Burail Jail Break


When the news of, 3 Jhujaru Singhs breaking out of Chandigarh’s Burail Jail by digging a very long underground tunnel, was heard around Punjab in January 2004, the world could not believe what had happened. It was believed by 99% of people, that these Jhujaru Singhs had purposely made to disappear by the Indian government, but the other 1% believed that this news may be true as these 3 Jhujaru Singhs are easily capable of it. Now that the story of how the tunnel was dug up is out, it has put many engineering specialist’s mind in a twist. The fact also is that these Jhujaru Singhs dug up the tunnel by fooling the security forces of the jail.


It is said, that the Singhs had started talking about breaking out of jail soon as they were arrested, but the plan of digging a tunnel underneath the jail was started in September 2001. But not all Singhs were confident in this plan and it did not go much further. These Singhs were arrested for the assassination of Butcher Beanta in 1995, Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara was in one barrack of Burail jail and Bhai Jagtar Singh Tara, Bhai Paramjit Singh Bheora were together in another barrack of Burail jail and it was in their barrack the tunnel was being dug. By the end of 2001, these 3 Singhs had managed to remove a cement slab, under which they could start digging the tunnel and were also able to place the cement slab back in its position. In the first stages of digging the tunnel, the Singhs used weight lifting equipment (for example bars). This mission was easy as the Singhs pretty much ruled this jail, they had asked for cement so they could build a dish stand in their cells, but when given the cement the Singhs kept some cement aside.


The Singhs would dig the tunnel at night and in the morning, they will put the rubble/mud in the flower plantation areas without letting the jail guard’s notice. May it had been really hard to fool the jail security and to dig a tunnel, but with the blessings of Akaal Purakh, these Singhs continued digging. Every Sunday the jail was searched, the Singhs would use the cement they had kept aside to put the slab back in its position and then rub dust/ash to make the area look as normal as possible, they would make the digging area less noticeable and not suspicious.


This tunnel was dug 14 feet deep then roughly 10 feet towards the wall, but one of the jail security officers became suspicious, which was noticed by the Singhs also. The security officer didn’t have the courage in him to question these Jhujaru Singhs. By the time the security officer could tell the jail in-charge, the Singhs had placed the cement slab in its position before the senior officers came to check the area. Ash was rubbed on the cement plaster, so that the plaster does not seem fresh.


Soon as the senior officers got the news, they rushed to check the jail. Bhai Hawara’s barrack was searched up n down by 50 officers, Bhai Tara and Bhai Bheora’s barrack was searched by another 50 officers. When the jail security team came to the digging area, Bhai Tara was here washing his clothes on top of the slab. The officers tried their best to find things out of place which would lead them to the dug tunnel, but they were unsuccessful. There was pole that the Singhs used to lift the slab, the security team were about to grab that when Bhai Tara quickly grabbed the pole and said that it was from his bed. Before the jail security team could get into an altercation with Bhai Tara, the attention of these 50 officers diverted to the shouting of Bhai Hawara. A jail officer by the name of Sandhu walked towards the jail Gurdwara Sahib and Bhai Hawara pulled out his Sri Sahib (Kirpan from his Gatra) and shouted, “I will not let you search the Gurdwara Sahib like this.” This was all done to attract attention of the jail security teams away from Bhai Tara’s situation.


Now the full attention of the guards had been diverted to searching the Gurdwara Sahib. Bhai Tara and Bhai Bheora had also made their way to the Gurdwara to show solidarity with Bhai Hawara. When Sandhu alone couldn’t deal with the situation, the superintendent of the jail came and Bhai Hawara said to him, “Search how ever you have to, but you will not embarrass us. Tell us what you want to search in the Gurdwara Sahib? We, ourselves will open and show you.” After this the superintendent did not allow Sandhu to search the Gurdwara and like this, the Singhs avoided an altercation with the jail authorities and continued to dig the tunnel.


