Happy Singh (face circled) at Alipore court in 2001 for a hearing in the Khadim’s kidnap case. A Telegraph picture
Happy Singh, a convict famous inside Presidency jail for his love of Horlicks and chocolates, was on Monday battered to death while doing yoga allegedly by a fellow inmate who had once bitten off another man’s ear.
Officials said the 37-year-old aide of underworld don Aftab Ansari was fatally struck twice on the head with a brick as he lay on his back with his eyes closed, possibly doing the Shavasana.
Happy, whose real name is Harpreet Singh, had been serving life for his role in the 2001 kidnapping of footwear baron Partha Pratim Roy Burman.
The alleged killer, Nizamuddin, had been released from the “criminal lunatic ward” on Sunday after more than a year of semi-seclusion following the incident where he had bitten off another convict’s ear.
“Nizamuddin was the butt of ridicule whenever he would be allowed to mix with the other inmates. But Happy was one of his best friends and would help him with his daily tasks. Nobody knows yet what triggered the attack,” a jail official said.
Jail inmates — both undertrials and convicts — are allowed to move about inside the compound after the morning’s headcount. “The idea is to help them back into the mainstream in keeping with the modern classification of a jail as a correctional home. They are given the freedom to carry out routine tasks and to interact, but everything happens under surveillance,” the officer said.
Nobody ostensibly noticed Nizamuddin grab a brick and attack Happy. There is also no explanation for 25-year-old Nizamuddin finding a brick outside his cell or the courtyard of the jail.
Sources in the jail blamed the warders on duty for the lapse. The morning shift starts at 5.30am, when the inmates step out of their cells for the headcount.
Some jail officials blamed a manpower shortage for the loopholes in surveillance. “This year, 80 wardens out of 180-odd have been requisitioned from Presidency jail for poll duty,” an official said. “Of them, 30 were out for training today.”
An official of the directorate of prisons said this was the first instance of wardens being requisitioned for poll duty.
Police said CCTV footage shows Happy most likely doing the Shavasana — a posture where a person lies on his or her back with arms and legs spread and eyes closed, mimicking a corpse — in front of his cell when Nizamuddin attacked him.
“This was around 7.20am,” Adhir Sharma, the additional director-general of prisons, said. “Happy was first taken to the jail hospital, where he received five stitches. He was then shifted to MR Bangur Hospital, where he died of heavy bleeding.”
Contrary to his criminal record, Happy was known inside the jail as a “soft-spoken” and “creative” person.
“He would spend hours in his cell painting and use a large share of his earnings buying his favourite drink, Horlicks, from the jail canteen,” a source said.
Happy, whose cell was in Block 22-44, had been assigned the role of a “superviser” of daily tasks that the jail inmates are supposed to do.
“He would spend most of the morning doing yoga. He never meddled in others’ affairs and was content with his daily wage of Rs 30. He would receive small money orders from family and friends across India and spend most of it buying food,” the source said.
One of his relatives based abroad would send Happy chocolates. The last consignment, two boxes of Swiss chocolates, had come a fortnight ago, the source said.
Happy would also spend some of his money on making calls to family and friends. “He had submitted five numbers to us, which he would regularly dial from the jail booth,” a senior officer of the correctional service said.
Happy is said to have first met his partner-in-crime, Ansari, along with slain militant Asif Reza Khan and Azhar Masood, who is now a leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, at Tihar Jail in the mid-1990s.
Police officers involved in the investigation into the Khadim’s case said Happy and Ansari had first joined hands in 1999 to kidnap a businessman in Varanasi and a diamond merchant’s son in Rajkot, Gujarat. In both instances, they are said to have extracted a hefty amount in ransom.
Happy went on to execute the “operational part” of the Roy Burman abduction in 2001— from recce to logistics.
Khadim’s co-owner Roy Burman had been shot at and forced into a vehicle while going to a warehouse in Tiljala on July 25, 2001. Ansari, who was in Dubai at the time of the kidnapping, had masterminded the incident.
Happy was one of the five persons, including Ansari, convicted for life. He had at least five other criminal cases pending against him in Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Happy was lodged at Presidency for the past two-and-a-half years since being shifted from Behrampore jail. Ansari is in Alipore central jail.
Happy’s alleged killer was convicted in a murder case in 2009. Nizamuddin, a resident of Pilkhana in Howrah, was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder two years ago. He was admitted to the jail hospital a year and a half back and later shifted to a special ward, sources said.
Sources said there are presently 305 such criminals with psychiatric disorders in 58 jails across Bengal.
convict serving life for khadim’s abduction fatally hit with brick
Happy Singh alias Harpreet Singh
• Age: 37
• Antecedents: Delhi
• Family: According to jail records, his grandfather lives in Delhi and another relative lives abroad. Word has been sent to Happy’s grandfather about his death, requesting him to claim the body.
• Arrested for: Abduction of Khadim’s co-owner Partha Pratim Roy Burman
• Legal status: Had been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Khadim’s case and was being tried in five other cases related to smuggling, abduction and other offences.
• Friends: Dubai don Aftab Ansari, now lodged in Alipore central jail, and militant Asif Reza Khan, who was shot dead by Gujarat police in 2001.
• Jail mates: Happy’s policy of not meddling in others’ affairs won him many friends among inmates, said a
jail official. He was friendly with “everyone” and would often spend time with Nizamuddin, his alleged killer.
• Voice only for a cause: The otherwise quiet man had gone on a hunger strike inside Presidency jail last year to protest the acquittal of Congress MP Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 Sikh riots case.
• Loved Horlicks and chocolates: According to jail officials, Happy would spend the bulk of his earnings in jail to buy food from the canteen. Friends and relatives would send him chocolates, which he would “savour slowly”. He used to spend hours painting in his cell. “Sometimes it was difficult to understand what he painted. But he would spend a lot of time on a canvas,” a jail official said.
• Age: 25
• Antecedents: Howrah
• Arrested for: A murder at Pilkhana in Howrah
• Legal status: Sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 for the murder. Was in the ‘lunatic’ criminal ward for two years after he bit off an inmate’s ear. He has been confined to a cell guarded by two cops since Happy’s murder.
• Jail mates: Few. He would often be ridiculed for his ways. Happy was the only one who would spend time with him regularly, often helping him comb his
hair, sources said.
• Behaviour: “It seems he has no idea what he’s done. He ate his food as if nothing had happened,” a jail official said. In the morning, Nizamuddin kept the brick with which he allegedly struck Happy back where he had picked it from, sources said.
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