A day after inmates of the Byculla women's prison went berserk to protest the alleged murder of a 35- year-old lifer, high-profile undertrial Indrani Mukerjea has come under scanner on suspicion of instigating the prisoners.
A preliminary inquiry, sources said, has found that Indrani, who is lodged in the jail for her alleged involvement in the murder of her daughter Sheena Bora, guided the inmates to use children as human shields while staging the violent protest. Children up to six are allowed to stay with their mothers at the Byculla facility.
Over 200 prisoners and undertrials were booked after they fought off guards to climb out on to the jail terrace to protest the death of Manjula Shete, who was allegedly beaten up following a confrontation with prison officials.
A case of murder was registered at Nagpada police station after the jail officials received the post mortem report on Saturday. The report signed by three doctors—P A Patil, N P Kamble and S V Khandare from JJ Hospital—stated 'evidence of multiple contusions' as the cause of death. Samples of her viscera will be sent for forensic analysis.
The six officials—jailor Manisha Pokharkar and guards Bindu Naikode, Waseema Shaikh, Sheetal Shegaokar, Surekha Gudve and Aarti Shingane—were suspended on Saturday for dereliction of duty after the news of Shetye's death spread. On Saturday morning, around 200 women inmates, including Indrani Mukherjee, climbed up the two-storey jail's terrace and staged a protest over the death, with some of them setting papers, books and clothes on fire. Nagpada police, who rushed to the prison and brought them down, have registered a case of rioting and criminal conspiracy against the protesters.
The women inmates claimed Shetye had died of heart attack after being beaten up by some jail officers and no emergency medical aid was provided to her after she collapsed. Shetye had collapsed in the women inmates' barrack number 5 (circle number 1) around 5.30 pm on Friday. She was rushed to JJ Hosptial where she was declared dead. Shetye's brothers, Sharad and Anand, identified her body in the hospital. Her relatives said she was not ill and that they were informed only after her death.
A jail officer said Shetye, who spent 12 years of her sentence in Pune's Yerwada jail, was promoted as warden in Pune jail and last month her request for transfer to Mumbai prison was also sanctioned. "Shetye had been in the jail for more than 11 years. She was designated as warden and her job was to maintain law and order and ensure adherence to rules and regulations like police person. She had access to many places except the ones that are meant for jail staff only. It's also possible that something might have happened between her and the jail staff which led to her being slapped her or more," the officer said.