Broken fences, open gate: The jail hardly posed a challenge

SIMI undertrials formed “human pyramids” to help each other scale the prison walls and also used wooden logs and bed sheets to make good their escape

November 02, 2016 12:40 am | Updated 02:17 am IST - Bhopal:

in the line of duty: Jail head constable Ramashankar Yadav, who was killed by the suspects early on Monday.

in the line of duty: Jail head constable Ramashankar Yadav, who was killed by the suspects early on Monday.

The eight SIMI suspects who allegedly escaped from the Bhopal Central Prison before being gunned down on Monday used wooden logs and bed sheets to make a ladder, using which they scaled a 35-foot wall, said jail officials and the police.

Since this arrangement alone was apparently not enough, the undertrials also formed “human pyramids” to help each other climb over the walls, the officials told The Hindu .

Describing the structure of the jail walls, Deputy Inspector General of Prisons M.R. Patel said the prisoners first formed human pyramids to scale a 10 foot wall immediately after getting out of from their cells. Iron spikes on this wall made their job easier.

Thereafter, they found themselves behind a 35-foot wall, their only physical obstacle to freedom at that point. “That wall is joined by a 20-foot wall that serves to separate two wards of the prison. Some of them first climbed the short wall using their ladders before hauling up their associates,” Mr. Patel told The Hindu .

A similar arrangement was then made to scale the remaining height of the connected outermost wall, he said, based on the initial probe. Once all prisoners were on top of the outermost wall, they apparently used bed sheets tied together to climb out to their freedom.

Lack of security

A visit by The Hindu to the jail’s periphery on Tuesday revealed the absence of any security apparatus to stop the prisoners once they manage to scale the outermost wall. A 50-metre walk from that outermost wall to the main road sees no patrolling by security guards. Broken fences and an open gate hardly pose a challenge.

“Three of us are deployed at the main gate, but we have no instructions to patrol the area,” said Umrav Singh, a guard at the jail’s main entrance located less than 50 metres from the spot the SIMI men escaped.

Jail officials said the eight SIMI suspects were among 21 “high-risk” prisoners lodged in separate cells. Two men, a head warder and a warder, are deployed to guard them. Overall, there were 29 suspected SIMI operatives at the jail that has a capacity of 2,650 inmates, but accommodates around 3,400 prisoners.

Makrand Deouskar, Inspector-General (Law & Order), said all the eight suspects were kept in the same ward as this arrangement made it easy to manage their security and arrange videoconferencing during their ongoing trial.

Little time to interact

“These high-risk prisoners get to interact for very little time, mainly while bathing or washing clothes. The men must have planned their escape during these meets,” said a jail official.

Two or three prisoners allegedly carved their toothbrushes in the shape of keys, which they used for opening the locks of their cells. “Those who managed to escape then killed one guard and tied the other before collecting the keys from them to free their associates,” said Mr. Patel.

The prisoners are provided aluminium plates and spoons at the jail. “They sharpened these items to make weapons,” he said.

Since the SIMI suspects were not convicted, they were dressed in civil clothes. “They can wear shoes, but watches are not allowed,” he said when asked whether it was possible that the clothes, footwear and accessories found on these prisoners at the time of their deaths were the same they wore in jail.

Mr. Patel acknowledged that there were lapses by the jail personnel and said four of them had been suspended. “The men on the watchtowers should have spotted the prisoners,” he said, adding they had orders to shoot at inmates attempting to escape.

It must be mentioned that the police did at no time produce the bed sheets used for the escape, nor demonstrate how the locks could be picked by keys fashioned out of toothbrushes. The police claim the logs used for the makeshift escape ladder were lying near the outer perimeter wall. They believe the ladder was fashioned after the prisoners scaled the first wall, but did not give a specific number to the bedsheets used for the escape.

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