Imagine waking up every day to the four dappled walls, the rusting iron bars and the sleepy guards who come thrice a day to feed you because they are bound by duty to let you survive. Well, that is the life of one prisoner Deepak Kanji whose 50sqft area will be his space for 20 more years. He sits there alone with a TV, blanket, water container and endless loneliness.
Locked up in the 472-year-old Portuguese-built fortification cell, the 30-year-old is the only inmate of Diu’s heritage site/fort/only jail. According to reports after the undertrial moves out, the prison will shut and management of the aging fort/cell will revert to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
For now, the daily life of Kanji includes two hours of fresh air and cop company between 4 pm and 6 pm. At night, he is paraded to his room to face the empty space with the vacant watchtowers as his companion. As the only inmate in the Portuguese fortification, authorities see no stringent watch for a look-out as such the staff in the prison has been pared down. For now, the prison has five jail guards and an assistant jailer for a facility housing one.
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“They serve in shifts and the inmate is guarded 24x7, but the situation has its challenges,” says Chandrahas Vaja, who is in charge of the jail. “We cannot arrange for any real activity for the prisoner as he is the only one. For his food, we have made a special arrangement with a restaurant near the fort.”
News to shut down the jail was sanctioned in 2013, after the ASI put in a request saying that the fort will serve a better tourist site than a prison. But it was only a year ago that the actual shutdown began. “We decided to gradually empty the prison, by not taking in any more prisoners. At the time there were seven inmates, including two women,” says Vaja.
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Out of the seven prisoners, four were transferred to a prison in Amreli, Gujarat, about 100 km away; two finishing doing their time and were released. Kanji as such remains the only inmate. He was arrested in December for allegedly trying to poison his wife. As of now, there are no fixed answers as to how long Kanji’s case will go on. If convicted, he will be transferred to Amreli, too.