|Bomb disposal squad members outside the jail in Ahmedabad on Monday. (PTI)
Ahmedabad, Feb. 11: A tunnel plot reminiscent of The Great Escape and linked to three engineers being tried for serial blasts has been unearthed in the Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad.
The L-shaped tunnel was dug over 45 days — considerably less time than the reported one year it took the heroes of the war film to build a symbol of grit during the Second World War — during gardening by the inmates, jail officials claimed.
Utensils, plates and wood were used to burrow the Ahmedabad tunnel, 8ft deep and 10ft long, by the three suspects during the gardening work they had volunteered to do, the officials said.
The trio blamed the delay in their trial for the attempt and said “desperate situations called for desperate measures”, a police officer added.
A constable detected the tunnel, camouflaged with soil and foliage, yesterday. Govind Nakum apparently smelt a rat in the trio’s “suspicious behaviour” and their tendency to work in a group in the same patch of the garden, behind a row of toilets.
The jail officials ruled out the possibility of the suspects breaking free from Barracks No. 4 — where 14 of the 55 blast accused are lodged — saying the tunnel was far away from the prison walls that run very deep.
P.C. Thakur, IG, prisons, said no matter how long and hard the inmates had dug, they could not have escaped as the walls were 21ft high and 20ft deep. Still, an inquiry has been ordered to determine if prison officials colluded and how the digging went unnoticed for a month and a half.
A case has been lodged against the three who now face a 10-year term for attempted jail break, irrespective of the verdict over the blasts of July 2008 that killed over 60 people.
Thakur, the IG, said the three tunnel diggers included a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer and a computer engineer.
All three are alleged activists of the banned Simi, with jail officials saying the civil engineer was mastermind. The officials didn’t divulge their identities.
Every day, for about three hours from 8am, the trio worked on the tunnel, dumped the excavated soil in the garden and sprinkled water on it.
“Every day, they got three hours for work of their choice. That’s when they dug the tunnel,” the IG said.
Thakur said the three had told him that they were “in a desperate situation and desperate situations called for desperate measures”. “They justified their attempt to escape saying they were frustrated because of the delay in trial.”
Thakur said the three inmates would be shifted to a newly constructed barracks equipped with a CCTV camera and other surveillance devices.
The 55 accused in the blasts are lodged in four barracks of the high-security jail, which also counts among its inmates Maya Kodnani, a former minister in the Narendra Modi government sentenced over the 2002 riots.