Four accused, including three assassins of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who had escaped from the high security Burail jail in January 2004, had made two unsuccessful attempts to escape from the jail before they finally made it happen.
Babbar Khalsa International chief Jagtar Singh Hawara and Jagtar Singh Tara; BKI (India) operations chief Paramjit Singh Bheora—the three main accused in the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh—had escaped along with an undertrial in a murder case, Devi Singh, a cook attached with them.
All four were lodged in the same cell. The court on Tuesday convicted Hawara and Bheora and rendered their sentence as period undergone while acquitting 14 other accused, including jail officials. Two earlier attempts of the accused to flee in 1998 and 2002 had failed.
Book gave technical knowledge
As per the prosecution, the technical knowledge on how to dig a tunnel was gained from a book titled “True stories of great escape”.
The book was allegedly provided to them by Ved Mittar Gill, who was at that time posted as deputy jail superintendent in the jail. The book was later recovered from his possession.
While acquitting Gill, the court held, “Recovery of book alone cannot connect the accused to the conspiracy when the book is of the kind which can be found with anyone associated with jail.”
How the accused kept the entire operation under wraps
Accused Hawara and Bheora used to resist inspection of their cell by playing religious card. As per the prosecution, the accused had denied entry of jail officials in their cell saying “they were Amritdhari Sikhs and entry of others in the cell would defile the area”.
The accused had also put up curtains in front of the cupboards where as many as 40 bags full of dug earth were found stacked after their escape. The accused used to keep the water tap running round-the-clock and volume of the television high even during nights to not let sound of digging work go out.
Two blackouts during the night helped accused flee
The power supply to the jail was disrupted twice on the night the accused fled the jail. As per the prosecution, Narain Singh Chaura had disrupted the electricity supply to facilitate the escape, which came to light only next morning when the exit point of tunnel was detected at about 7am.
Accused rearrested from Delhi
Hawara was re-arrested in 2005 after the twin blasts in two cinema houses in Delhi. He was then brought back to Chandigarh. Bheora was arrested on March 23, 2006, by the special cell of the Delhi Police, when he was planning to set up base in Delhi.
The police had traced him after he contacted Harjeet Singh Gill, Babbar Khalsa chief in the US. Bheora had taken over the BKI after Hawara’s arrest a year before.