Sending a culprit or a convict to jail is primarily a punishment and secondarily a mechanism of helping him mend his aberrations. Far from being either punishment or a corrective measure, the Srinagar Central jail, where more than 300 prisoners are lodged, has become a place of excursion as well as a source of self-created authority to rule over the roost. Reports of prisoners in this jail becoming the source of establishing parallel administration within the four walls of the prison had emanated from no other source than the police authorities themselves not now but at least a year ago. Nearly 300 odd inmates, most of them connected with the militancy related incidents in the Valley and elsewhere, have become a law unto them. They virtually dictate terms not only to the jail authorities but also beyond so much so that the sphere of their diktat lies beyond the precincts of the jail.
Illegal activities in which the jail inmates indulge have been brought to the notice of top police force echelons but surprisingly there is no reaction. Last year the Police Department had sent a report to the State Government in which it was clearly stated that the behaviour of the inmates indicated that they had established their self-made disciplinary code which they observed and not the jail code and implored upon the inmates to strictly follow the same. The Government did not react. Taken in totality, absence of any meaningful reaction by the Government to the gross violation of established jail practices casts aspersions on their response to fighting militancy in the Valley.
The question is how the prisoners get so much of leverage unless there is connivance of jail authorities and also perhaps some from the Police Department which has direct control of the jails. The way, in which the Police Department are turning Nelson’s eye to this entire episode, its enactment is not conceivable. The bizarre part of this story is that the former Director General of Prisons, S K Mishra, who came under a cloud after the escape of Pakistani militant Naveed from police custody, made it sufficiently clear that reports of indiscipline and mismanagement of the Central Jail in Srinagar was brought to the notice of senior echelons in good time but no action was taken in the matter and the militants managed to hoodwink the security authorities.
The situation in the Srinagar Central Jail is that the number of internees is over 300 while there are hardly three or four personnel from the Police force to keep an eye on their movement. It is unimaginable that the Police Department is so naïve as to let three or four guards take care of over 300 inmates who are hardcore militants. Either it is the deliberate policy of the Government to give maximum latitude to the prisoners with links to outlawed militant organizations in Kashmir or in other parts of the State, or that congenial atmosphere is created by the prisoners after neutralizing the supervisory force in the Central jail.
Director General of Police, the Home Secretary and the Minister in charge of Home Affairs need to address this issue immediately before something serious happens in Srinagar Central Jail. Apparently there appears a nexus that is protecting the inmates and it is this protection that encourages them to run parallel administration. Therefore, both actions meaning probing and retrieving the situation have to be addressed immediately.