Live Report A Day @ Tihar Jail
Tihar Jail in the capital city of Delhi sends shivers up and down the spine of many familiar with this slammer sprawling in kilometers and sheltering under its roof many who’s who. This one of the largest prisons in the world spins a ghoulish story with many twists, turns and turmoil. There are too many lodged and have been languishing behind bars for years and many are framed and implicated in some case or other. Many are rotting and dying by degrees for no crime they’ve actually committed. It is like a running Bollywood cinema but it’s reeling real and horrifically true. The souls inside having faith in faith and hoping against hope are wrapped in their own lives.
“I’ve been framed in a case of abduction with the connivance of the police. There is no evidence against me nor is there any witness deposing against me. I do not know why I’ve been serving a sentence. I’m an educated person and even got selected for a job with a handsome package but to no avail as there is no one who can take me out of here and raise the voice for justice. I get everything here so to speak but freedom,” Guddu (name changed) revealed.
“REFORMS HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT A CHANGE”—Neeraj Kumar
What has your focus been in respect of education in prison? How did you begin with the lower rung?
We go up step by step. Initially, it was 40 per cent illiteracy rate which has come down to below 5 per cent. The programme I am solely laying stress on is Padho aur Padhao scheme started in jail no. 6, women’s jail. There is a big and well-equipped library that helps one shape educational edges.
Is there any who has ever got through UPSC?
I have the faintest idea that one wrote and passed the prelims but couldn’t make it to the mains. But then someone got through a UP PCS exam.
Are there too many doing an MBA course?
There are six inmates doing this programme through open and distance learning from IGNOU.
Is there any one who got a job after doing a degree course?
Yes, every year there is a campus placement programme and MNCs and BPOs visit Tihar Campus, interview and select on a reasonable package. There are corporate companies like Vedanta Group, Frontline Group, Prabal Builders Pvt Ltd, Teach India, Relaxo Footwear and the like that come to Tihar Study Centre, Jail no.3 and pick the ones meeting their requirements.
Do you have vocational courses here?
It’s like Padho aur Padhao scheme, if you know it, teach others so that they spread the talent further. Here we have manual workers exceptionally good with expertise in different jobs like bakery, textiles, kitchen, welding, carpentry, electrical works, driving, marketing, plumbing, book binding, shoe making, screen printing and mobile repair. Let me add that few of them have got a package as good as rupees 45000 per month. Besides, we have programmes on personality development too.
What have been the changes brought about since Dr Kiran Bedi left ?
A lot has changed since then. Things tend to change with time. You can go and visit around the jail then meet me back before you finally leave. I am open to any remark whatsoever.
Tihar is said to be synonymous with terror, but the inside story is altogether different, what is it like?
They have been here like a home still far away from home. They gel well with each other, maybe they do not open up in the beginning but then gradually they start living like family members.
Started way back in 1958 with capacity of 1273, now the number has shot up crossing the capacity of 6250 to 12000, the wards and barracks have shrunk to house the swelling population of inmates. How do you wrestle up with this?
There are ten jails in toto including the Rohini one that absorbs the spill over. Besides, Mandoli jail is erecting soon that will ease the trouble to a great extent.
Many gangs inside the prison wield their clout by way of attacking others with blades. Why does it happen too often?
Maybe, it’s due to a grudge they harbor against one another that results in such a spat. Some do with an eye to extorting money for protection. But then this is a one off thing.
Where do these undertrails manage to get surgical blades from?
These criminals are very smart they may get while on the way to the court room on appearance, their friends or relatives slip a blade into their hands and they carry hiding it in their body cavity, wrapping it in carbon paper that at times fools the detective machines. They put it in a small polythene bag and swallow it in when back ‘home’ later on they throw it up and use the weapon to execute the planned target, to create panic by slashing across the faces of inmates so as to get money out of this. They settle a score with the rival inside.
In emergency like this where do you administer medical aid?
We have a proper hospital in jail no. 3 and nearby there is Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital. It’s a government hospital that goes on till night.
What are the in- house special courts. Do such cases go to them?
These courts take cases for crimes like railways, arms act, narco etc.
Those booked under NDPS get their daily fix well trafficked. What’s your say in drug peddling inside the prison?
Every point is sensitised both inside and around the prison. There is a thorough search at every single checkpost. Tobacco yes, but then we are keeping tabs on that too.
Tell me just a little about Sparsh?
Well, it’s a scheme started by the prison only. This helps those who are under a traumatic situation or emotional setback due to an obvious reason that they have had no one visiting them for over six months, this results in sentimental breakdowns. Out of jail funds, which generates out of sale of jail products prepared by inmates, we give rupees 500 to each one of 2500 such souls.
Many gangs are born inside the jail and also the racketeers lodged here operate even from behind bars. How do you keep a check on them?
Hardly has there been any mishap pointing at such tragic event. Besides, we have CCTVs and jammers working 24×7.
Justice delayed is justice denied. It’s a prison with a nightmare having a long night that ends in crime and cry. Within those high walls, crime syndicates and gangs are formed, revamped and shaped to execute their plans on coming out. Judiciary is crippling at a too slow pace with loads of pending cases on its crooked spinal cord. FTCs (fast track courts) have taken the load off still pendency persists. That also invites offenders to play with the gaping chinks.
