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Prisoners on fast to protest assault by wardens

Malda, April 10: More than 400 prisoners in the Malda district jail started an indefinite hunger strike last night to protest against the alleged assault of one of the inmates by prison wardens.

Pintu Sheikh (30), a lifer convicted in a murder case in Ratua, was beaten up when he protested against the theft of mustard oil by two wardens. He claimed that he had seen chief warden Asit Baran Dutta and warden Asit Ghosh pilfering two litres of the oil around 11.55pm yesterday.

In all, 411 prisoners, including 110 lifers, have been taking part in the agitation.

The lifer’s head suffered cuts, his collarbone was fractured and he started bleeding profusely. Pintu was taken to the jail hospital for treatment. He, however, sat for the hunger strike with other inmates as soon as he was released after treatment. Jail superintendent Chittaranjan Ghoroi tried to persuade the prisoners to withdraw the strike but failed.

Today, the district magistrate of Malda, Sridhar Ghosh, and the social welfare officer, P. Sinha Roy, visited the jail but the prisoners told them that till the two wardens were punished they would continue their agitation.

The prisoners also complained to Ghosh and Sinha Roy on the quality and quantity of the food they were served and its pilferage from the premises. They demanded punishment for the two wardens.

Appealing to the jail inmates to withdraw their agitation, Ghosh assured them action against the two accused.

“I shall send a report to the jail department. I have told the authorities to ensure that there are no repetitions of such incidents in future,” Ghosh told journalists while condemning the pilferage and the assault. The district magistrate said he had called for an explanation from the jail superintendent, but had not got any satisfactory answer. The social welfare officer said efforts were being made to end the hunger strike. “I am hopeful that the agitation will be withdrawn by tonight.”

The jail superintendent however, described the incident as a minor one. “We have seized two litres of mustard oil and I am sending a report to my higher-ups recommending action against the two wardens,” he said. Ghoroi claimed that no food item was found on its way out of the premises.

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