Thursday, January 20, 2011

Political Prisoners in India: Jailbreak in Chaibasa, “Rebel trio flee with insider aid”

Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle Jan. 20, 2011

(from The Telegraph, Calcutta)

[Three Indian news reports follow.--Frontlines ed.]



Jamshedpur, Jan. 17: In a daring wee-hour operation, three hardcore Maoist rebels, under trial for the slaughter of dozens of security personnel in Saranda, made good their escape from Chaibasa Divisional Jail today, triggering a red alert across the Singhbhum-Kolhan region.

The unprecedented jailbreak, possibly with help from jail officials, has sent the state’s security establishment into a tizzy, with senior police officers rushing to Chaibasa and the West Singhbhum district police releasing pictures of the trio and detaining a sentry for interrogation.

Two of the three rebels — Motilal Soren, alias Sandeep, and Raghunath Hembrom, alias Nirbhay — were lodged in the jail three years ago for acts of insurgency in West Singhbhum.

The third and the most dreaded — Mangru Mahto, alias Dhirendra — had been transferred from Dhanbad jail. He was wanted in as many as 40 cases registered in Bokaro, Dhanbad and West Singhbhum districts.

According to West Singhbhum SP Arun Kumar Singh, the trio were last seen inside their cell around 7.15pm, when they were served dinner. They cut open the iron bars of the ventilator sometime after midnight and walked up to a godown on the premises.

They entered the godown, the door of which was surprisingly open at that hour, and escaped around 1.45am by cutting open the window grille.

IG (prison) Vijay Kumar Singh, who is in Chaibasa, said he was probing into the circumstances that led to the incident. Preliminary investigations suggest that a section of jail officials were hand in glove with the fugitives.

“Police and divisional jail authorities are probing the incident. I will recommend necessary action if the involvement of any jail official is proved,” IG Singh said.

Sources said night sentry Luise Bhangla was being grilled on the matter.

SP Singh too minced no words to say that the Maoists could have never escaped without help from jail personnel. “The lock and key to the godown door were found outside the jail premises and near the window through which the three escaped,” he said, hinting at insider role.

He pointed out that all keys to a prison were the responsibility of the jailer, in this case Mohammad Shamsuddin. The latter, who initially claimed that the Maoists had a duplicate key to the godown, was left tongue-tied when the lock and key were found outside.

Moreover, he couldn’t say why three hardcore Maoist rebels were lodged in a single cell against prison rules.

“There is no doubt that the undertrials have fled in connivance with jail officials. We will send a report to the government,” the SP said.

DIG, Kolhan, Naveen Kumar Singh supported him. “The jail administration is carrying out a separate investigation, but as far as our probe is concerned the jailbreak has been executed with help from insiders,” he said.

Senior police officers said the three prisoners were facing trial in connection with rebel attacks at Bitekelsoya and Baliba in Saranda forest in 2001 and 2002, respectively. They had killed over three dozen policemen.

The DIG said pictures of the three fugitives had been sent to all police stations across the Kolhan region and its adjoining districts. “We have also approached railway stations and bus termini, where photographs will be put up,” he said.

The state home department has taken strong exception of the incident. Principal secretary J.B. Tubid told newsmen in Ranchi that the department would act on the report submitted by the IG (prison).

The Chaibasa jail was built during British rule, way back in 1884, and not renovated anytime recently. The old and neglected edifice may have well aided the jailbreak.


Naxal jail break : Probe on to check bigger conspiracy

Jamshedpur, Jan 19 : The authorities are probing into a larger conspiracy in the recent jailbreak by three dreaded Naxalites from the Chaibasa prison in complicity with the jail staff, three of whom have been sent to jail.

The three–Motilal Soren, Sandeep Mangru Mahato and Raghunath Hembrum alias Nirbhayaha–fled the Chaibasa jail in Western Singhbhum district dramatically by breaking the window grills and climbing over the jail walll on January 17 morning. Jailer Mohammad Shamsuddin, night guard Louis Tigga and main warden Kamal Ram were sent to jail yesterday for helping the trio escape.