As the Singhs kept to their plan, a water pipe had burst in the barrack which started to come through into the tunnel. These Singhs filled buckets to unflood the tunnel, but the water will again mount up. But when the mud started to fall in the tunnel, the Singhs understood that this tunnel would collapse. The Singhs used their intelligence and filled the area they dug going across with mud, so that it would support the tunnel from collapsing. The dug area seemed like it was untouched as the Singhs had plastered the slab etc. Like this many days passed, and then one day as the Singhs were playing volleyball a loud thunder sound was heard, it was the sound of the tunnel collapsing attracting the attention of everyone. At first, the Singhs continued playing volleyball and then after seeing the collapse tunnel and dust everywhere they started talking about things that could have caused this. “These rats have caused so much havoc in this jail, even the barracks are infested with them. This also seems like the doing of these rats.” The Singhs said this purposely so everyone else would also follow the same story.


The jail guards knew something wasn’t right and kept a suspicious watch on these Singhs. The superintendent was informed who then rushed to the jail. The whole security team tried their best to find the mouth of the tunnel, but this was impossible as there was mud and rubble everywhere. When the superintendent assured himself that there was no tunnel, he along with other officers came to the conclusion that the sewage leakage and rats were the reason of this collapse. They filled the collapsed tunnel and everyone returned to their duties. This news ‘TUNNEL INSIDE BURAIL JAIL’ did breakout in the media, but the superintendent assured everyone that sewerage leakage was the main cause for this collapse.


The Singhs remained quiet for another year and in the winter of 2002, they started digging another tunnel starting from the room next to the previous tunnel mouth. The Singhs had only managed to dig 8/9 feet deep this time, when some of the prisoners got into a fight. On 31st October 2002, some new Sikh prisoners came into jail on minor charges. These new prisoners got into an argument with prisoners who were smoking and instead of stopping the smokers the jail security team locked the Sikh prisoners in isolation cells. When Bhai Hawara, Bhai Tara and Bhai Bheora found out about this, they demanded the superintendent to release them from isolation immediately. The superintendent made promises to the Singhs that he will release the Sikh prisoners but he did not fulfil it. Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara did Ardas and then went on hunger strike, Bhai Tara and Bhai Bheora were told not to go on hunger strike by Bhai Hawara. No jail official took this hunger strike seriously, Bhai Tara and Bhai Bheora tried speaking to jail inspector Sandhu, but the Singhs were ignored and it ended up with Sandhu running away from Singhs to save his life.


Sandhu ran to his office and sounded the alarm, now the whole security team charged on all 3 Singhs and beat them with batons. The Singhs tried to fight back, but Bhai Hawara had not eaten for 4 days and the jail security team were fully armed and prepared for this. When these Singhs were being beaten with batons, they were shouting ‘KHALISTAN ZINDABAD’. After this all 3 Singhs were put in number 20 solidarity confinement. Now Bhai Tara and Bhai Bheora also joined Bhai Hawara on hunger strike and they all boycotted attending their court dates which had already been set up within the jail. The news of the ill treatment towards the Singhs, spread through out Punjab and Sardar Simranjeet Singh Mann started a legal process to get the 3 Singhs basic rights that they were entitled to within the jail. As the pressure upon the jail authorities built, they moved the Singhs back to the barracks, and it was Sardar Simranjeet Singh Mann himself who gave juice to the Singhs to break their hunger strike. Now Bhai Hawara, Bhai Tara and Bhai Bheora were locked up together in barrack number 7. This barrack was very close to the outer wall, and the Singhs felt confident in digging a tunnel from here for their escape.


Now in the winter of 2003, Bhai Hawara assembled a cement slab on which the Singhs started building an oven. Bhai Hawara told the Singhs no matter what happened that none of them will get into any sort of altercation with the jail security team. Then the Singhs started digging another tunnel with weight lifting equipment within the barrack. When they would stop digging, the oven slag would be placed on the mouth of the tunnel to hide it. As before they got rid of the mud by throwing it in flower planting areas and also by mixing it with water and flushing it. Because it was winter, all the doors would be closed and curtains would be drawn too at night, hence the digging process was done during the night. Some days later, a new inmate by the name of Devi Singh was put in the same barrack as the Singhs, Devi Singh was serving jail time for murder. With the new inmate coming, the process of digging has stopped. So, in the daytime one of the Singhs would occupy Devi Singh in playing games outside within the barrack, meanwhile the other 2 Singhs would continue digging the tunnel. One Singh would be digging while the other keeps an eye out.


