Was the October 31 early morning Bhopal Central jailbreak avoidable?
A source in the police department has revealed that the jail department officials, in a series of letters, had requested Bhopal Central jail and the state police headquarters to bolster security, post the Uri attack and surgical strikes, but no concrete measures were taken in this regard
The question remains if the government, jail department and state police could have averted the Monday morning jailbreak by taking a serious note of the communications.
In his letter to Bhopal jail superintendent Akhilesh Tomar on October 3, additional DG-Jail Sushovan Banerjee had sought a streamlined security at the jail post Uri attacks.
Acting on the matter, Tomar wrote three days later to DG-Jail, seeking two additional armed guards of Special Armed Force (SAF) at the jail, which housed 3,000-plus inmates. The inmates included 29 SIMI men, Maoists extremists and other hardened criminals. The jail already had two armed SAF guards manning watch towers at Block A and B.
Just a few days later, DIG-Jail Sanjay Pandey wrote to additional DG (intelligence) at state PHQ, seeking SAF armed guards, which, however, never landed at Bhopal Central Jail.
It is perhaps these series of alerts that had prompted the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on concluding day of collector’s and SPs conference to express concern over state of security at jails.
In March 2016, DG, Jail had reviewed security arrangements. After review, an order was passed by the then DG jail VK Singh of patrolling by armed security personnel from 10 PM to 5 AM. “The order had been passed for the surveillance of 29 SIMI men lodged in the jail,” said RS Vijaywargiya, who retired from the post of DIG (jail) in March.
Not only this, three years back, then IG Jail GK Agrawal had written to then MP chief secretary Anthony Desa and also central government about the lax in security at MP jails, in wake of October 1, 2013 early morning escape by six SIMI men from Tantya Bheel Jail in Khandwa district. Despite being a high-security prison, there was paucity of staff at the jail. While 50 posts of jail guards still lie vacant, 70 of the 200 staff are newly recruited guards.
On October 31, when the entire world was sleeping after a memorable Deepawali, the SIMI men allegedly escaped from the jail after murdering head warder of B block, Ramashankar Yadav.
According to sources at Bhopal jail unlike regular days, there was no circle guard to keep watch on the B block.