According to the IG Jail office sources, ” A bigger conspiracy into the case is also being investigated.” Involved in severe criminal cases including killing of more than 40 policemen in landmine blast, the Maoists fled as a part of a bigger conspiracy, sources added.

”It is also being investigated if the criminals were in police uniform when they escaped , and if the money recovered from jailmen was given by Naxalites,” the sources added.



January 19, 2011

Central forces to man porous state jails

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, Jan. 18: Police today raided several prisons and the state government decided to depute central paramilitary forces in as many as eight district jails harbouring Maoist leaders in a panic reaction to yesterday’s daring escape by three hardcore rebel leaders from the Chaibasa Divisional Jail.

The jails, labelled sensitive for their vulnerability to rebel strikes in view of faulty construction and the number of Maoist prisoners lodged in each, are in district headquarters of Gumla, Simdega, Latehar, Garhwa, Palamau, Ghatshila (East Singhbhum), Chaibasa and Chatra, almost all of which are Maoist strongholds.

“We are going to have extra security in these jails. We have asked the administration of the respective districts to ensure deputation of central paramilitary forces outside the jails in barracks,” inspector-general (prison) Vijay Kumar Singh told The Telegraph.

Singh said they were also contemplating shifting hardcore rebels from less fortified jails to better ones. Moreover, there is a plan to build more cells and additional infrastructure to house more prisoners in almost every jail.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Singh said despite upgrading three divisional jails to central jails to create more space, most of the prisons in Jharkhand remained over-crowded. “Except for the five central jails, the rest of the jails are overcrowded. What is worse is we do not have adequate staff to handle all the inmates. As a result, jail administrations are forced to take help of prisoners, which is dangerous,” he said.

Singh said in most jails, convicts serving life tended to become the unofficial in-charge of the cell or even the wards. “As these unofficial heads are not accountable to the jail administration, they sometimes take undue advantage of the privilege,” said the senior prison officer. He pointed out that in the Chaibasa jailbreak too, some lifers were on the list of suspects.

He said the administration of various jails had been asked to ensure that the jail manual was followed strictly. Highlighting some of the lacunae in jail security, he said the move to engage former army men had not borne fruit.

Meanwhile, acting on tip-offs, the police today raided several jails. In Garhwa jail, the police seized 13 mobile phones, 17 chargers, a knife and other banned material. “Two SIM cards, a knife, a pair of scissors and a baton were also seized from inmates,” a senior police officer said.

During a raid in Gumla jail, authorities discovered eight cell phones, 10 SIM cards and two knives.

The IG (prison) said directives had been issued to district administrations and police to carry out raids in jails at regular intervals.

The state has 26 jails, five of them central, 19 divisional and two sub-jails at Tenughat and Ghatshila. Central jails are located in Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Palamau, Jamshepdur and Dumka.

Among the sensitive jails, the one at Garhwa lodges 150 rebels, 24 of them hardcore, while Ghatshila has 24, two of them hardcore. Chatra and Palamau jails have one hardcore extremist each, but that they are well-established rebel hubs make it all the more difficult for jail authorities.

In Ghatshila for example, the jail is situated in the outskirts, and houses Naxalite leaders like Ujjwal Sarkar and a few other hardcore rebels.

Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar, Ranchi, is well fortified but the presence of hardcore leaders like Nathuni Mishtri, Uday Shrivastava and Amitabh Bagchi is always a concern for the authorities.

Chaibasa jail, built in the British era, has several structural lacunae. It has one main wall as against the present norms of two. Also, the height of the main wall is about 12-14 feet instead of at least 18 feet, the norm for new jails proposed by the home department.

Concerned over the Chaibasa incident, state home department is now contemplating to ensure all security measures line cellphone jammers, CCTV cameras, baggage scanning apparatus, metal detectors among other things for a foolproof security apparatus.

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