Click here to Download Black Warrant PDF Book by Sunetra Choudhury and Sunil Gupta Language English having PDF Size 1.4 MB and No of Pages 235.
If someone told me I’d be writing a book with Sunil Gupta 20 years after I first met him, I’d find it as improbable as me doing time in Tihar jail. Sunilji, as we called him, was the archetypal government press relations officer. In 1999, when my colleague, photographer Praveen Jain, took me to meet him at the prison headquarters in Janakpuri, he provided a stark contrast to his surroundings.
Black Warrant PDF Book by Sunetra Choudhury and Sunil Gupta
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His office was stationed in an area with gunmen minding watch-towers, and a tall wall designed to discourage thoughts of the outside world, but Sunil Gupta easily laughed out loud during our conversation. He answered journalists’ calls with a cheery greeting, and promised them an ‘exclusive’ story. If you went by Sunilji’s version.
Then Tihar was actually a bit of downtime spa for those that had fallen out with society or even a reform boot camp for those who had strayed from the righteous path. Torture? No way. Custodial deaths? Impossible under his watch. Sunilji understood that generations of reporters (and their readers) may not have read Dostoevsky but they were obsessed with Crime and Punishment.
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So, while he effectively deflected on stories of the horrors at Tihar jail, he would supply other fascinating details. The first story that I did for NDTV when I joined in 2003, was with Sunilji’s help. The story was about an inmate who had cracked competitive exams while studying behind bars – an amazing story of human endeavour and from the prison authorities’ perspective it showed them in a good light.
For these stories, Sunilji would organize supervised trips inside Tihar. It was these visits that sparked off my obsession with prison tales. It is the poor, the ones who don’t have access to good lawyers and at times are not educated enough to know their rights, are left to the vagaries of the system. They are the ones who are exploited, tortured while the ones who are well off live in relative comfort.
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In the 1979 Supreme Court judgement on torture, also known as the Sunil Batra judgement, the judges quote Kuldip Nayar to describe how things stand for affluent inmates. Nayar was in Tihar from 1975 to 1977, as part of the crackdown on the media during the Emergency. Shri Kuldip Nayar, a responsible journalist with no apparent motive for mendacity nor inclination for subjectivity, in his book “In Jail”.
There was nothing in the author’s view which money could not buy within the recesses of the prison campus. Giving a factual narrative, Shri Nayar wrote: one could get as much money as one wanted from outside – again at a price. There was a money order and mail service that perhaps was more dependable than what the postal department could offer.
For instance, when a prisoner in my ward wanted two hundred rupees, he sent a note through a warder to his people in old Delhi and in less than twentyfour hours he had the money. He paid sixty-six rupees as collecting charges – thirty-three per cent was the prescribed “money order charge.” …Dharma Teja. Black Warrant PDF Book
The shipping magnate who served his sentence in Tihar, for instance, has thousands of rupees delivered to him, we were told. And if one could pay the jail functionaries one could have all the comforts one sought. Teja had all the comforts – he had an air cooler in his cell a radio-cum-record player set and even the facility of using the phone…. Haridas Mundhra.
A businessman who was convicted of fraud, was another rich man who spent some time in Tihar. Not only did he have all the facilities, but he could also go out of the jail whenever he liked; at times he would be out for several days and travel even upto Calcutta. All this of course, cost a lot of money. An even richer prisoner was Ram Kishan Dalmia, he spent most of his jail term in hospital.
He was known for his generosity to jail authorities, and one doctor received a car as a gift. I certainly did not study science and law to join the family business. I mean who wanted to spend their life dealing with FMCG products in Ludhiana? I wanted a challenge and Asia’s largest prison promised this in abundance. Black Warrant PDF Book
The railways relieved me of my services on 7 May and the very next day, I turned up at the West Delhi jail. I was keen to start as the assistant superintendent of prison (ASP) and quite proud that I had sailed through the interview board and landed this job that seemed ideal. I went straight to the superintendent’s room and announced my intention to join.
Hoping that he would direct me to someone who would help me complete all the formalities. B.L. Vij took one look at me and simply said, ‘There’s no vacancy for the post of an ASP here.’ I was astounded, not quite sure if I had heard him right. Did he look at my thin-bordering-on-underweight physique and dismiss me as not being tough enough for the job?
Did he not like my face? What was going on here? I tried to calm the panic that was taking over me. ‘But sir, I have my appointment letter. How can there be no vacancy?’ I said, hoping he would not be further angered by the dangerously high pitch of my voice. ‘You should have asked before leaving the railway job,’ he answered, shortly. He was clearly impatient with me challenging his authority. Black Warrant PDF Book
In 2015, two boys jumped off the wall of Jail number 5, into another jail complex. Realizing that jumping off the second jail’s wall was not feasible, they decided to dig a hole in the wall, and it worked. There have been many cases of inmates escaping with service workers like with Public Works Department (PWD) labourers who come to Tihar for daily labour work.
Other than Sobhraj’s escape, the one that embarrassed Tihar the most was the escape of the Bandit Queen and Member of Parliament Phoolan Devi’s killer Sher Singh Rana in February 2004. When a prisoner was to appear in a court in another town, the state police was engaged to transport them and not Tihar staff who are familiar with the inmates.
