As many as 40 terrorists and their sympathisers including Pakistani national Zia Mustafa involved in the 2003 Nadimarg massacre of Kashmiri pandits were shifted on Tuesday from the central jail here to prisons outside the Valley, a step taken after the dramatic escape of LeT's Mohammed Naveed Jhatt from a hospital earlier this month.
The Jammu and Kashmir prison department chalked out a list of these terrorists and sympathisers in the central jail and immediately a movement order for shifting them was initiated, officials said here.
Three Pakistani terrorists including Mustafa, who was accused of killing 24 Kashmiri pandits at Nadimarg in 2003, were among those shifted to various jails outside the Kashmir Valley, they said.
Mustafa was accused by the police of being part of the conspiracy in the massacre.
On the intervening night of March 23 and 24, 2003, among those killed in Nadimarg of Shopian district in South Kashmir included 12 women and two children.
The pandits chose not to remain in the Valley after the 1990 exodus of the community.
The state home department, which had ignored earlier requests for shifting of these prisoners, took the decision after an internal enquiry pointed out about a "casual approach" being adopted by the department.
The Union home ministry had also come down heavily on the state government and directed it to fully review security measures in place in jails and transportation of inmates.
Among other prisoners shifted to district prison in Jammu were overground worker of Lashker-e-Taiba Ashfaq Ahmad Bhat, a terrorist of the same group Mohammad Aslam Malik, dreaded Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Amir Nahi Wagey and another Pakistani terrorist Abdul Razak Baloch, who used to act as a guide in ferrying terrorist groups in frontier district of Kupwara of North Kashmir.
Shifting of hardened prisoners came after the escape of Jhatt, who was lodged in Srinagar central jail. He fled from a hospital in the city after he and his accomplice shot and killed two policemen accompanying him. Jhatt was taken to the hospital for medical checkup.
After the embarrassment, the state home department issued instructions to immediately review security of hardened terrorists who are lodged in Srinagar central jail and move them to Jammu, Uddhampur, Leh jails and kept in isolation.
The then Director General of Prisons SK Mishra had several communications to the state home department asking them to shift hardened terrorists and their sympathisers from Srinagar central jail as they were vitiating the atmosphere inside the prison and indulging in indoctrination of several undertrials.
An internal probe has brought to the fore lapses at different stages, especially the failure of the prosecution wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police as well as the state home department in addressing the genuine issues related to the prison department.
In November last year, a communication marked as "urgent" to Principal Secretary (Home) was sent by then DGP Mishra, asking him to shift some of the prisoners including Jhatt to a jail in Jammu division and also highlighted the need to segregate them completely from each other.
"In view of inputs received with regard to anti-national activities of the militancy related prisoners lodged in central jail, Srinagar from time to time through police and (security) agencies, there is urgent need to shift these prisoners to the jails in Jammu division in order to segregate them from each other. "This will help in preventing the already deteriorating security atmosphere in the Valley and prevent indoctrination of young offenders," Mishra, a 1985-batch officer who is the seniormost IPS officer of the state, said in his letter.
Mishra made another attempt in January when he shot off another letter, a copy of which is with PTI, to the Principal Secretary Home in which he highlighted that presence of Pakistani hardcore terrorists was hampering the smooth functioning of the jails in the Kashmir Valley.
"... The prosecution wing of the police department needs to defend such shifting orders as and when the trial courts desire to lodge them in the Kashmir based jails again."
"It is, therefore, requested that necessary directions may kindly be issued to prosecution wing of police department to defend the shifting orders of the prisoners before the trial courts," the letter dated January 13 said.