their barracks at 5 am.
Taking a serious view of the incident, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh convened a high-level meeting of police and Home department officials next week to review security in state prisons in the light of frequent incidents of violence and clashes in jails since the past several years.
At the meeting next week, the government will review the report submitted recently on jail reforms and will initiate measures to improve the prison administration in Punjab. In his preliminary report on the Gurdaspur incident, State home secretary NS Kalsi said the situation was resolved through the successful intervention of the police. The report says the incident occurred when a few gangsters, undergoing trial in several murder cases, incited inmates of one of the barracks to confront the prison staff after assaulting three jail warders on duty.
The home secretary pointed out that incident was the result of years of neglect of jail administration, about 50 percent shortfall in sanctioned staff strength, poor administrative structure and lack of equipment in the state’s prisons.
Since 2011, there have been more than a dozen such incidents of rioting and violent clashes in various jails across the state, the report said.
Some of the major incidents cited in the report occurred in Modern Jail Kapurthala (2011), Modern Jail Faridkot (2013, 2016, 2016), Central Jail Hoshiarpur (2013), Security Jail Nabha (2016), Dist Jail Mansa(2013), Central Jail Bathinda (2010, 2015,2016, 2016) and District Jail Barnala (2015, 2015).