M A I N   N E W S

Beant case accused flee
Dig 94-foot-long tunnel from Burail Jail
* 18 cameras fail to capture escape
Sanjay Sharma
Tribune News Service

Punjab police personnel check a bus on the Sirhind-Patiala road following the Burail jail break
Punjab police personnel check a bus on the Sirhind-Patiala road following the Burail jail break on Thursday. — photo by Rajesh Sachar.

Chandigarh, January 22
Three alleged assassins of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh escaped in the small hours of today from a high-security Burail Model Jail in their third suspected attempt digging a 94-foot-long tunnel that went beneath three walled security rings.

Jagtar Singh Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara, Paramjit Singh Beora and their cook and murder accused Dev Singh, lodged in the same cell number 7 of Munda Khana Barrack, were found missing from the jail this morning putting the Chandigarh Police and that of the neighbouring states on high alert. Dev Singh from Garhwal was lodged in the jail in connection with a murder in Sector 39 of the city.

“They dug up a 2.5-ft-wide, more than 94-ft-long tunnel beneath their cell, then the barrack, then 14 feet past the third security wall and possibly crawled a distance of around 50 feet when the electricity of the jail failed twice,” a source said. The tunnel had been covered in the cell by a back rest of the chair. At the exit in the fields it had been covered by a wooden board on which carrots had been grown.

It was the third attempt of the Beant Singh murder accused to escape from the jail. They allegedly tried to escape on July 7, 1998, and then in 2002. The police, however, could not prove the charge against them.

“The tunnel had been dug into the cemented platform which Hawara used as a bed. It had a diameter of around 2.5 ft and was 14 ft deep,” sources told The Tribune. The police and security agencies cordoned off the jail and did not allow mediapersons inside the jail.

The sources said it seemed the terrorists had been planning digging a tunnel for several years and started the actual work at least a year back.

The sources said the Beant Singh assassination accused had been putting up resistance against inspectors saying they were Amritdhari Sikhs and entry of others in the cell would defile the area.

Asked how the earth removed during the digging activity was hidden, the sources said they had been disposing of a small amount of it daily with water used in toilet, bathroom and kitchen. They were B-class prisoners who have these facilities.

The sources said the Beant Singh murder accused put up curtains on the almirahs in the cell and as many as 40 bags full of earth removed was found hidden behind them. As per the jail rules, the almirahs are left uncovered for the inspectors to know what is there in the room. The tunnel went beneath a road inside the jail and 9-ft-wide foundation of the wall, the sources said.

A weightlifting rod was found in the cell with one side of it having mud stuck to it indicating it might have been used to dig the tunnel.

Electricity in the jail failed twice in the night, the sources in the Electricity Department said. The generators of the jail also did not work during this period.

The sources said the foursome used to keep the water tap running round the clock so that sound during the digging activity could not be heard. This water was also used to soften the soil in the tunnel.

They had turned turbans into ropes to go inside the tunnel during the digging activity. A bulb, a wire, possibly used in the tunnel during the night, was also found.

The source said their TV was on till 3 am yesterday adding the TV might have been used as a camouflage. The police said the information about their escape came to them at 8.15 am. Unconfirmed reports said the exit of the tunnel was noticed at around 7 am and then the jail authorities sought to find the three persons in the city before going to the police.

It is surprising their escape could not be caught by 18 cameras fitted in the jail. They crawled in the open for more than 50 ft before scaling a wall. The wall bears foot marks. Two T-shirts were lying there indicating they might have changed their clothes in the open.

The sources said the opening of the tunnel used to be covered by a back support of a chair and then with cushion and a bed sheet.

The night watchman of a gas agency godown, which is barely 15 ft away from the jail wall Nizammuddin, however, said he did not hear four of his dogs bark in the night nor did he hear any noise of a vehicle.

He said it might have been because of the night-long drizzle which keeps the dogs inside.

Dry fruits, ghee and eatables were lying in the cell that had two television sets in the 15-ft-wide and 25-ft-long cell.


Rs 5-lakh award

Chandigarh, January 22
The Chandigarh Administration has announced an award of Rs 5 lakh for providing any information which leads to the arrest of Jagtar Singh Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Beora. The identity of the informer will be kept a secret. — OC


Three top jail officials arrested
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
The Chandigarh Police today arrested Superintendent of Jail D. S. Rana, Deputy Superintendent of Jail D. S Sandhu and Assistant Superintendent of Jail J. S Rana along with four others for allegedly facilitating the escape of the alleged assassins of Beant Singh from Burail Jail.

“Deputy Superintendent of Jail D. S. Sandhu and Constables Chakkar Hawaldar Nishan Singh, Inder Singh, Kashmir Singh and Jagir Singh have been arrested on the basis of prima facie evidence of connivance,” Adviser to the Administrator, Lalit Kumar Sharma, told a Press conference in the presence of Home Secretary R.S. Gujral, IG Rajesh Kumar and SP (Operations) H.G.S. Dhaliwal here this evening.

Mr Sharma said the police and the administration have alerted security personnel to recapture those who escaped and had informed neighbouring states about their escape. Massive searches have been launched in the entire region, he said. He said the Administration was considering an inquiry into the whole episode to find out a wider conspiracy behind the jail break.

Mr Sharma, however, did not give details as to how each of the arrested persons from the jail helped the Beant Singh assassins escape. He also did not specify where searches were on saying these were “operational details.”

A case has been registered in this regard by the Chandigarh Police, he said. Mr Sharma said the suspected role of the jail staff was under investigation adding, “It was not possible to dig such a long tunnel without either connivance or negligence of the jail authorities.”

Home Secretary R.S. Gujral said it was also to be investigated as to how tonnes of earth was removed or disposed of.

The Chandigarh Administration officials did not divulge much details only saying the tunnel was 14-ft-deep and 94-ft long. Mr Sharma accepted “failure” on the part of the jail supervisory staff. The Adviser said lapse of around 40 persons could have been there as the creation of tunnel might have taken “weeks.”

He said the police had recovered soiled pieces of clothes of the terrorists who might have changed after coming out from the tunnel.

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