Byculla Jail inmates flung chilli powder, burned records during riot

Byculla Jail authorities reveal how several inmates broke locks, climbed on the roof and tried to overpower security at the main exit; the prisoners, however, tell police they are being framed to cover up warden Shetye's assault

Byculla jail officers assault 40-year-old murder convict Manjula Govind Shetye, who is later found unconscious in her barrack and rushed to JJ Hospital. However, before treatment can start, doctors there declare her dead.
Byculla jail officers assault 40-year-old murder convict Manjula Govind Shetye, who is later found unconscious in her barrack and rushed to JJ Hospital. However, before treatment can start, doctors there declare her dead.

Even as a riot-like situation at Byculla jail on Saturday put authorities in a tight spot, it has now emerged that the incident could have taken a turn for the worse had the inmates' plan to escape prison not gone awry. Prison sources reveal that several prisoners had taken advantage of the chaos and planned a jailbreak.

However, timely action by officials helped the authorities save face. The police have now invoked Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code against a few inmates for the jailbreak attempt.

On Friday, 40-year-old murder convict Manjula Govind Shetye, was at the centre of a ruckus after authorities did not serve eggs and pav to some inmates.

It is alleged that the jail officer and staff called her into a separate room later and assaulted her on two occasions. In the evening, she was found unconscious in her barrack and rushed to JJ Hospital on the recommendation of the medical officer with the jail. However, even before she could receive any treatment, she was declared dead by the doctors there. When the news of her death broke the next day, the infuriated inmates took to ransacking the premises, and vandalised property.

Over a dozen inmates climbed on top of the roof of the ground-plus-two structure, after breaking the lock of the terrace door. Shoes were hurled and slogans shouted; a few inmates also burned clothes. "The inmates also damaged CCTV cameras, lit a fire and threatened to throw the children of some inmates into it," a jail officer recalled.

After the news of Shetye’s death spreads, other inmates at the jail go on a rampage inside, climbing the structure, shouting slogans, hurling shoes and some even burning clothes. A few try to make a break for it.
After the news of Shetye's death spreads, other inmates at the jail go on a rampage inside, climbing the structure, shouting slogans, hurling shoes and some even burning clothes. A few try to make a break for it.

Jailbreak foiled
In the pandemonium, jail officers were attacked with stones. As most of the security staff was focused on sorting out the fracas, several inmates planned to take advantage of the opportunity and escape, a prison source revealed.

The prisoners thronged the main exit and tried to overpower the security. "Our jail officers pushed them back and averted the jailbreak," claimed a senior jail officer.

Jail sources said inmates climbed up to the terrace twice by breaking the iron locks of their bars. An internal inquiry on this is underway.

A senior prison official said the prisoners also set jail registers, which contain all details of inmates, on fire during the riot. "Prisoners took advantage of the situation and destroyed their records."

As they went on their rampage, the women also flung a mix of chilli powder in water in jail guards' eyes. While the police have charged the offenders under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, prisoners told the police that jail officers had cooked up the story in order to cover-up the incident of Shetye's assault.

Additional Director General (Prisons) BK Upadhyay refused to divulge any details. "There was no attempt of jailbreak," he said.

Even as prisoners throng the main exit and try to overpower the security guards stationed there, jail officers manage to push the inmates back and lock them up, averting the jailbreak. Illustration/Uday Mohite
Even as prisoners throng the main exit and try to overpower the security guards stationed there, jail officers manage to push the inmates back and lock them up, averting the jailbreak. Illustration/Uday Mohite

Assault inquiry
The police are conducting a probe into the alleged assault on Shetye. The police have recorded the statements of a few jail inmates. "The inmates claimed that five to six jail staffers had dealt with Shetye inhumanly," said a source.

"They dragged her from her barrack with a saree tied around her neck, stripped her, and then, assaulted her. Another staffer also shoved a stick into her intimate areas, leading to bleeding," the source added.

Post-mortem report revealed multiple contusions as cause of death. Six staffers - jailor Manish Pokharkar and guards Bindu Naikade, Waseema Shaikh, Shital Shegaonkar, Surekha Gulve and Aarti Shingne - have been suspended.

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