Over 300 ultras refuse to go in lock-up
16 December 2006
The Daily Excelsior
By Sanjeev Pargal
Jammu: Tension prevailed in high security Kot Bhalwal jail as over 300 militants including 40 foreign mercenaries, refused to go into the lock-up last night protesting against steps taken by new jail authorities to restore discipline, recent arrest of some militants and fearing another possible crackdown by Intelligence agencies and police to pick-up more ultras for questioning in connection with smuggling of mobile telephones with SIM cards inside the jail. Senior police and jail officers rushed to the jail this morning but preferred not to use force against the militants, who were equipped with iron rods and a large quantity of stones and bricks, official sources told the Excelsior. Following restriction on the movement of 'undesirable elements' in the jail to meet militants and stoppage of their financial transactions, the militants including foreign mercenaries had been feeling uncomfortable. Coupled with it was the report that a high level team of International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) was scheduled to visit the jail on Monday and Tuesday. To create trouble during the visit of international delegation, all militants refused to go into the lock-up last night and spent the night in open but under tight security by jail authorities. Today also, they didn't go to the lock-up, the scheduled time for which was 8.30 pm. However, they went to the lock-up around 10.30 pm after a meeting with a senior officer of Prisons Department and Superintendent Mirza Salim Beig. As trouble intensified in the jail this morning, the Kot Bhalwal Jail Superintendent, who had been acting tough for maintaining discipline in sensitive jail, sounded top officers of Government, Prisons Department, CRPF and police. DIG Jammu-Kathua range Niyaz Mehmood and Additional SP Jammu Shakti Pathak rushed to the jail. Senior officers of Prisons Department, who control security of the jail inside and CRPF, Incharge Security outside the jail, also reached there. Sources said strangely, the militants were carrying with them iron rods and had piled up a large quantity of stones. How the militants managed to get iron rods and a large quantity of stones inside was also a mystery but, according to sources, this material might have been collected by the militants during construction inside the jail from time to time. As searches hadn't been conducted inside the jail for past quite sometime, this material remained with the militants. Not in a mood to take confrontation with the militants on the eve of ICRC delegation's visit, jail authorities decided not to use force against them. However, presence of CRPF was strengthened outside the jail to prevent any untoward incident. Police also made elaborate security arrangements to thwart the possibility of any clash breaking out inside the jail. Besides the visit of ICRS delegation, upcoming Assembly session and Eid were other reasons for the militants to create trouble inside the jail. According to sources, entire drama was hatched by the militants to blackmail jail authorities who had been acting tough to restore discipline in the jail, which had recently shot into limelight following recovery of two mobile telephones along with SIM cards from the detenues. Authorities had also restricted entry of visitors to meet with the militants which had further irked the latter. Sources said after the visit of CRPF, police and Prisons Department authorities to the jail, security arrangements both inside and outside were strengthened. Generally, the militants and other detenues are allowed out of the barracks in the morning. They return to lock-up by 8.30 pm. This was reportedly after a long time last night that the militants including foreign mercenaries refused to go inside the lock-up. There are 343 detenues in Kot Bhalwal jail, majority of them militants including 40 foreign mercenaries. 'Without compromising with security, we persuaded the militants. Harsh measures including use of force was not ruled out if they hadn't relented,' sources said. Only few days back, one-third security staff of the jail was removed by the Prisons Department following reports that some of them might have connived with militants and facilitated smuggling of mobile telephones and SIM cards inside. CID, which had been investigating smuggling of mobile telephones inside the jail along with police, had arrested Gurmeet Singh, a murder accused under-trial, Altaf Choudhary and Raja Muzaffar, local militants, Abdul Hai, a Pakistani and Sanjeev Samyal, another under-trial during investigations of mobile telephones smuggling. Another Pakistan Zafar Jamali was arrested from the jail for holding the then Superintendent Sheikh Abdul Rashid, who had unearthed the racket of mobile telephones, captive for sometime.