Bangalore: Wednesday was quite like the day when V.K. Sasikala accompanied then Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa to the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison on the outskirts of the city, yet very different.
Unlike the appearance of Jayalalithaa more than two years ago, there were no prohibitory orders on Wednesday. But security was quite tight along the Parappana Agrahara Road. The prison is on Bangalore’s outskirts, around 20km from the city centre.
Yet no one expected anti-Sasikala protesters to spring a surprise close to the spot where policemen and media personnel waited for the arrival of Sasikala to the prison where she had spent 21 days with her “Amma” in October 2014.
According to a police officer, at least seven cars belonging to Sasikala supporters were stoned or attacked. The protesters, who seemed to have appeared from nowhere, shouted slogans in favour of O. Panneerselvam. The rear windscreen of a Mahindra Scorpio was smashed before the cops could rush and drive away a young man who chanted slogans against Sasikala and her supporters in Tamil.
Twenty minutes later, another protester jumped on a car bearing a Tamil Nadu registration number and tried to break the front windscreen even as the driver struggled to move to safety. He was heard shouting: “You all have come here after killing Amma.”
The day began amid high drama as it was initially believed that Sasikala and the others would have to appear before special judge Ashwath Narayana at the civil and sessions court complex in central Bangalore. But the hearing was shifted to a temporary courtroom adjacent to the prison complex where the three, along with Jayalalithaa, were originally convicted by then judge John Michael D’Cunha in 2014. The prison is 30km from the Tamil Nadu border.
By then, the police had barricaded the only road leading to the prison, just like they had done in October 2014. The only difference was the lack of prohibitory orders that had seen the entire area shut down when Jayalalithaa came to hear D’Cunha’s verdict that convicted and sent her to prison with Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran.
On Wednesday, Sasikala’s lawyers requested judge Narayana to allow her two weeks to surrender, besides seeking “A”-class facilities and home cooked food. The judge refused. The “A”-class facility, usually accorded to VIPs, would have meant Sasikala would be in a better cell with a fan, a bed, newspapers and a TV set. Home-cooked food would be a possibility too.
Prison sources said the three would be treated as “B”-class prisoners as they were convicted for economic offence and not violence. According to DGP (prisons) Sathyanarayana Rao, Sasikala would share a small cell, which has an attached toilet, with Ilavarasi. Sudhakaran will have to share a cell in the men’s block with another prisoner.
According to a prison source, Sasikala has been allotted prisoner number 9234, Ilavarasi 9235, and Sudhakaran 9236. But there was no official word from the jail authorities on the numbers.
A source said the two women would be allowed a bucket to shower, fresh bed sheets, a fan, a plate and a tumbler each, and access to a TV room nearby. All prisoners have to eat what is cooked in the prison kitchen. That is mainly wheat, millet or rice-based dishes, with non-vegetarian fare served twice a week.
While Sasikala and Ilavarasi arrived in the former’s Toyota Fortuner fitted with lights that focused on her face, in typical Amma style, at 5.15pm, Sudhakaran arrived at 6.37pm, having driven around 350km from Chennai. Sasikala and Ilavarasi had to spend just 15 minutes in the special court, after which they were taken for mandatory medical tests in the prison health centre.
Since the three will have to serve around three years and 11 months – after deducting the earlier 21-day jail stay from their four-year terms – of “simple imprisonment”, they will not be put through the hard labour meant for convicts sentenced to rigorous imprisonment, DGP Rao said.
Among senior AIDMK leaders present in the special court were M. Thambidurai and Sasikala’s husband M. Natarajan. Both left after Sasikala and the others were signed in to the prison.