Sasikala case divides Bangalore police

Last Updated: Tue, Jul 18, 2017 18:02 hrs
Sasikala cries foul, says some people indulging in political vendetta

After the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam essentially fractured into factions. Sasikala, a long time aide and confidant of the former CM, emerged as a leader of one of those factions. However, earlier this year, she along with her sister-in-law Elavarasi and nephew VK Sudhakaran, were found guilty in a two decade old disproportionate assets case and are serving a four-year sentence in a Bengaluru jail. The Supreme Court in February upheld the guilty verdict in by a trial court.

Reports surfaced of her receiving special treatment inside the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison in Bengaluru. An IPS officer and Director inspector general (DIG) of prisons D Roopa submitted a report to Karnataka police Chief RK Dutta on Wednesday that alleged corruption and irregularities.

The report mentioned Director General of Prisons HN Satyanarayana Rao as being aware of what was going on in the prison. An India Today video report on the same featured details of Sasikala's time in prison.

The report stated that Sasikala was being provided an exclusive kitchen, which is a violation of the prison rules. The report stated that Sathyanarayana Rao was aware of the situation and was bribed – “There was a rumor that you are aware of it and were paid Rs 2 crore for this facility. All these allegations are unfortunate and hence you have to address the issue immediately and take action” the report stated in part.

DGP Rao has refuted the allegations telling the media, “We have not provided any special treatment to Sasikala. She is like any other woman prisoner and lodged in the first floor of the women’s’ barrack. The allegations are baseless and there is no evidence for them.” He also denied ever accepting anything from any prisoner.

The Bangalore Mirror in an investigative report validated some of the concerns of Roopa highlighting rampant corruption and exploitation in the prison system where prisoners were asked to deposit money through intermediaries, and that the VIP treatment was commonplace.

Senior retired IAS Officer Vinay Kumar, who was appointed by the State government to look into the allegations stated in the report, began his probe by meeting Home Secretary Subash Chandra on Monday.

Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi praised the courage of D Roopa saying, “We need more officers of the kind of D Roopa, the DIG (Prisons) of Karnataka, to inspire younger generation to be like her.

After the reports surfaced, Sasikala was on Monday restricted to using facilities like other prisoners. The Deccan Herald reported on leaked photos of the cell that Sasikala and Elavarasi shared; showing a Yoga room, TV room, kitchen, living room and office.

Reaction from the political class was expectedly on partisan lines. The AIADMK did defend Sasikala. AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi said that Sasikala was being dragged into a fight between the two officials (Sathyanarayana Rao and D Roopa) because she was a VIP.

The spokesperson said, “She has simple food habits and doesn't demand special facility. What food would she get by paying Rs. 2 crore? She doesn't accept outside food. She prefers eating food given to prisoners.” This sentiment was echoed by Sasikala's nephew Jeyanandh Dinakaran who said that his aunt is becoming a scapegoat of an ongoing cold war between the top police officials.

Jaya TV, seen as an extension of and mouthpiece for the Jayalalithaa faction posted a report stating that a local magazine investigated the matter in the prison and was not allowed to release its findings which would show that Sasikala was not receiving special treatment. The report goes on to state that people were spreading false messages in an attempt to malign the character of Sasikala. However, no other media outlets local or national, have reported on this occurrence.

DMK working President MK Stalin stated, “Prison mysteries are still continuing in this rule. At present, this is the most discussed topic here. This is the situation in this AIADMK rule” he added.

For her actions as a whistleblower; uncovering the corruption in the prison system, D Roopa was transferred to the traffic and road safety department on Monday. Sathyanarayana Rao was put on leave with immediate effect. In light of this news, around 200 inmates went on a protest on Monday afternoon, demanding that chief superintendent Krishna Kumar be transferred immediately.

This was seen in the larger context of politicians using their power to silence whistleblowers and hoping to sweep the matter under the carpet. Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa criticized the decision saying there is no space for honest officials to work under this Chief Minster’s rule.

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