New Delhi: “In 1981, when I was posted as Deputy Superintendent of Tihar Jail, after leaving the Indian Railways job as a law officer, I was astonished to see the elusive and enchanted world of Tihar which is still etched in my memory. Initially, I was worried about the whole thing, but after spending 35 years in this jail, not as a criminal but as a government employee, I still recall the relics of that bygone era.”
“In these 35 years, within its high horror four-walls in Tihar, I saw the ‘mighty’ ones falling to the ground, heard the pain in my ears. The criminals spend their life in fearful confinement in the jail. The sound of handcuffs and shackles in the feet of prisoners in Tihar Jail in the 1970s-80s still resonate in my ears.”
“Though I retired from Tihar jail job in 2016, I have not yet forgotten the mysterious ways of life there, which still haunts me.”
This is not a breathtaking screenplay of any Hollywood or Bollywood film. But, is a confession of a person who worked in this jail for as many as 35 years. Sunil Gupta delves into the inside world of the dreaded Tihar jail, considered the most horrific place a person could visit. The ‘Black Warrant’ tells the breathtaking stories of the criminals who once ruled Tihar.
Sunil Gupta, the Tihar Jailer, has vividly brought to light the darkest secrets of Asia’s largest prison, from which we all are oblivious.
Sunil Gupta told IANS: “In my time, it was not the jailers whose writ ran inside the prison, but the notorious serial killers, rapists, international drug smugglers and mastermind thugs like Charles Sobhraj. As far as I remember, in the 1980s there would hardly have been any such jailer-deputy jailer or any other prison staff-officer with whom Sobhraj had not played tricks.”
“In those days, there were a lot of officers from Haryana in Tihar Jail. Shobhraj, a fraudster and serial killer of Vietnamese and Indian origin who preyed on Western tourists, was such a terror that everyone called him the ‘don’. He was fluent in many languages and was very sharp. When a jailer or a deputy jailer, dared to confront him, he would have either bribed them or befriended them by showering gifts. He lived a luxurious life even inside the jail. At times he even threatened them to drag them to courts if they did not fall in line.”
The jail boss was the ADM or deputy commissioner at the time when Charles Sobhraj escaped from Tihar, according to the book.
“Then, there was no post of Inspector General or Director-General in Tihar jail. The post of Inspector General was created in 1986. Under the Inspector General, there were the staff of Assistant Jail Superintendent, Jail Superintendent, Head-Warden and warden. I am talking of the time when the Inspector General of the Tihar jail was P.V. Sinari. This was the first time an IPS officer was made in-charge of the high profile prison.”
Gupta said, “It was only after Charles Sobhraj’s escape from the prison that work on prison reforms started in Tihar. Otherwise, this jail was nothing short of a hell for criminals. There used to be only one jail then, jail number-1. After Sobhraj’s escape, two high walls were erected within Tihar as a precautionary measure. These walls brought into existence jail number-2 and jail number-3.
The book further says, “In fact, when the first woman IPS, Kiran Bedi joined Tihar, things began to change for better. She brought reforms as per the recommendations of the NGOs. The quality of food, living standard of the inmates also improved drastically, thanks to the efforts by Kiran Bedi.”
“Bedi believed in reformation rather than punishment and empowered the inmates for a positive life. She directly reached to the inmates and enquired about their way of life. Her motto was not to incarcerate the prisoners but to give them hope of a better future.
She introduced the panchayat raj system, a unique system of internal self-management and prisoners participation in the prison. She was also the first officer who openly took the press inside the prison to see for itself the reforms she introduced.”
Gupta explains, “Black-warrant is just a book, while Tihar jail life is nothing short of an epic. It is impossible to include all the details in one book.
The book is a collaboration between Sunil Gupta and writer Sunetra Chaudhary who is the co-author published by Roli Books Publication. The launch of the book is on November 26.
The book includes a hundred true stories of Tihar.
BY SANJEEV KUMAR SINGH CHAUHAN