Mumbai: Forty-one-year-old Manjula Shetye, better known as Manju didi among jail inmates, succumbed to her injuries after being allegedly beaten by the staffers of Byculla Jail on 23 June. She was thrashed to death because she complained about two eggs and four slices of bread. Before being imprisoned, Manjula used to be a teacher at Navjeevan School in Mumbai's eastern suburb of Bhandup. If given a chance, she would have liked to continue a career in academics but destiny had other plans.
In 1996, Manjula along with her mother was convicted of murdering her sister-in-law Vidya. Jail sources said in 2003, the court had rewarded her a 14-year sentence and in October this year, she would have walked free after having served her sentence sincerely to the best of her behaviour. Her 'helpful' and 'soft-spoken' nature had earned her the position of warden of her barracks, a role she took rather seriously.
Manjula was initially lodged in Yerwada Jail in Pune and shifted to Byculla three months ago after her mother's death. A police official in the jail said Manjula wished to be shifted to another jail and since Byculla was looking for a warden, she was shifted here. In a short span, she had become quite popular among the other inmates but not with the guards and jailors, sources in the jail said. There were sporadic incidents of rifts with the jail authority.
Manjula's brother Prakash reminisces the joy of his sister when he used to visit her in prison. "She had plans of resuming normal life like other women after her release," Prakash said. He added that those responsible for her murder deserve to be punished and should spend as much time as she did behind the bars.
True to her profession, Manjula would take the initiative of teaching other prisoners English and Marathi alphabets; she would also read their letters out to them. She would also intimate other inmates about their duties and responsibilities, never failing to help them out in any situation.
As a warden, Manjula had started questioning certain malpractices in the prison every day. A senior police official said that Manjula had noticed corruption in purchase and distribution of food items and written to higher authorities regarding this. Many inmates would often complain about the quality and quantity of food served and Manjula would get into an argument with the guards for this.
On 23 June morning, like many other occasions, there was a shortage of eggs and bread served to inmates which led to a heated argument between Manjula and jailor Manisha Pokharkar. Before long, six staffers pounced on Manjula, thrashed her and inserted lathi into her private parts. The statement that was recorded by other inmates at Nagpada police station mentioned how Manjula was stripped and assaulted repeatedly in front of other inmates for over an hour. Manjula fell unconscious at around 7 pm the same day.
The senior police official of Byculla said that Nagpada police has registered a case of murder and FIR has been filed against six women including jailor Pokharkar for Manjula's death. Dozens of Byculla inmates, including Indrani Mukerjea and Mariam Shaikh, have recorded their statements. Both the statements, on what exactly happened on the day of Manjula's death, matched, said a senior official of Byculla Jail on terms of anonymity.
Talking to Firstpost, JJ Hospital dean confirmed that Manjula was brought dead from Byculla Jail. Her body and skull bore injury marks but we are waiting for the viscera report to find out the real reason of Manjula's death, said Lahane. Deputy Commissioner of Police, Akhilesh Kumar, however, refused to comment on the incident.
Manjula's family is yet to cope with the news of her untimely death, but the former teacher's hope of making the wrong right in women's prisons flickers on.
Updated Date: Jun 28, 2017 22:37 PM