The shocking murder of a terror accused at Yerawada jail in Pune on June 8–where two gangsters strangulated alleged Indian Mujahideen operative Qatil Siddiqui in a high security cell–has prompted the ‘reshuffling’ of inmates in jails across Maharashtra. The inmates have been shifted to other barracks, depending on the faction/gang they are affiliated to, in such a way that the threat perception to them is reduced.
The reason: jail authorities who reviewed the security at Yerawada jail found that basic rules like ensuring members of rival factions were not kept in the same barracks in order to avoid a confrontation–were neglected by the prison authorities.
Superintendent of Yerawada central jail, V Khatavakar, was suspended following the incident. Special Inspector General (prisons) Surinder Kumar, who reviewed the prison’s security, said: “Rather than ensuring that the two suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) members – Qateel and Himayat Baig–were kept together in the same barrack, away from other inmates, they were kept in separate barracks on either side of a passage. In the process, while Baig was housed alone, Qatil was clubbed with three other accused on the same side of the passageway. One of them, Alok Bhalerao, whose cell was next to Qateel’s, killed him with the help of another inmate, Sharad Mohol.”
“Terrorists are normally vulnerable as the threat they face from members of other factions/gangs is higher than other criminals. In this particular incident, had they ensured that Qateel and Baig were kept in barracks on the same side and the other goons in the barracks located on the other side of the passageway, the incident could have been avoided, as the barracks are locked,” said Kumar.
He added: “Following this incident, we have drawn up lists of inmates across other prisons in the state. We have shifted inmates who were housed with members of rival gangs or factions to other barracks to ensure such an incident is not repeated.” The jail authorities have drawn up lists of undertrials from gangs, like the Bharat Nepali gang and the Chhota Rajan gang, etc, and have kept members belonging to one gang in the same barracks.
Another lapse on the part of the Yerawada prison authorities was that after opening the barrack gates to serve tea, the gates were left open, said Kumar. “Here again, had the gates been closed, Mohol would not have managed to leave his barrack and make his way to the one where Qateel and Bhalerao were lodged. These seem to be minor lapses. Had these rules been followed the incident would not have taken place.”