Many days passed like this, but Devi Singh started becoming suspicious but was unable to find anything. Then one day when they had dug roughly 5 foot deep, as the Singhs tried to put the oven back on top, it fell in the tunnel. Now Devi Singh realized that something was going on, so the Singhs told Devi Singh everything and he joined the Singhs in their plan to escape. Now another cement slab was made which was 2 foot squared and another oven was made too and the digging process had started again. The tunnel was dug 13 feet deep and 35 feet towards the outer wall of the jail, the Singhs had noticed heavy damping and stopped immediately. By now the Singhs had gained good knowledge and experience of tunnel digging. The Singhs had no choice but to start digging another tunnel within the barrack but this time the mouth of the tunnel would be dug from the area in which Devi Singh slept. All the mud from the new tunnel was put in the damp tunnel. When the Singhs would stop digging they would put the slap on top and Devi Singh would then sleep on top.


The Singhs would daily dig for 2 hours, 1pm till 3pm they would have the sound of their TV high so no one could hear the digging sound. One day there was no electricity and the Singhs decided not to do any digging and take a rest day. On the same day the jail security team decided to check up on barracks and luckily nothing suspicious was detected. Luckily the Singhs had decided not to continue digging on this day as they may have gotten caught.


Most of the mud from the second tunnel was mixed with water and flushed in the toilet. During this process the nails of the Singhs had worn out. As the Singhs had progressed so much in digging the tunnel, they used the electricity from the Gurdwara Sahib within the jail to put up a light bulb within the tunnel and also have table fan blowing air at the bottom as they dug. To have some sort of contact with the outer world, the Singhs had attained a mobile through their meetings with relatives. The second tunnel now had been dug 14 feet deep, and then 80 feet across going underneath the outer wall of the jail. The Singhs then started digging upwards like stairs, so that it would be easier to crawl out of the tunnel. Going down 14 feet from the mouth of the tunnel was done with climbing down using turbans and coming out of the tunnel would be done by crawling. The measurements of the tunnel were done with actual feet, which turned out right.


Now the tunnel had been dug and it came out in between the 2 outer walls of the jail, so passing one wall was easy but the second wall have to be climbed. The actual outer wall was covered with glass on the top and the Singhs needed a thick cloth to climb over but the second problem was the jail light tower which kept the light on in the area making it seem like it was day time. Third problem was to jump the wall as soon as possible so that the guards doing timely round don’t find anything suspicious. Covering the end of the tunnel was as important so that no suspicion was raised. During the meetings with relatives and friends, one of the associates had taken the responsibility to eliminating the electricity at a certain time for the tower light would not be an issue. The night of 21st January 2004 was chosen to be the night of escape.


On the night of 21st January, it had started to rain. After the communications via the mobile the friend that had the responsibility to switch off the lights of the jail had given the Singhs one hour gap in which that had to make their escape. The friend who had said the light will go in an hour, had actually switched the light off in half an hour and then called the Singhs to make their escape. But the tower light had quickly switched on, maybe due to a generator. The issue now was that guards that had been sleeping or sitting inside had become more aware with the light going off, but the Singhs also had this one chance to make their escape.


The Singhs had already prepared a board which had grass on it so that they could cover themselves as they crawled to the last wall of the jail from the end of the tunnel. The Singhs had also wore 2 pair of cloths. When Bhai Hawara spoke to the friend who the responsibility of switching the light off, the friend said not to make the escape but Bhai Hawara answered, “It would be stupid not make the escape today, as it is raining there is a possibility that the tunnel may collapse. Do Ardas that we are successful in escaping.” After this phone call all 3 Singhs got into the tunnel to make their escape. Crawling on their elbows they had reached the other end of the tunnel. Once out of the tunnel the Singhs used the board as they crawled towards the final outer wall of the jail. Bhai Paramjit Singh Bheora stood up against the wall and supported Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara onto his shoulders, who covered the glass on top of the wall with a thick cloth and then Bhai Hawara jumped over the wall. Then Bhai Jagtar Singh Tara and Devi Singh made their escape, Bhai Bheora was pulled with the support of turban material. Like this all 4 Singhs had made their escape without creating any suspicion. History was written. Outside the jail, the associates of the Singhs were deep into their Ardas for these Singh’s successful escape. Soon as Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara, Bhai Jagtar Singh Tara and Bhai Paramjit Singh Bheora (and Devi Singh) met the Singhs on the outside, they made their escape from the area.


Khalsa Fatehnama – September 2007