Contrary to his claims of being tormented and persecuted in jail, underworld don Abu Salem is enjoying a lavish lifestyle even behind bars, where he not only has his own manservant, but also throws parties for fellow inmates with home food and, sometimes, even smuggled fried chicken from KFC.
Abu Salem was transferred to Taloja prison after gangster Mustafa Dossa attacked him in Arthur Road
This is the statement of Taloja Jail superintendent, Hiralal Jadhav, who is currently under inquiry for allegedly torturing the gangster. mid-day had run a front-page report about Salem’s allegations that the superintendent was coming up with creative ways to torment and drive him either to insanity or suicide.
Taloja Jail superintendent Hiralal Jadhav (inset) said Abu Salem had levelled a series of allegations against him because he had put an end to the gangster’s unwarranted privileges in prison. File pic
Salem presented several allegations against Jadhav in a 16-page affidavit to the TADA court, after which IG (Prisons) Bipin Kumar Singh initiated a probe in the matter. Now, Jadhav has countered Salem’s claims with his own five-page statement to the inquiry committee, exposing the several illegal perks he has allegedly been enjoying while serving his life term for murder.
Until very recently, Salem had an inmate at his beck and call to run errands and chores round the clock, said Jadhav in his statement. “The inmate, identified as Raja Utta Lingam Nadar (inmate no. 339), has been washing clothes, serving food, making tea, sweeping his cell and cleaning utensils for the don,” the statement reads. This was confirmed by the inmate, Nadar, in a separate statement.
Jadhav said that 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Salem was spoilt with privileges that other inmates could only dream of. Salem was accustomed to getting a supply of warm water every day, and was enraged when this was stopped. Jail officials even recovered phone chargers from Salem on various occasions, which meant he likely had access to cell phones in prison.
“Since I had stopped Salem from continuing with his illegitimate demands in prison, he made a series of allegations against me,” said Jadhav, whom Salem had accused of hatching a conspiracy to kill him with a poisonous injection.
Salem, in his August 14 affidavit, had also accused the jailer of demanding money to allow him to visit JJ Hospital for treatment, but Jadhav denied this and said the gangster was continuously looking for excuses to leave the prison, whether for court hearings or needless hospital visits.
“Salem made unjustified demands to be escorted to Delhi for his case hearings, despite the fact that the jail is equipped with video conferencing facility. In one year alone, Salem visited JJ Hospital at least 42 times for no reason. Even the doctors did not find anything wrong with him,” Jadhav alleged.
When he would return from these outings, he would often bring treats like food from KFC, with which he would throw parties for the inmates. A jail official, who did not wish to be named, said, “We have caught him bringing KFC chicken from outside for lavish parties. The food is shared among the inmates so he can remain in their good books and expand his network.”
Salem is also allowed food from home and he often orders enough food for two or three people. The extra meal is usually shared with an inmate housed in a nearby cell, Vishwanath Shetty, who has been sentenced under MCOCA.
However, when these privileges were revoked, Salem reacted with aggression and violence, stated Jadhav. “When jail officials stopped Salem from enjoying this lifestyle, he threatened them with dire consequences. He even manhandled the chief medical officer, who had refused to help him get out of jail under the false pretext of medical check-ups,” his statement read. When mid-day contacted IG (Prisons) Bipin Kumar Singh, he said, “Inquiry was initiated into the matter. But I will have to check the records for the outcome.”
Security or torture?
In July 2010, Abu Salem was attacked by Mustafa Dossa — another 1993 Mumbai blasts accused, who is a close aide of gangster Dawood Ibrahim — inside Arthur Road jail, after which he was shifted to Taloja Jail.
The court had instructed that Salem be guarded with 25 men, but due to a shortage of manpower, jail officials instead set up a CCTV camera in Salem’s cell and deployed two men to stand guard outside his cell.
Salem alleged that this was done not for his protection but to make him feel watched and under pressure at all times. But a jail official said, “Salem was against this since it was taking away his privacy. And it had also curbed his illegal activities in prison.”
Abu Salem, an accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, was extradited from Portugal in 2005 after a prolonged legal battle. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in February this year for the murder of Mumbai builder Pradeep Jain. He is also accused four other cases across Delhi and Lucknow.