Home India News Chandigarh prison to plug tunnels of great escape

Chandigarh prison to plug tunnels of great escape

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : It saw one of the most daring escapes by dreaded terrorists from an Indian prison. But a 104-feet long tunnel, which took four men straight out of the high-security Burail jail here five years ago, is now about to be plugged.

The tunnel was used by Babbar Khalsa terrorists Jagtar Singh Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Bhaura and their accomplice Devi Singh, a murder convict living with them in the same prison barrack to make a sensational escape from Burail jail on the night intervening Jan 21-22, 2004.

Not only this tunnel but four others, of various lengths, dug by prisoners trying to escape, will also be closed.

Chandigarh’s Home Secretary Ram Niwas, who inspected the prison recently, has now ordered that the tunnels be filled.

“These tunnels will be filled up very soon. We have received the estimates from the engineering department to fill these with concrete. At least, three barracks are closed due to the tunnels dug up there,” Chandigarh’s Assistant Inspector General (AIG) N.P.S. Randhawa told IANS.

The tunnels, especially the one dug by Hawara and others, had been retained by jail authorities as case properties because cases against those who dug them were pending.

The authorities sought the permission of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, where the case of the jail-break is pending, before ordering that the tunnels be closed. The tunnel was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation, Central forensic sciences laboratory (CFSL) and Chandigarh police.

Hawara and Bhaura were arrested later by Delhi Police while Tara and Devi Singh are still absconding. Hawara was also suspected to be behind a blast in a cinema house in New Delhi and was planning other terror strikes in Punjab when he was caught.

Hawara, who was involved in the assassination conspiracy of Chief Minister Beant Singh, the man credited for getting Punjab out of terrorism in the early 1990s along with supercop K.P.S. Gill, Aug 31, 1995, now faces the gallows after a court here sentenced him July 2007.

The probe into the jailbreak had revealed that Hawara had initiated the plan to dig up the tunnel with other inmates in his barrack to make good their escape and the digging exercise took over a year to complete.

It was revealed by the probe that soil equivalent to eight trucks was excavated by the terrorists to dig the tunnel. The terrorists used to spread the dug up soil in the kitchen garden of their barrack and flush it into the toilet for several months but the prison authorities never suspected anything unusual.

The tunnel, dug by Hawara and others by taking turns over several months, had a vertical and a horizontal length. At certain places, it was quite narrow and one man could pass through it only with great difficulty.

The tunnel was dug by them from their barrack till the fields in the open compound of the prison complex. After coming out of the tunnel, the escapees had crawled the 200 metres length of the fields and scaled a 12-feet high wall, right under the nose of security personnel deployed on watch-towers, under the cover of darkness in January 2004.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])