The logic behind this was that since the state police would be more familiar with local routes, they would be able to navigate the roads more efficiently. The transit requests would be done by wireless sets and this was a loophole just waiting to be exploited. On 5 February 2004, soon after a wireless message was received a team arrived to take Sher Singh Rana to a court in Haridwar. Black Warrant PDF Book Download
According to the system, we gave the security men ‘diet money’ – an allowance for meals along the journey, and handed him over along with his warrant and other documents. Sometime later, another police team appeared. That was when the penny dropped. We had handed over Rana not to a police team, but to a wellcoordinated escape team.
We had not even properly checked the credentials of the ‘police’ team that came to collect Rana. They did not have a copy of the official communication that had been sent from us but we had let it pass because they claimed any delay would upset the court. And that was enough for us to hand over Rana immediately.
Coming back to the Billa and Ranga case, as soon as the warrant was out and even before the prisoners were placed in their death cells, the summons was sent to Tihar’s hangmen – Fakira from Faridkot in Punjab and Kalu from Meerut Jail. These two conducted most of the eight hangings I saw during my time at Tihar. To my knowledge, today there are no professional hangmen left in the country. Black Warrant PDF Book Download
I say professional hangmen but in reality hanging was only a part of the responsibilities Fakira and Kalu had as jail officials. Hanging was a well-paying job – for each hanging they got Rs 150 each and a special escort with security to bring them into Tihar and to return them safely to Faridkot and Meerut. They were given a place to stay and their meals were taken care of.
The job, however, was a very skillful one and both Kalu and Fakira took great pride in being good at it. Kalu may have been named so because of his dark skin but Fakira being darker than Kalu was called ‘bhoot’ (ghost). He had a huge moustache and would always crack jokes in Punjabi, which made all of us laugh. Kalu was quite big built, round and the quieter of the two.
They were both extremely professional. As soon as the escort cars brought them in, they would station themselves at the deputy superintendent’s ante room, which is like a private room attached to the office. To say that the two committed a brutal crime in August 2001 would be an understatement. Black Warrant PDF Book Download
The duo used an iron rod to club to death Sonia’s father, Relu Ram, an MLA from Haryana and seven other family members over a property dispute. Sonia and Sanjiv’s victims included two children, aged two and three months. When the gruesome details of how the couple killed their own family members emerged in the media.
It shocked the entire country and resulted in the judge’s deciding on the death penalty for the two of them. The defence’s plea that Sonia tried to commit suicide after committing the crime was not enough to save her. But it was truly death by torture. The state did not only sentence the couple to death, they kept their mercy petition hanging for six-and-a-half years.
They spent this time on death row, in solitary confinement because those who are sentenced to death are isolated from the rest of the prison population. So a petition which is supposed to be decided in 15 days and used to be dealt with quite swiftly in the 1980s took more than five years to be decided upon by the president. Black Warrant PDF Book Download
After this delay, the honourable judges decided that so many years of ‘mental agony’ was a good enough punishment and commuted their death sentence. The case files say that Constable Satwant Singh and SubInspector Beant Singh were on the prime minister’s protection duty on 31 October. Sub-inspector Balbir Singh was also rostered but came on his shift much later at 3 pm.
Apparently, Beant and Satwant Singh had swapped their shifts with others so that they would be exactly at the spot that separated the prime minister’s residence and her home office, an area called the TMC gate between 7 and 10 am. In fact, Satwant Singh is said to have told colleagues that he needed to be posted there because it had a toilet nearby and he was suffering from a bout of diarrhea.
Just after 9 am, Mrs. Gandhi walked out of her home towards the TMC gate followed by her entourage – a constable holding her umbrella, her personal attendant and her secretary, R.K. Dhawan. As soon as she approached the gate to step into her office boundary, Beant Singh, a member of her security team for nine years, fired five rounds from his service revolver while Satwant, with an SAF carbine. Black Warrant PDF Book Free
Fired 25 shots at her, which brought her down instantly. Eye-witnesses said that after the shooting, both men threw down their arms and said, ‘We have done what we had to do; now you do what you have to.’ I could easily spot the troublemakers. Petty criminals who were regulars in Tihar.
Started growing out their hair and wearing patkas or saffron scarves around their heads to look the part of Khalistan supporters. Why? First of all, because it was an exciting, subversive thing to be in jail at the time as it got you plenty of attention from the media. But more importantly, it was about the money.
At that time, if you could establish that you were a Khalistani or a Bhindranwale supporter, you could potentially get funds from various supporters abroad. The more notorious you were in jail, the larger the donations came from such support organizations in the UK, US, or Canada. Black Warrant PDF Book Free
People like Harjinder Singh alias Jhinda, who we knew as a smalltime thief went on to become a dreaded Khalistani terrorist in front of my eyes. He was always in and out of jail and never for anything more serious than assaulting someone, petty theft or cheating. Post 1984 he completely re-fashioned himself.
We were agog when we heard that he was behind Congress leader Lalit Maken’s murder and later in 1986, he was the one who assassinated Army Chief General Arunkumar Shridhar Vaidya, who had led Operation Bluestar. Harjinder may have found his Khalistani cause in Tihar. He was hanged for General Vaidya’s murder in a Pune jail in 1992.