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Coronavirus scare sparks clash in Kolkata jail, many inmates and prison staff injured

Angry undertrials, whose bail applications are not being heard as courts are closed, also set portion of the Kolkata jail premises on fire.

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Kolkata: A massive clash broke out between police and inmates inside North Kolkata’s Dum Dum Central Prison Saturday, and the police had to fire teargas shells to control the violence. 

According to the police, the clash broke out inside the correctional home after the prisoners asked the authorities to release them as the news of coronavirus spread and the consequent shutdown of certain services in the state reached them.

The clash left many inmates and prison staff with serious injuries, Commissioner of Police, Barrackpore, Manoj Verma said.

Correctional Home Minister Ujjwal Biswas told ThePrint those critically injured have been admitted to hospital. 

With courts closed in West Bengal until 31 March, bail applications of undertrials kept in Dum Dum jail are not being heard. Sources said the undertrials are also not being allowed to meet family members from Friday, which triggered unrest among them and they started protesting Saturday.

The correctional home has a capacity to house around 3,000 inmates, and it is almost full at the moment.

West Bengal has reported four positive cases of coronavirus as the total number of cases in India crossed 200 Saturday.

West Bengal has reported four positive cases of coronavirus as the total number of cases in India crossed 200 Saturday.

Also read: West Bengal government orders shutdown of all restaurants, bars, pubs till 31 March

Protesting prisoners set portion of jail premises on fire

The police said irate inmates set a portion of the premises on fire and pelted the jail staff and police personnel with stones. The fire that started near the jail gate spread to the kitchen area and some inflammable items kept there further fuelled the blaze. 

Several fire tenders were rushed, and Fire Minister Sujit Bose reached the spot. He was also hit by a stone, the sources said. 

A huge police force was called in and the Rapid Action Force was deployed.

Commissioner Verma was also present at the spot. 

While there were allegations that the police resorted to a few rounds of firing, a senior police officer said only teargas shells were fired to disperse the crowd. 

Verma said the situation was now under control. 

Speaking to ThePrint, Correctional Home Minister Ujjwal Biswas said, “The undertrials were agitating over the shutdown of trial and bail appeals. Courts are closed. Some inmates were critically injured, and they were taken out of the prison premises and admitted to hospital.” 

He added, “Now the situation is under control with police reinforcements being sent and fire brigade engines dousing the fire. It is a big jail, with several hundred inmates. (We are) trying to ascertain the number.”

Also read: Amid coronavirus scare, Yogi govt cancels Ram Navami festival in Ayodhya


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