Upset over Stalled Court Hearings amid Virus Spread, Inmates Set Portion of Bengal Jail Afire, 1 Feared Dead
The inmates had managed to smuggle in a large number of bricks, glass bottles, handkerchief soaked in kerosene and match boxes in the prison. An investigation is underway.
Inmates set fire to a portion of the Dum Dum Central Jail on Saturday. (Image credit: ANI Twitter)
Kolkata: A group of inmates set on fire a portion of the Dumdum Correctional Home here and clashed with policemen on Saturday afternoon after they were informed there will be no hearing of their cases till March 31. The state government on Friday also decided the inmates will not be allowed to meet their families till March 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While several inmates and policemen reportedly suffered injuries, sources said an inmate may have been killed in the incident. However, there is no official confirmation of the death so far.
A large number of dreaded under-trials are lodged in the jail, including top Maoist leaders and the kingpin of the Burdwan bomb blast.
In one of the biggest-ever jailbreak attempts of recent times in the state, the inmates at the Dum Dum Correctional Central Jail in North 24 Parganas district managed to smuggle in a large number of bricks, glass bottles, handkerchiefs soaked in kerosene and match boxes.
“The inmates were angry over various issues, including bar on court hearings till March 31 and demand for payroll. They are also upset about lack of masks and sanitisers on the jail premises despite making repeated requests,” a jail officer told News18.
Barrackpore Police Commissionerate Chief Manoj Kumar Verma was informed about a massive clash at the jail around 11.45am, following which he rushed to the spot with a large contingent of police force, led by the Rapid Action Force (RAF).
Not only did the prisoners set on fire a portion of the jail, they also hurled bricks and crude bombs at policemen on duty. Some of them even tried to snatch weapons from the officers.
Around 12.30pm, a portion of the main building was also set ablaze, following which the inmates set an LPG cylinder on fire.
Soon after, the police fired three rounds of bullets, leaving one of the inmates critically injured. Several rounds of tear gas shells were also fired to bring the situation under control. Some of the inmates were taken in to preventive custody.
Fire officers tried to enter the jail premises even as inmates rained bricks. Several fire tenders were also pressed into service.
State Fire Services Minister Sujit Bose, who left for the spot, said the situation was very tense. "They have set a major portion on fire. The reason behind the clash cannot be revealed now. Our officers are finding it difficult to get access to the area inside,” he said.
A high-level inquiry team has been set by the state jail department.
A senior official of the West Bengal Correctional Services Department on Friday said that allowing the families of inmates to wait outside the prison was against the concept of social distancing, which is the key to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
"Keeping this in mind, a decision was taken not to allow the meetings till March 31," he said.
In view of the coronavirus outbreak, a family member of an inmate can now only call up the prison authorities to enquire about his or her health.
(With inputs from PTI)
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