“I was implicated in a case of 308; it was well drafted by an IO (SI rank) probing this tenuous case. Even higher official did examine but perfunctorily. The Inspector and Sub-Inspector colluded with the so-called complainant and pulled the wool over the top brass police official’s eyes. Ultimately, I had to bear the brunt. No evidence was found, prima facie. Fabricated evidence did not hold much water, and circumstantial proof did not corroborate in courts. Therefore, I was discharged by the Hon’ble session judge even before the charge was framed. The complainant whom I had no grudge with nor did I even know him well rushed in a huff to the High Court and moved an application filed for revision. It was sent back to the lower court and the trial began. All PWs (public witnesses) were cross examined along with the well-tutored doctor who prepared the MLC (medical legal certificate), unscrupulous and unethical IO (investigation officer) and other witnesses; I was acquitted on merits. The case had ran for more than ten years and that was the mental agony I underwent. I borrowed money from different quarters to fight this case from the district to High Court again back to the lower court. A huge sum of money was spent fighting it. The case took its heavy toll, I almost lost everything—mother, sister and lot more. I’m deeply obliged to the judiciary—I have an implicit faith in law but the police work hand in glove with local goons-turned-politicians who flout the law by taking it into their own hands. Some policemen in Delhi Police are religiously corrupt with no respect and ethics. They do not even spare their own parents for few hundred,” Sahil name withheld on condition of anonymity narrated a tale of woe.
There are many who get a higher education within those walls, get education at graduation level and get a job when they come out of judicial custody. The centre turns out around one hundred graduates every year. Tihar also provides campus placement as corporate sectors visit and select those few with upgraded education and honed vocational skills.
“ WE HAVE THREE LAYERS PROTECTING TIHAR”—Sunil Gupta
Law Officer and Spokesperson, Tihar Prison
How do you read the security of the prison and how do you catogrise those like DPS Bhullar, Afzal Guru and Sushil Sharma and Santosh Singh on death row with mercy petition waiting to be heard?
We have three layers protecting Tihar: CRPF then Tamil Police and DJ (Delhi Jail). Those on death penalty pleading for commutation are kept in a high sensitive zone where no one is allowed to get even near. Other those like you have talked about are kept in HRWs (high risk wards). Again there are certain restrictions. Those with political background and under serious charges leveled against them are segregated and kept away from other criminals.
Do the high-profile criminals develop the nexus with the security at the entrance?
They cannot do simply due to their language barrier with Tamil police.
Who can avail of phone facility and how?
Anyone can make a call from here. He can do that every day for five minutes within a specific time slot. One cannot exceed the time limit as it’s automated and disconnects on its own. Half an hour is given in a week if one does not call every day.
Are such calls made from inside kept under surveillance and tracked down as well if found fishy?
Yes. The whole operation is shown up on the radar. The call, the caller and the person whom such call is made are recorded.
The history is a witness to the cases of jail break in the past. Have those gaps been plugged?
Now it’s completely foolproof. There were two instances but in the right term they were not actually, Sher Singh Rana ran off playing tricks on fake policemen. Charles Sobhraj drugged those on guard and slipped off scaling over the wall.
Can you please elaborate on the programmes the jail admin keeps organising?
We have around 45 NGOs working in Tihar. We often organise cultural and musical shows. Besides other numerous workshops on various vocational studies and personality grooming, we conduct programmes on yoga and meditation. Neeraj sir has initiated a plethora of projects with a view to improving the condition of those lodged here like Sparsh helping those who feel left out with no one visiting them at all. He has put many cogs in the wheel. We have tournaments and other sports contests and boost the winners with numerous awards.
How do you see the problems of toilets, pigeonhole barracks, water and sodomy?
I personally believe that there should not be a lackadaisical approach to anything. They are quite in better shape as compared to years before. We do not keep two inmates in one single barrack to avoid any thing unpleasant. Instead we keep five-six inmates in one barrack and they can easily stretch their legs.
In India jails like Bhondsi in Haryana, Dasna in UP, Arthur in Mumbai, Begusarai in Bihar and the like are known for notoriety but Tihar in Delhi stands the name tallest in Asia not because this largest prison with ten big jails houses the likes of Afzal Guru, Sushil Sharma, Romesh Sharma, Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, Santosh Singh and VVIP scamsters and racketeers but for its good work over the last couple of years.
The jail has undergone a big makeover during the stint of Neeraj Kumar, Director General of Prison. Jail number 2 is where convicts are lodged, they work in factories and other manufacturing units. This production raises the turnover to the tune of Rs 12.35 crore. Each of the convict worker gets paid in three slabs, the lowest rupees 70 and the highest rupees 90 a day.
Some are excellent musicians—they play different equipment with great finesse and also there are some exceptionally good artists and painters. Those who were aggressive at the slightest provocation are silent now. Many convicts who work from 6 in the morning onwards till 4 in the evening have embraced this format of life as an ultimate end scripted in destiny. Convicts can keep their own personal television set as long as they serve their term and on completion they have to leave them behind to the prison authorities. Each jail has a religious place for those who worship gods to help them out soon.
The most bizarre aspect of the whole story is that how a new criminal gets influenced by the old ones. At the beginning of his coming to jail they behave with him like elder brothers, even care for his food, protect him, spend money on him for some days in the beginning and after taking him in good faith they reveal their colour by putting forth their demands. They ask him to get them money, clothes and rich food that includes ghee, fruits, sweets and the like from his parents. Above all, they instruct him to give money to a person/persons (their relatives and mentors) outside the jail, an old modus operandi. Terror is sold at an exorbitant price. In jails, all are equal and get equated. A major chunk of inside dwellers comprises light finger community (machines and theks) and drug addicts who for few rupees go berserk gashing other inmates’ faces. Their ego is so fragile that prompts them to go at anyone irrespective of who and what they are. Once in Tihar, new buddies stepping into the world of crime feel all the more proud as if they have been certified by some university. To continue with the same tag they capitalise on their stay in jail.
By Syed Wazid Ali