The sight of foreign nationals kept at the Lampur detention centre in the Capital awaiting deportation taking leisurely walks outside the complex and roaming around in the neighbourhood markets escorted by unarmed policemen is nothing uncommon for the locals.
“These foreigners can be spotted any time during the day shopping and sipping tea at the tea stall accompanied by an unarmed plainclothesman. Sometimes they can be seen taking a walk to the market in Narela to buy fruits and chicken. The policemen, won over by an offer of cigarettes and cold drinks, do not even mind carrying the belongings of these detainees,” says Pawan Kumar, who runs a grocery shop in the village.
Another local resident, not willing to be named, says the detainees are even taken out in public transport usually accompanied by unarmed policemen. “A few months ago when a detainee fell sick at night, the police hired my taxi to take him to a hospital. Earlier, I used to offer my taxi to take out these detainees but later discontinued the practice in view of the danger involved. After all, these are all convicted criminals, how can you trust one,” he asked.
Satyawati, a local woman, adds: “The escape of the three terrorists did not come as a surprise to me. In fact, several detainees have escaped from the centre during the past few years. Every time someone escapes, the detainees are not allowed to come out of the detention centre for some time and the security is escalated. But things return to normal in a couple of months. It will be nothing different this time too.”
The woman says the boundary wall of the complex is just four-foot high and that too without proper fencing till recently. “For the past several years the boundary wall of the Seva Sadan complex that houses the detention centre has been without proper fencing after the iron angles and wires were cut and stolen. It was only a couple of months ago that the administration took up the job of fencing. Still the rear wall is without a fence. Security at the entrance is lax. One can enter without one’s identity being checked. Most of the times children can be seen playing cricket inside the complex,” she adds.
But the latest incident has created a sense of fear among the residents who now want security at the complex to be enhanced. “Before the latest escape, we did not know that hard-core criminals and terrorists are kept at the detention centre. Such people roaming around freely in the village are a serious security threat for us. A few years ago a detainee vandalised a grocery shop and beat up the shopkeeper in the presence of policemen. The government should do something about it, else we will launch an agitation to seek closure of the centre,” warns Pawan Kumar.