The government was warned of the “vulnerable points, illogical security arrangements and deplorable condition of staff” at Bhopal Central Jail two years ago. The state’s former Inspector General (prisons), GK Agarwal, informed The Indian Express of a letter he had written to the state’s chief secretary, Intelligence Bureau and National Security Adviser on June 26, 2014, to which he never got a response.
His letter in 2014 was sent after a jailbreak in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, involving six Students of the Islamic Movement of India members. Agarwal told the English daily he had offered to meet authorities to discuss improving jails in the state. “After the Khandwa jailbreak, I realised how easy it would be for SIMI activists or other hardened criminals to escape, given the way the jail department functions,” he said, adding that he considered it his “moral duty” to inform authorities of the situation in state prisons. He never received a response to his letter.
His comments came after eight SIMI militants escaped Bhopal Central Jail on Monday after killing a security guard. They were shot dead in an alleged encounter with police later that morning. The incident has brought up several security lapses at the prison, including that many CCTV cameras at the jail were not working.
The state’s Home Minister Bhupendra Singh told The Indian Express said that it was likely the SIMI men had inside help with their escape, and that criminal cases were likely to be filed against prison officials. “It must have taken an elaborate planning over two-three months because it is not possible to make duplicate keys so early and without help from an insider,” he said.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who promised a National Investigation Agency inquiry in the escape, has ordered a Special Investigation Team be set up to look into how the eight men were killed. The encounter has raised criticism against the police, while the National Human Rights Commission has sent the state and jail notices following media reports on their deaths.
The state’s chief secretary, director general of police, along with the director general and inspector general of the state prison department have been asked to respond to the notices in six weeks. The NHRC said, “Specific guidelines have been issued by it [the commission], which have been conveyed to all the states/union territories for compliance in the matters of encounter.”
The SIMI members escaped from prison between 2 am and 3 am on Monday after murdering a security guard and were killed hours later. Their families have demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe in the matter. The NIA will look into how the undertrials were able to flee, while former director general of police Nandan Dubey will inquire into the security lapses on the part of the jail authorities.