27 July, 2021

A Jailer’s Honest Notebook

A top Tihar policeman holds a mirror to its unique ecosystem: bossy criminals and underlings, systemic reforms, executions and the deadening bureaucracy

Prison reduces everyone; some correctly, but most immeasurably unjustly
A Jailer’s Honest Notebook

As an inmate, I sometimes spotted, amidst all the bustle, a wheelchair-­bound inmate meeting an elderly woman in the deorhi, the nerve centre of Tihar prisons. He was unkempt and I surmised that since he could not walk, he was allowed to meet his mother in the vestibule. I sympathised deeply with him because I knew that his disability, far from eliciting any consideration from inm­ates or staff, would have sev­erely aggravated his prison experience. Later, I learnt that this was Jaswinder Singh Jassa, the dreaded don who once ran Tihar and gave so much grief to Sunil Gupta, the author of this fine memoir. Jassa was once so feared, a prison official once told me, that if he merely walked down a market all shops would down their shutters. Since nob­ody dared to give evidence against him, the police had to eventually rely on the National Security Act to arrest him. But even after I learnt this, the sight of him on that wheelchair, his legs eaten away by gangrene, made me sad. It is difficult to come to a glorious end in prison, unless you are hanged, and...

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