Trouble broke out at Dum Dum Central jail after the condition of a convict, on a hungerstrike for the past 12 days, turned critical early on Monday.
The incident triggered vehement protests from the inmates, who threatened to go on a mass hungerstrike, demanding the state government’s intervention in the matter.
Jail officials said Amalendu Chatterjee, 50, imprisoned since 1987 in connection with a murder case, had gone on an indefinite fast on October 24, demanding his early release. According to the officials, Chatterjee has stopped taking meals, demanding that his plea be considered on an emergency basis, as he has already completed 15 years of rigorous confinement.
“We are alarmed at the way Chatterjee is losing weight. He needs proper treatment in a government hospital outside the jail,” the officials said.
Jail sources said tension is running high on the prison premises, as the inmates have resented the manner in which Chatterjee’s case is being handled. “We fear a backlash from the inmates if something untoward happens to Chatterjee,” sources added.
Inspector-general of prisons Anil Kumar said he has already sought a report from the jail superintendent on the incident. “The officials should not have allowed Chatterjee to continue the hungerstrike. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Anup Tripathi, deputy inspector-general of prisons, later ruled out any immediate release of prisoners and maintained that they could not expedite this, as “prisoners are the court’s property and it is up to it to set them free”.
Tripathi added: “Chatterjee’s condition is deteriorating. We are now left with no option but to go for a forced feeding. Plans are also afoot to shift him to a government hospital outside the jail.”
Jail sources complained that Chatterjee’s condition would not have taken a turn for the worse if he had been shifted to a hospital the day after he went on fast.
Biswanath Bhattacharya, deputy superintendent of the jail, who has been overseeing the upkeep of the prisoners in the absence of the superintendent, pleaded helplessness on the issue. “We were unable to take a decision, since no senior officials were present,” he added.
In a related development, three doctors, working in Alipore Central jail on contract, have been slapped with showcause notices for leaving office before schedule.
The three were found “absent from duty” when ailing prisoners approached the jail authorities for treatment.