Widepsread violence erupted at the Dum Dum Central Correctional Home in the northern fringes of Kolkata on Saturday after prison authorities announced that family members of inmates cannot meet them till March 31 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic .
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As clashes erupted between inmates and police personnel, some buildings inside the complex were set on fire and prisoners indulged in stone-throwing. The violence that started in the afternoon continued for several hours, leaving many inmates and police personnel injured. Gun shots were heard and the police fired teargas shells to control the situation. At least three fire tenders were called in to tackle the fires.
A senior official of the West Bengal Correctional Services Department said on Friday that allowing families to wait outside the prison was against the concept of social distancing, essential to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Keeping this in mind, a decision was taken not to allow the meetings till March 31,” he said.
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“The inmates were upset at being denied meetings with family members. Some people have sustained injuries,” Prison’s Minister Ujjwal Biswas told The Hindu . However, he denied reports of fatalities in the clashes. Videos aired by local television channels showed an inmate lying on the ground surrounded by others. Ambulances carrying the injured were seen making several trips from the Correctional Home.
According to sources, inmates were also upset over the suspension of bail hearings for undertrial prisoners. Sources also said the prisoners tried to overpower the police and come outside the prison.
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Two other senior Ministers — Fire Minister Sujit Bose and Minister for Food and Supplies Jyotipriyo Mullick — also rushed to the correctional facility to control the situation. “At 12.20 p.m. we got the information that there was a fire at the correctional homes. There was a huge stone pelting. We tried to calm them but nobody is listening. I was also hit by a stone,” Mr. Bose said.
Following the incident, the State government appointed Peeyush Pandey as ADG Correctional Services with immediate effect.
(With PTI inputs)