An inmate of Chaibasa Divisional Jail — arguably taking full advantage of overcrowding and lax security at the prison in West Singhbhum, 65km from Jamshedpur — bludgeoned an undertrial to death with a tree trunk on Wednesday morning.
Though the reason behind this bizarre vendetta is not clear yet, police suspect old enmity between victim Ramai Dongo (26) and his assailant Krishna Oraon (25). Dongo, accused of rape and lodged in the jail since May 2011, was to be released on bail next week. Oraon is facing murder trial since 2009.
SP Arun Kumar Singh, who has been promoted as DIG, Kolhan, said the fatal attack took place around 9.30am, when Chaibasa jail inmates were having their breakfast. Dongo was eating too and Oraon picked up a thick log of wood from the jail kitchen to attack him from behind.
According to eyewitnesses, an unawares Dongo fell off his seat on being hit and his assailant once again brought down the 5ft long and 12-inch thick trunk on him — this time only harder on the head. “The impact was such that the log of wood cracked from the middle and the victim’s scalp appeared badly dented,” said a jail employee.
Shocked inmates informed jailer Saket Behari Singh in the absence of the superintendent who was at home. Dongo was rushed to Chaibasa Sadar Hospital, but the doctor on emergency duty declared him brought dead.
A magistrate prepared an inquest and Dongo’s body was sent to MGM Medical College mortuary for post-mortem under a medical board.
The incident has once again put a question mark on Jharkhand’s prison security mechanism.
First, the Chaibasa Divisional Jail has a capacity of 290 prisoners, but currently hosts 900-odd inmates, leaving ample scope for fraying tempers and fisticuffs amid acute manpower crunch.
The sanctioned strength of employees is 49, but Chaibasa jail makes do with 12. Some 20 home guard personnel and 12 former servicemen have been roped in for security, but they still don’t fill all posts.
Second, at the time when the incident took place jail superintendent Kishore Lakra was missing in action and jailer Saket Behari Singh was in charge, but could not deal with the situation.
“It all happened so suddenly. There was no altercation, no fight. By the time fellow inmates rushed to rescue, the victim had been fatally injured,” the jailer said.
SP Singh, who inspected the murder spot and spoke to prisoners, conceded that police had not been able to nail the reason why Oraon attacked Dongo.
“We are grilling the accused, but he hasn’t been forthcoming till now,” he said, adding that there had been no altercation between the two before the fatal assault or in the recent past.
However, Oraon apparently told a section of the local media that he killed Dongo because he felt intimidated by the latter.
The victim was a resident of Kudebera village in Chaibasa mufassil and police believe he knew his assailant personally even when outside jail. “There must be some strong reason behind the fatal attack,” the SP said.