Exclusive | Bhopal Jail CCTV Cameras Were Tampered With: Sources

It is possible the SIMI men may have been taken out of jail and killed in a fake encounter, sources tell The Quint.

Published
India
3 min read
The eight alleged SIMI members who were killed in an encounter by MP police. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>/Anant Maheshwari)
Snapshot
  • Sources say that the Bhopal Central Jail’s CCTV cameras were found not working early on October 31 morning.
  • It is possible that the eight undertrials may have been taken out in a vehicle from the jail to Manikheda Patthar and “set up” in an encounter.
  • “One to two warders” including the head warder may have been involved in a “conspiracy” hatched with a few of the SIMI activists.
  • No pistol, country-made or otherwise, was smuggled into the jail.

Even as the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the alleged jail break and the questionable circumstances in which eight so-called SIMI activists were gunned down near Bhopal on October 31, it has come to light that CCTV cameras within the jail premises were tampered with.

Highly placed state police sources told The Quint that a cluster of three CCTV cameras were not found working early on October 31 morning – precisely 9:30 am – by which time the eight undertrials are said to have “escaped”.

When senior officers in overall charge of the state’s prison system sought the CCTV footage, they were told that there was none “because the three cameras had been damaged”.

This explanation is suspect because the Bhopal jail is a certified ISO-9001 prison and its CCTV cameras as well as other equipment were supposed to be of good quality and functional.

The Quint had earlier reported that there was no jailbreak and that the alleged SIMI men were taken out of jail by a team of police and Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) personnel following the killing of prison warder Ramashankar Yadav.

The sources revealed that “at least one to two warders”, including the head warder, were involved in a “conspiracy” hatched with some of the SIMI activists at least two days before the chain of events that led to the “encounter” at Manikheda Patthar in Acharpura village, about 15 km from Bhopal.

They, however, did not discount the theory that the eight undertrials may have been taken out in a vehicle from the jail to Manikheda Patthar and “set up” in an encounter.

While the state police, the ATS and the Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh have been speaking at cross purposes. They have given contradictory versions of the manner in which the alleged jail break took place as well as how the so-called SIMI activists got hold of country-made revolvers or kattas. Sources said that there was a “larger conspiracy” behind the “entire incident”, especially the encounter.

Senior police officers said that the “escape” of the eight so-called SIMI activists was demonstrated before Chouhan when he visited the Bhopal Central Jail four days after the encounter. The alleged circumstances in which the undertrials are said to have “escaped” by scaling three sets of walls, ranging from 8 feet (inner sector walls) to 28 feet (main boundary), was also ‘re-enacted' for the chief minister.

However, sources did not rule out the possibility that the “conspiracy” involving “furnishing a different story for the consumption of the CM” would “ensure that the truth about the alleged encounter never makes it to the police and government files”.

Speaking to The Quint over the phone, state government sources familiar with the layout of the Bhopal prison said that the eight undertrials were lodged in three cells in a 3+3+2 configuration. Late on the night of October 30, when Diwali festivities were on, “two or three” of the alleged SIMI activists had a fight with jail warder Ramashankar Yadav, who was assaulted.

Yadav subsequently died of injuries inflicted on him by a porcelain plate. Another warder was allegedly gagged by the undertrials. There was no trace of head warder Raju Khan who failed to turn up at the scene of the brawl in time to prevent Yadav’s killing.

Jail sources said that while the undertrials did make an initial attempt to escape, they were quickly rounded up by the jail warders. The prison sources emphasised that no pistol, country-made or otherwise, was smuggled inside the jail. They added that the “story floated” by a section of the police, that three to four kattas were used by the so-called SIMI men at the encounter site, was “pure fiction”.

“If the kattas were provided to the undertrials by outsiders, then the police should have arrested the conspirators by now. But that has not happened yet, making the police’s version of the events leading to the alleged encounter highly suspect,” the jail sources said. They added that senior police officers in charge of the state’s jails were “likely” kept in the dark about some of the “activities” of the police and the ATS after Yadav was killed and just before the alleged encounter.

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