The fleeing of 8 SIMI activists and their subsequent killing in an encounter has raised questions not just about the inmates but about the security and functioning of Bhopal Central Jail.
The Indian Express reports, that mould fashioned to match lock keys, a knife under the drain and non-functioning CCTV camera around the Block of those 8 activists hint that an insider was party in helping the activists escape.
A senior police officer told The Indian Express, on the condition of anonymity, that the extent of “inside help” involved in the jailbreak was “staggering”. Seconding it, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said that it was “impossible to escape without inside collusion” and also alleged that the jailbreak was facilitated by “funding from outside.”
“It must have taken elaborate planning over two to three months because it is not possible to make duplicate keys so early and without help from an insider,” said Singh.
As per a senior officer of the jail, the CCTV cameras above the cells of the undertrials were non-functioning. This looks odd because the other cameras were in working condition around the jail, only these 3 being turned off. Moreover, the CCTV cameras had a residual memory of seven days and in order to delete that too, they had been switched off for the past week, added the officer.
“One of the three cameras was brand new, installed a few months ago when Rs 20 lakh had been left over after three other jails in the state had cameras sanctioned for them. We put it in Block B because of the presence of those accused under UAPA and terror cases. That, too, was turned off,” said the officer.
On the issue of duplicate key moulds, the officer said, “So they took off the brush, and were left with a hard stick. But somebody seems to have made the moulds for the keys outside, and given it to them inside. One theory is that they found a way to heat the end of the toothbrush or stick, and fit it into the lock. But that is very hard because the locks to the barracks are not inbuilt, but dangle on latches outside. To get the groove markings, one would have to turn the lock.”
Talking about the third loophole, a knife near the drain, the officer said, “There were sharp instruments fashioned from utensils as has been said, but the knife that was found near the drain was a long, standard one. No prisoner is allowed these, and there are meant to be regular checks. The rope itself, fashioned out of bedsheets, must have been 50 feet long. It was trailing on the ground on the other side of the outer 35-feet wall, which they scaled down. They had access to far too much material, and too much work went into this for it to go unseen,” said the officer.
Ahead of the jailbreak by 8 SIMI inmates from the Bhopal Central Jail, the Madhya Pradesh government had been warned in 2014 by a retired jail official about the “vulnerable points, illogical security arrangements and deplorable condition of staff” of the premises.
On Monday, eight activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) fled from the Bhopal jail, killing the head constable on duty. However, all of them were later killed in an encounter on the outskirts of Bhopal. Former Madhya Pradesh IG (Prisons), G K Agarwal, in a conversation with The Indian Express, said that he had written the letter to the then state chief secretary, Anthony Desa, on June 26, 2014 about the possible security loopholes and marked copies to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Intelligence Bureau.