25 crime lords, 160 gangs: Why Delhi jails are a security nightmare

May 03, 2023 04:49 AM IST

Tihar is no stranger to gang violence where gangster Tillu Tajpuria was brutally stabbed to death by four members of his rival Jitender Gogi’s gang

With 25 of Delhi’s top crime lords housed inside different jails in three different jails in Delhi -- where the total number of inmates tops 20,000 against a holding capacity of 10,000 -- the odds for the security personnel are staggering.

Relatives of Tillu Tajpuria, a jailed gangster and an accused in the 2021 Rohini court shootout case, outside the mortuary of Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, in New Delhi, Tuesday. (PTI Photo)
Relatives of Tillu Tajpuria, a jailed gangster and an accused in the 2021 Rohini court shootout case, outside the mortuary of Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, in New Delhi, Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

Read here: Tajpuria murder: Rights body issues notices; Delhi govt to conduct inquiry

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The country’s largest jail is no stranger to gang violence with members of different gangs striking at their rivals taking advantage of lacunae in security. Tillu Tajpuria allegedly conspired and planned the murder of his arch-rival Jitender Gogi at Rohini District Court iin September, from behind the walls of Tihar. According to investigators, Tajpuria even got live updates from the court on a mobile phone in his jail cell. On Tuesday, however, members of the Gogi gang struck back exploiting the same gaps in jail security that allowed Tajpuria carry a cell phone in prison.

According to senior police officers who have put many of these gangsters behind bars, the jail plays host to the who’s who of Delhi’s crime world. From Neeraj Bawana, Manjeet Mahal, Kala Jatheri and Neetu Dabodia to Irfan Chhenu and Hashim Baba -- Tihar is home to leaders of almost all big gangs. They added that with many of their gang members also lodged with them, the jail has become a volatile place in terms of security.

And, they said, there are no holy cows, as evident in the brazen attack on Tajpuria who is listed among the most notorious gangsters.

“One can’t rule out that now Tajpuria’s associates will also try to eliminate their Gogi counterparts. The fact is that the gangsters have become a threat to law and order both inside and outside the jail,” said Sanjay Baniwal, director general (prisons).

Before gangster Tillu Tajpuria’s murder on Tuesday morning, at least three other inmates working with different gangs had been murdered by their rivals in Tihar since 2020, prison records show.

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On November 30, 2020, an associate of Neeraj Bawana gang was allegedly stabbed to death by four associates of rival gang. Two years later on August 22, a member of Irfan Chhenu gang was allegedly thrashed to death by his rivals. On April 14 this year, gangster Prince Tewatia was killed by his friend-turned-foe Attaur Rehman alias Atwa and Vinay Sharma following a fight. The alleged killers were the members of Rohit Choudhary gang.

Senior police officers said that the three jails in Delhi -- Tihar, Mandoli and Rohini -- together hold members of nearly 160 different gangs.

Prison officials said smaller gangs often converge with the bigger ones when they come in contact with prominent members of the leaders of the other group. Baniwal said this regrouping and frequent change in allegiance makes it difficult for the jail staff to track their movement and asses the threat to each gang posed by their rivals. “Unlike other inmates, gangsters lodged in high-security jails make plans to settle scores with rival gangs by recruiting new members. Even in Tajpuria’s killing, the rival gang hired two new recruits, who were among the attackers,” said a Tihar official, asking not to be named.

Tihar jail has nearly 150 wards, of which 10 are dubbed high-sensitive wards. “We need more high-sensitive wards as these wards can accommodate a maximum of 50 prisoners. But due to dearth of space, we are unable to increase the number,” said a Tihar jail official.

Baniwal said that they try to create a balance to manage the numbers of prisoners and prevent violence. “We have limited wards and prisons. So, we can’t keep the members of different gangs in exclusive wards. What we do is keep an equal number of members of different gangs together to deter them from clashing,” he said.

The 16 jails in Delhi’s three central prison complexes have over 22,000 inmates though they are designed to accommodate 10,200 inmates. In Tihar jail number 8, where Tajpuria was killed by his rivals, there are over 2,300 inmates against the capacity of holding 1,200 inmates. “These jails are also short-staffed. As per the jail manual, there should be one warder for eight inmates. But in reality one warder keeps an eye on almost 700 inmates here. As far as availability of improvised weapons with the gangsters is concerned, we regularly conduct thorough checking of the inmates. But checking over 22,000 inmates every day is impossible,” Baniwal said talking about maintaining order inside prisons.

Read here: Iron bars bent, spoons turned into knives in war inside Tihar

To prevent another clash, Baniwal said an internal committee was asked on Tuesday to submit a detailed report about the incident within 24 hours. “We need to create more effective and immediate response time in such incidents. We are going to effect a major reshuffle in jail security personnel so that there will be no possibility of their mingling with the hardcore gangsters. The commandant of Tamil Nadu Special Protection Force (TNSPF), which is responsible for security on prison premises, has been asked to submit a detailed report after conducting the security audit of the Tihar jails,” he said.


    In his reporting career of over 20 years, Sanjeev K Jha has covered bureaucracy, politics, ISI activities in border areas, music and Bollywood. Presently, he covers crime in the national Capital.

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