Sikh militants lodged in the Nabha "maximum security" jail were not only busy working out in an illegal gymnasium, but were also in touch on the mobile phone with fugitive terrorists living abroad.
The police spotted the gymnasium and recovered 12 mobile phones during their recent search to locate a tunnel on the jail premises, following an alert sounded by intelligence agencies. The jail has a total of about 650 inmates, but the gym facility was being used "exclusively" by the 50-odd Sikh militants. The entire equipment was seized by the police on Friday.
The gymnasium set up by the pro-Khalistan Sikh Organisation for Prisoner Welfare (SOPW) was "allowed" by then director general of police (DGP, jails) Shashi Kant.
"I allowed the SOPW to set up the gymnasium on Shashi Kant's verbal orders," said jail superintendent Gurpal Singh Saroya. He said the jail authorities had sent a communication to the headquarters, seeking mandatory written permission for the gymnasium, but had received no reply so far.
It is learnt that the prisons department has sent a secret communication to the home secretary, Punjab, for a probe into the matter. The communication has also brought under scrutiny Kant's role in allowing SOPW, a unit of UK-based radical Sikh organisation Akhand Kirtani Jatha, to install the gymnasium equipment for militants, sources said.
The SOPW has held protests in favour of Sikh militants Balwant Singh Rajoana and Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, who are both facing the gallows.
Mobile call details of jail inmates have revealed that the militants were in constant touch with their colleagues in Germany, UK, other European countries, the US and the Middle East.
"We suspect that militants were using voice over internet protocol (VOIP) technology to make overseas calls. Mobile tower locations have shown that the calls were made not only from the jail, but also from places en route the district courts. The SIM cards were purchased on the basis of fake identities," said DIG (deputy inspector general) LK Yadav, who is supervising the probe being conducted by the Patiala district police.
Despite repeated attempts, Shashi Kant could not be contacted. Kant served as the DGP (prisons) from September 2011 till his retirement on June 30, 2012.