| Shakil Mullick on his release from prison. Picture by Amit Datta
Cell no. 3, Alipore Central jail. High noon on Thursday. Aftab Ansari enters the cell that Dhananjoy Chatterjee had left for the last time on August 14, 2004, to be walked to the gallows.
In a hush-hush operation a day after the death sentence drama in Presidency jail, Ansari, the man behind the American Center attack, and two of his associates were shifted to Alipore Central jail and kept in solitary confinement.
Early on Thursday, Presidency jail warders informed Ansari that he would be shifted from his cell no. 9 in Presidency jail to another prison.
Jamiluddin Nasir, facilitator of the gang in Calcutta, and Shakir Akhtar, who had chalked out the plan of action and conducted repeated recces of the American Center in the run-up to the attack, were also asked to prepare for the shift.
'Ansari was quiet and did not demand reasons for the sudden transfer, while the other two looked shaken. Ansari was, perhaps, aware that something like this would happen,' observed a senior warder overseeing his movements.
'Around 12.30 pm, Ansari, along with Akhtar and Nasir, were shifted to Alipore Central jail. The three have been lodged in adjacent cells,' said Joydeb Chakraborty, inspector-general of police (prisons).
'We have earmarked special watch guards for each of the three prisoners. They will have to follow all the rules laid down for convicted criminals,' Chakraborty added.
Once lodged in cell no. 3, Ansari had some tea and spent his time offering namaaz or staring blankly at the walls.
Nasir and Akhtar, on the other hand, spoke to the warders and told them that they were confident of being acquitted once they appealed to a higher court.
While in Alipore jail, Ansari and Nasir will stand trial in the Khadim's abduction case, the inspector-general added.
Soumen Mitra, deputy inspector-general (CID), said trial in the abduction case will start as soon as the charges are framed, for which the condemned prisoners will be allowed to step out of their cells.
Otherwise, the three will remain confined to their solitary cells, dressed in distinctive white kurtas and shorts earmarked for prisoners on death row, and debarred from talking to anyone except the warder on duty.
In the evening, Shakil Mullick and Dilip Patel, acquitted in the case, were released from Presidency jail.