West Bengal's prisons have almost turned into free hi-tech communication zones for terror suspects.
Members of terror groups such as Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), and even Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents, regularly make phone calls and video calls to associates outside, using applications such as Skype, V-Chat, Viber and Tango for face-to-face chats with their counterparts in Pakistan, Dubai and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, a source in Alipore Central Jail told HT.
High-end Android phones and SIM cards are easily available at a premium through a network of convicts and their contacts outside prison. According to the source, some prison guards smuggle in phones for just Rs. 1,500 more than over a handset's price and inmates returning from court appearances also act as conduits. Inmates disassemble the phones and hide the parts at different locations like gardens, cracks of walls and toilets.
"One has to shell out Rs. 150-Rs 200 (for a SIM card)," the source added. "There is a network in operation, which buys such SIM cards in bulk and sells them to whoever needs them."
Prison authorities say they have been cracking down on smuggling in of phones. Two years ago, more than 350 cellphones were seized during raids in five central jails in the state, including Alipore Central Jail, Presidency Central Jail, Dumdum Central Jail, Jalpaiguri Central Jail and Behrampore Central Jail.
"We keep on seizing a number of cellphones from inmates during frequent raids, and some of these are high-end ones," said additional director general (prisons) Adhir Sharma. "We are doing the needful to curb the menace."
The issue was discovered during the interrogation of Ashabuddin alias Shaukat, a convict in the 2001 abduction case of Khadim Shoes owner Partha Roy Barman, by Delhi Police. Shaukat, who was lodged in the Alipore Jail before he was handed over to the Special Cell, admitted to making calls to Pakistan while in prison.
Happy Singh, another convict in the Khadim abduction case, who was recently murdered in Presidency Central Jail, used to operate a Facebook account under the pseudonym Aman Singh.