The Uttar Pradesh government has transferred 21 jailors and 44 deputy jailors from across the state, after a series of video clips emerged showing inmates of Unnao district jail proudly flashing alleged firearms and partaking in extravagant meals.
The government is also expected to institute departmental action against other high-ranking officials.
"If you want anybody killed in jail, it will be done. If you want anybody killed outside, it will be done too," one of the inmates, who identified himself as Amrish Sehrawat alias Pran, is heard saying in a clip widely circulated on social media. "I was in Meerut jail before being moved to Unnao. I will kill whoever you want, wherever you want."
Through the monologue, the inmate has a pistol clutched firmly in hand.
A second clip shows another convict swaggering into the frame with the same gun held high, then pausing to let loose a few lines of poetry. "Zamaane mein dum nahi ki mita sake humko, zamana khud hum se hain, zamane se hum nahin (This world does not have the guts to eliminate us. That's because the world identifies with us, we don't identify with the world)," he drawls, before introducing himself as Gaurav Pratap Singh from Raebareli district.
How do they feel about being in prison, the unseen person shooting the video asks. Pat comes the answer: "Oh, jails are our workshops."
In the third clip, another convict describes the manner in which he was sent to Unnao Jail as punishment. "But the Yogi government was not able to do us any harm either at Meerut Jail or Unnao Jail. Even if they send us to some foreign land, we will turn the prisons there into our workshops," he says.
The final footage shows a group of inmates partaking in an eight-course meal that's clearly sourced from outside. "At least have a peg (of liquor)," somebody is heard suggesting from behind.
The government, however, has a curious explanation for the videos. "It was found during a probe that one of the inmates, Gaurav, is a very good painter. The pistol seen in the video is actually made of clay," the state home department said, adding that the clips were shot four months ago. As for the footage of inmates feasting, it insisted that the food had come from the prison canteen.
The videos were made in collusion with some jail officials to put pressure on the prison administration, Additional Director General (Prisons) Anand Kumar declared. Uttar Pradesh Jail Minister Jai Pratap Singh, on the other hand, said that the inmates concerned would be transferred to other prisons. "We take such incidents very seriously, and once somebody is found guilty, we take strict action against them," he added.
Both Gaurav Pratap Singh and Amrish Sehrawat are serving life sentences for murder and looting.
This is not the first time Uttar Pradesh prisons have made headlines over unusual occurrences. On June 6, prisoners at the Naini Central Jail were seen drinking liquor and savouring non-vegetarian dishes at a party held to mark mafia don Atiq Ahmed's transfer to the Sabarmati Jail in Gujarat. Two weeks later, several hardened convicts were found slapping and abusing a group of undertrials at the Raebareli prison.