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Uttar Pradesh jail riot with cop torture and food grouse whiff

A group of inmates attacked five policemen, taking control of the prison for about three hours

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow

  • Published 12.10.19, 6:24 AM
  • Updated 12.10.19, 6:24 AM
Two possible triggers behind the violence stood out amid a thicket of official statements and unofficial theories --- a senior police officer beating one or more inmates, and the prisoners’ longstanding grievance against poor-quality food.
Two possible triggers behind the violence stood out amid a thicket of official statements and unofficial theories --- a senior police officer beating one or more inmates, and the prisoners’ longstanding grievance against poor-quality food. Shutterstock

Five policemen including the deputy jailer at Gorakhpur jail were injured on Friday when a group of inmates attacked them at 6.30am and took control of the prison for about three hours.

Two possible triggers behind the violence stood out amid a thicket of official statements and unofficial theories — a senior police officer beating one or more inmates, and the prisoners’ longstanding grievance against poor-quality food.

Government sources said four injured constables and deputy jailer Prabhakant Pandey were taken to hospital around 9.30am after a huge team of armed police arrived.

A media release from the jail administration blamed the rioting on an alleged gang battle within the prison that purportedly snowballed into violence against the officials.

“Members of gangs led by Koel Yadav and Govind Yadav attacked jailer Prem Sagar Shukla and deputy jailer Prabhakant,” the release said.

It intriguingly added, without establishing a connection: “A few prisoners have written to the district administration to act against circle officer Praveen Singh for beating them on Thursday.”

A prison department official in Lucknow, however, said a different police officer had thrashed a single prisoner on Friday morning, sparking the violence.

“A crime branch officer arrived in the morning to question a prisoner. He suddenly began beating the prisoner, angering the other inmates, who attacked the police,” he said.

“While the crime branch officer fled, the inmates caught hold of Pandey and four constables and thrashed them.”

He mentioned the bad-food theory too.

“However, some policemen posted in the jail told us the prisoners attacked the police during the morning count around 6.30am. They set fire to some of the barracks and chanted slogans against the jail administration, alleging their longstanding demand for clean food and toilets was not being addressed.”

This official also referred to a gang war. “Two groups of prisoners had clashed after returning from the district court on Thursday. While there was already tension between them, this incident has made it clear that all is not well within the Gorakhpur jail.”

Additional district magistrate Rakesh Kumar Srivastava played the rioting down as a minor clash over food.

“Two inmates fought over dal and other food. They also complained about the poor food quality. The problem has been solved and there is peace in the jail,” he said.

He didn’t explain why inmates would fight over bad food, and why such a clash would happen at 6.30am when the prisoners are served breakfast at 8am and lunch at 12.30pm.

The Opposition, which has been citing the rising murders and rapes to allege a collapse of law and order in the state, highlighted the prison violence as the clearest evidence of a failure of governance.

Gorakhpur is the hometown of chief minister Yogi Adityanath — the mahant of the Gorakhnath temple — whose government has been taking out TV ads portraying his two-and-a-half-year-old reign as a period of peace.

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