The Great Surgical Escape from maximum security Nabha jail


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, November 27: “All the rotten eggs in one basket”,  comments Stalag Luft III Allied POWs detention  prison commandant Luftwaffe Colonel von Luger as  a truck-load of prisoners is brought to this high security jail. "There will be no escapes from this camp”, he asserts. Brought to that prison camp that day were those who had made many escape attempts. They make the last attempt from that jail in Poland then under Nazi Germany. The Great Escape released in 1963 was picturised on the 1950 novel of the same name based upon actual events written by Paul Brickhill in 1950. They dug a tunnel to escape.

Nabha is maximum security jail in Punjab to keep, in words of Luger,  “all the rotten eggs in one basket”. Six of them were freed in a daring action by their supporters outside that can be termed yet another kind of “surgical strike”, this time by the professional criminals. One of the escapees is a notorious gangster Vicky Gonder. And then there is Harminder Singh Mintoo, the Khalistan Commando Force chief who was brought to the country in an overseas operation by the agencies in 2014 and shown to have been arrested from Indira Gandhi International airport, New Delhi.  Gurpreet Singh Gopi was his associate.

Earlier, The Great Escape was enacted by militant Jagtar Singh Hawara and his associates from Burail jail in 2008 after boring a tunnel from their cell to a point near the boundary wall. Hawara is back in jail after his arrest from Patiala some months later.

According to the information available, two persons in police uniform got down from a vehicle at the gate of the prison. They were in police uniform and escorted two “prisoners in handcuffs” who were to be lodged in Nabha jail. They crossed the first gate and demanded keys for the cell where they were to be kept. This spilled the beans. The firing started and the six came out of the jail to be escorted out. The prison wards and cells are opened in the morning. However, one does not known as to how they  managed to breach the internal security system. It is as if they were waiting at the inner gate. It was easy. They boarded the waiting vehicles and sped away. Hours later, the policemen shot at a vehicle near Samana in Patiala district killing a woman member of a musical troupe.

Others who were freed include Gurpreet Singh Sekhon alias Sonu Mudki, Kulpreet Singh alias Neeta Deol, Amandeep Dhotian and Kashmir Singh.

In this surgical strike targeting Nabha jail, the assailants seems to have escaped  after completing their mission within minutes with zero injury. The strike seems to have been planned with clinical details. The details, however, would come out later in case there is no Operation Cover Up.

Prison department is not part of the Home department as such but the two are closely related as both are concerned with the maintenance of law and order.  What happened today is an indication of the situation slipping down to the lowest ebb. Policing seems to have been totally degenerated over the years and now no further proof is needed.

Those who have been freed are notorious gangsters and militants. This has happened when elections are only three months away raising every type of apprehension. Punjab has turned into a state where lawlessness is the law. The situation had never deteriorated to this extent even during militancy when  specially built fortified iron gates of the police stations would be locked around 4.00 pm, such was the scare.

At the political level, this daring escape adds to the  tsunami of anti-incumbency against the Akali Dal-BJP alliance,  reinforcing the perception that the law and order machinery has miserably collapsed.  Sukhbir Singh Badal has been depending almost total on the state cadre PPS officers in the field. At one time, the district police chief used to be IPS officer who would comparatively be less amenable to the wishes of political bosses.

At stake is not just the political future of  Sukhbir Singh Badal  but more importantly,   the safety of the people at large as it would only add to the perception of insecurity among the people.


Jagtar Singh


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