Mumbai : Several undertrials lodged at Navi Mumbai's Taloja prison, including high-profile inmates such as Abu Salem, Emile Jerome, and Shrikant Purohit, are on hunger strike since Wednesday, reports Mumbai Mirror. Former Naval officer Jerome is prime accused in the Neeraj Grover murder case, while Purohit is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts.
They are protesting prison authorities' inability to escort them to different courts hearing their cases, because there are not enough personnel to do the job.
On October 4, the undertrials wrote a letter to the prison officials, Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, and State Home Minister R R Patil, saying for the past several days, they were not taken to the courts for the want of guards to escort them. The hand-written letter, written in Hindi, said the hunger strike will continue till the problem is resolved. Prison sources revealed more than 50 inmates refused food on Wednesday.
Some of them are Malegaon blast accused Sameer Kulkarni, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Ajay Rahirkar, Rakesh Dhawde, Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, Shyamlal Sahu, Jagdish Mhatre and Shivnarain Kalsangra.
Also part of the strike are Bharat Nepali gang members Mohd Saqib Khan, Ravi Prakash Singh, Pankaj Singh, Vishwanath Shetty, Rajendra Chavan, Dinesh Bhandari, and a few members of the Arun Gawli gang.
Salem, who was shifted from Arthur Road Jail to the Taloja prison on August 24, too joined the protesters as he has not been produced in court even once after being taken to Taloja. While Jerome has not signed the protest letter, prison sources confirmed that on October 5, when he was not taken to court for his hearing, he joined the strike.
Salem's nephew, advocate Rashid Ansari, said that he had met the don a few days ago. “Salem has been trying to tell the authorities that he should be taken to court for hearings. But his requests are not being heard. They (inmates) had no option but to go on a hunger strike,” he said.
Taloja prison superintendent S B Choure admitted the inmates had threatened to go on a hunger strike a few days ago.
He said, “It can be termed hunger strike only when it is successful for over 24 hours. There is no hunger strike as such here. Moreover, we have told inmates the problem will be sorted out within two days.” Prison sources revealed that recent high alert in the city during festive season created the staff shortage, which resulted in undertrials not escorted to courts.
Some of the prisoners who refused food on Wednesday include Malegaon blast accused Sameer Kulkarni, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Ajay Rahirkar, Rakesh Dhawde, Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, Shyamlal Sahu, Jagdish Mhatre and Shivnarain Kalsangra. Also part of the strike are Bharat Nepali gang members Mohd Saqib Khan, Ravi Prakash Singh, Pankaj Singh and Vishwanath Shetty.