Prisons put on alert after intel warning

TNN, Feb 19
KOLKATA: Security has been beefed up in all state jails where Maoists and PCPA activists are lodged following a jailbreak threat. An intelligence report available with the state prisons department indicates possible jailbreak attempts in prisons with many Maoist prisoners.

Midnapore central jail has the maximum number of Maoists — 196 men and seven women — and hence the focus of the state prisons department is on this jail. All of these are undertrial prisoners (UTPs), some being PCPA activists but going by the charges, they have all been clubbed together.

After Monday’s massacre, Midnapore jail authorities are making it sure that the 203 UTPs should not spend too much time together. Chhatradhar Mahato, the former PCPA chief, is one of the inmates.

Among the other “hardened” Maoists here are Sunil Mahato, Chhatradhar’s trusted lieutenant, his wife Dipali, Sukhshanti Baske, former PCPA treasurer, and Prasun Chatterjee and Raja Sarkhel, two intellectuals of the Lalgarh Sanhati Mancha who had been arrested from Kolkata as Maoist sympathisers.

Chhatradhar reportedly spends most of his time reading newspapers and talking to other UTP “comrades”. The group of “senior” Maoist leaders have asked for the Communist Manifesto and some books by Lenin. Chhatradhar had officially put in a request to allow him to smoke which has been rejected.

The other Maoist “masterminds” who had been arrested are all in central jails in the city or in Krishnagar. Of these, only three have been convicted — Sushil Ray, Patit Paban Halder, and Santosh Debnath. Halder is in Presidency jail. Ray and Halder had been arrested from Belpahari for masterminding several killings and attacks.

Gour Chakraborty, the CPI (Maoist) party spokesperson till his arrest in the city, awaits trial in several murder charges in West Midnapore. He too has been kept in Presidency jail for security reasons.

Sushil Ray, the founder member of CPI (Maoist) and the “most dangerous” according to state jail department records, is presently in Jharkhand because he has been “requisitioned” by the Jharkhand police and he faces trial in several killings there. The state police will wait till the trail is over there and then he will be brought back for trial in cases in Bengal.

Among the other “senior” Maoist leaders, who await trial are, are Himadri Sen Roy alias Soumen who is in Alipore central jail. Animesh and Shampa Sengupta are in Krishnagar while Sabyasachi is in Dumdum central jail.

The UTPs are under special surveillance because unlike convicts, they cannot be assigned prison duties and hence while away their time chatting. “Since they have to leave the prison every now and then to appear in court for trail, we have instructed all the jails that house them to frisk them well to ensure that they are neither leaving or coming back with any chits of paper because these could be their ways of communicating with the outside world,” said B D Sharma additional director general, prisons. The wards of all the undertrials are also being changed frequently.

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