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Assam Police have arrested the superintendent of Assam’s Dibrugarh Central Jail, Nipen Das, for an alleged security breach which allowed electronic devices including a smartphone and spy-cam pen to be smuggled into the high-security cell of radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh.

The chief of separatist group Waris Punjab De, Amritpal Singh, was brought to Assam’s Dibrugarh Central Jail after the Punjab Police arrested him on April 23, 2023 (File Photo)

Read here: Prison official arrested over recovery of gadgets from Amritpal Singh’s cell

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Dibrugarh’s additional police superintendent (crime) Sizal Agarwal said on Friday that Das was arrested late on Thursday under the stringent anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Assam Prisons Act, and Indian Penal Code’s Section 120B (criminal conspiracy).

Agarwal said the breach was noticed last month and that Das was arrested after several rounds of investigation. “This is a national security issue and being the head of the jail, he [Das] must be responsible,” Agarwal said.

Singh was moved to Dibrugarh along with a few other members of his radical group after their arrest last year. HT learns that the assessment at the time was that his sphere of influence would not extend to this jail.

Police said the jail has a multi-tier security system, including 24-hour CCTV surveillance. Dibrugarh police superintendent Rakesh Reddy cited the initial investigation and said the superintendent allowed the gadgets to reach Amritpal Singh and other inmates. He added that Amritpal Singh also got access to the Internet. “After the recovery of the gadgets, police collected digital evidence and registered a fresh case under which the superintendent of jail has been arrested,” he said. Reddy said that Amritpal Singh and his associates were arrested under National Security Act (NSA) and supporting them is an act against national security.

“This is a sensitive issue and these prisoners are different from others because they were arrested under NSA. Supplying them gadgets violating the jail manuals is an act against national security, hence we imposed UAPA against Nipen Das,” he added.

According to Reddy, most of the gadgets were found inside Amritpal Singh’s cell and some from others.

Assam Police chief Gyanendra Pratap Singh on February 17 said a smartphone with SIM, a keypad phone, a TV remote, a spy-cam pen, pen drives, Bluetooth headphones, speakers, and a smartwatch were seized after the jail staff searched Singh’s cell.

The police chief visited the jail and met with the senior officials on February 20 before ordering the transfer of some prison staff and a probe.

People aware of the matter said Das was being interrogated even as more jail officials were detained on Friday morning for questioning. “This was a major security issue and we may arrest more officials,” said an investigator who asked not to be named.

Read here: Spy camera, smartphone recovered from separatist Amritpal Singh’s jail in major security breach

Amritpal Singh was arrested from Rode, the ancestral village of slain Khalistani ideologue Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, in April 2023 after a 37-day chase. He was booked under the National Security Act (NSA) and taken to the Dibrugarh jail in Assam. A crackdown on his Waris Punjab De was earlier launched after his supporters stormed a police station in Ajnala near Amritsar to secure the release of an arrested associate.

In the jail, Singh and nine other Waris Punjab De members began a hunger strike on February 17 demanding their transfer to their home state of Punjab. Reddy said a team of doctors was examining the health of all 10 inmates. “Three of them were shifted to hospital but the other inmates are getting medical attention inside the jail,” Reddy said.

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