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Home call after escape

Feb. 18: After the audacious walkout from Tihar jail, Sher Singh Rana committed his second reckless act in a day: he called his family in Roorkee barely an hour later.

His mother, Satyawati, answered the call. She said he enquired about the well-being of family members and then spoke to his father, Surendra Singh Rana. Sher Singh said he urgently wanted to speak to his brother, Vikram, and was told by Satyawati that he was not at home, but would return any minute.

Yesterday, Sher Singh, accused of the murder of bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi, walked out of Tihar jail when accomplices dressed in police uniform escorted him out on a fake production warrant to keep his appointed appearance in court.

Despite the fact that a reward of Rs 50,000 had been announced for information on him, Sher Singh called again to speak to his brother. He asked Vikram to collect some money, but did not say how, where and when he would pick it up. Vikram said Sher Singh, 24, sounded as if he was under great pressure. There was someone accompanying him who kept telling him what to say.

There was fear and anger in his voice. He was clearly annoyed with Vikram, asking why he was not doing enough to defend him by gathering witnesses and proof. He is said to have threatened to punish Vikram if he remained unhelpful or indifferent.

Sher Singh, who spoke to Vikram for five minutes, expressed unhappiness with the evidence given by a member of the family.

Later, his father, with tears in his eyes, said there were people who wanted to take his son’s life. He accused them of hatching a conspiracy to involve his son in Phoolan Devi’s murder. Sher Singh had announced his surrender at a news conference in 2001 in Dehra Dun.

Delhi police commissioner K.K. Paul today apprised the Union home ministry of the progress made in the probe.

“We have checked whether any of our men was involved in the escape as the person who took away Rana from Tihar jail had claimed to be from Delhi Armed Police,” he said. “Investigations so far show that none of our men was involved.”

Paul clarified that the force had no constable by the name of Arvind Kumar, who had carried the warrant for producing Sher Singh in a Hardwar court.

Delhi crime branch officials suspect the man might be a suspended policeman, basing their guess on the fact that this so-called Arvind Kumar had minute knowledge of police and prison functioning.

Tihar’s No. 1 warden Hari Shanker was today suspended on charges of dereliction of duty..

Suspecting a nexus with jail authorities, police sources said the internal documents for releasing Sher Singh on a production warrant were kept ready on Monday, which indicates some insiders were aware of the escape.

No top jail official was present when Sher Singh’s associates reached Tihar yesterday morning. An inmate, called Pervez, escorted him till Gate No. 3, where he was taken into a van.

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