Back to back attacks on jail officials in Madhya Pradesh and in Odisha have prompted the All India Prison Officers Association to take up the issue of safety and security of jail officials with the Central government.
Deputy jail superintendent of Rewa Central Jail Mahesh Prasad Tikariya had a narrow escape in an attack by four men outside his official residence in Rewa district on Sunday night.
Sambalpur jail superintendent Bramhananda Sahu was stabbed outside the jail last week in Odisha. Sahu’s condition is said to be stable.
President of the association (national body of jail officials) and central jail Cherlapally-Hyderabad superintendent KV Reddy told Hindustan Times on Tuesday that the two recent incidents were alarming.
“I wrote to the Union home minister on Monday and will soon write to chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. In the wake of the two incidents, adequate security has been demanded for jail officials who are routinely under threat of criminals,” said Reddy.
“Salaries of jail officials in the country are already low when compared to allied departments like police. Now their security is also under a cloud. We cannot sit silently.”
The letter mentions about prison officers working in hostile and adverse conditions. There is no guarantee for their life inside or outside the prison and no steps have taken by the governments to ensure their safety, it says.
Almost all the prisons are understaffed and residential quarters are devoid of security. Senior prison officers are not provided with fire arms for self defense and no sentry pickets are available at vulnerable points, such as residences of staff or officers or outer entrance gates.
Attack linked to kidnapper’s escape
According to sources in Rewa district police, the attack on Tikariya could be linked to shifting of several hardened criminals from Rewa Central Jail to other jails in the state in the wake of high-profile kidnapper Balindar Singh’s escape from custody in May 2016.
The criminals, who were shifted to other jails, included Balindar’s brother-in-law Santosh who was also undergoing life sentence with Balindar in the 2005 Indore businessman Kailash Baheti kidnapping case.
According to sources in Rewa Central Jail, Santosh was unhappy over being shifted to another jail and had a heated exchange of words with Tikariya.
According to sources, since then, unknown people have been tailing the jail officials and filming their movements outside the jail. The palpable security threat was already communicated to the higher-ups of jail department by Rewa jail officials a few weeks back.
“Balindar’s escape led to suspension of Rewa central jail superintendent and shifting of his two deputies to other jails. Since then, jail officials transferred to Rewa from other districts, including Tikariya have been dealing sternly with jail inmates, owing to which several high profile inmates have been uncomfortable,” a Rewa jail staff said.
Jail sources claimed that the failed attack on Tikariya could be ensued by more dreaded attacks on jail officials.
Director general (Jails) of Madhya Pradesh VK Singh said, “We are in constant touch with senior police officials in Rewa. We have talked to top cops about investigations in the case. Also, we are not taking any chances with security of the central jail officials in Rewa, after the Sunday incident. We have asked them to remain alert.”
He, however, denied having received any information from Rewa jail officials about threats or people tracking their movements.
Transferred from Gwalior central jail to Rewa central jail following escape of high-profile kidnapper Balindar Singh in May 2016, deputy jail superintendent Mahesh Prasad Tikariya, was returning to his official residence in the jail’s close vicinity on Sunday night. As he reached near his house, one of the four men fired at him from close range, but the official had a narrow escape. The Rewa district police have lodged a case of attempt to murder against unidentified men.
The attack on Tikariya took place just a short distance from the Rewa district police lines, which exposes the state of police security.
This is the 6th reported attack on a jail official of Rewa Central Jail in a decade.
In 2007, then jailor Shyam Singh Baghel was shot thrice in the stomach from close range by unidentified assailants, while he was going for a morning walk.
Deputy jail superintendents Shanti Bhushan Singh and RP Mishra have also been attacked, allegedly for dealing sternly with jail inmates.