The third death of a jail inmate in a week led to a violent protest by inmates of the Modern Jail here on Monday.
According to an eyewitness, the inmates were angry at the death of 70-year-old undertrial Harsha Singh, resident of Muktsar district, who was booked under the NDPS Act and sent to the Faridkot jail recently. Alleging negligence on part of the jail staff, the inmates pelted the jail staff with stones; as a result, two jail staffers were injured.
The jail authorities called the police, which fired teargas shells to push back a 300-strong gathering of inmates. The protestors also allegedly set fire to jail property in the canteen. They ransacked the jail premises and caused considerable damage, said a source.
Meanwhile, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered an inquiry into the incident to be conducted by Kotkapura SDM Darshan Singh Grewal.
The situation took an ugly turn as undertrial Harsha Singh died of an apparent cardiac arrest in the jail. The inmates alleged that he was not given proper treatment all night following which he died. They did not allow the jail staff to take his body out of the premises. The body could be sent for post-mortem only in the afternoon.
SSP Gurpreet Singh Toor said, “I got a call from the jail authorities around 9am and the police were there in 10 minutes. We did not resort to force, but had to use teargas shells to push back the inmates. Quick reaction teams were pressed into service. We also tried to pacify the inmates by addressing them through the PA system. Only two jail staffers were injured in the incident.”
Deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat also visited the jail and tried to pacify the inmates. “The situation is under control now. I have already marked an inquiry into the last week’s incident, which would be completed in a week,” Bhagat said.
The death of inmate Karnail Singh on April 17 had led to protests by the inmates, who had alleged negligence on part of the jail staff. Another undertrial, also Karnail Singh, died on April 20.
Meanwhile, district and sessions judge Archna Puri and chief judicial magistrate Dr Rajnish inspected the jail; Ferozepur DIG Parmod Ban and IG jails Jagjeet Singh also visited the jail.
Deceased Harsha Singh had around two dozen cases registered against him, most of them under the NDPS Act. He had been convicted in 17 cases and some cases were still pending.
Later, talking to reporters, IG jails Jagjit Singh said the cause of the death would be known only after the post-mortem report. He said those responsible for the incident would be dealt according to law.