Narrow and lofty Persian-style entrance, black-stoned wide walls and Arabic scriptures carved in stone slab. If you thought this is another write-up about a heritage building, you are wrong.
Unlike other monuments, the doors of this 15th Century structure are not open for the public. Located on the outskirts of the city, this ancient building belonging to the Adil Shahi era houses the Bijapur district Central Jail, one of the oldest prisons in the country.
Built in 1640 by Nawab Mustafa Khan, a noble of Mohammad Adil Shah, the jail was earlier a sarai (inn) constructed only for the king’s special guests. It was converted into a jail in 1885 by the British government.
“The British appointed Capt. Wilkinson to suggest which of the monuments of the Adil Shahi era could be converted into administrative buildings. After a survey, Wilkinson recommended to the government that the sarai could be converted into a jail,” Krishna Kolhar Kulkarni, historian, said.
According to the jail authorities, the prison was meant to house only 290 men and 25 women. Today, it has over 600 inmates, 30 of them women and there is a demand for a bigger and contemporary-style jail.
The jail authorities said that the building could not be expanded because of its architectural design. “The Public Works Department has given a report saying changes could not be made,” an official said. Even closed-circuit television cameras could not be installed in the barracks, he said.
Each barrack has a small arched-shaped room which is less than six ft tall. The barrack does not have clear visibility, and it is impossible to install CCTV cameras. “The entire structure is such that it is no good to be called a jail,” the official said.
R. Anitha, Jail Superintendent, told The Hindu that the government agreed for a relocation only if the district administration provided at least 100 acres of land. Since it was not available, the proposal has been pending for years,” she said.
She, however, said the district administration recently proposed to grant 79 acres. “The government will be informed about it and if it gets approval, the process of constructing a new jail will begin soon,” she added.