The sheer number of security lapses that facilitated the escape of two terrorists and four gangsters from the Nabha high-security jail on Sunday is laughable were it not so alarming. The ten or so men who sprang the fugitives from the jail drove up to the gate in broad daylight and bluffed their way in claiming to be policemen.
They were let in without a proper check of documentation, and even if the case had been referred to the jail superintendent and his deputy, both were away, attending a function.
The fact that the fugitives had free access to mobiles in jail and even sent Facebook messages to gangsters outside indicates the lack of seriousness in running a prison that seems to have been a high-security correctional facility in name only. In fact, as a former directorgeneral of prisons of Punjab has said, the Nabha jail was run more like a club than a prison.
Further, the fact that one of the prisoners, Khalistan Liberation Front chief Harminder Singh Mintoo, was easily recaptured because he continued to use his mobile phone, just adds to the Keystone Cops quality of this story. Clearly, security in our jails needs to be overhauled, not least because India faces a serious threat from terrorism, and prison security is an important component of our response to it.
This jailbreak comes less than a month after eight members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India escaped from the Bhopal central jail and were shot dead subsequently. They also used a loophole in the security protocol. There have been reports from round the country of prisoners freely using mobile phones and running their operations from within. Such laxity is deplorable in a country that is frequently the target of terrorism and has in recent weeks signalled to the world and to enemies that it will protect its internal security fiercely and retributively. Episodes like these take the sting out of India’s stern new security policy and therefore should not be allowed to occur again.