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Deepak Kanji remains locked up in a Fort of Diu : The Story of India’s loneliest Prisoner

Deepak Kanji

For Deepak Kanji, loneliness is probably a bigger woe than being in jail. The 30-year old remains locked up in a room of Diu jail that can accommodate 20, with a television, blanket, water container and 50 sq meters of empty space. He is the only inmate of the Diu jail, and after he moves out, the 472-year old fort Portuguese-built fortification will be handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Deepak Kanji spends his day in arrant loneliness, with two hours of company provided by cops between 4 PM and 6 PM. The staff has been trimmed down, with five jail guards and an assistant jailer guarding only one inmate- Deepak Kanji.

In charge of the jail, Chandrahas Vaja informed that the jail staff work in shifts, guarding the inmate 24×7. A restaurant near the fort serves food to Kanji.

The shutdown process of the fort began in 2013 when the Archaeological Survey of India requested that they wanted to convert the site into a destination for tourists. The actual shutdown of the fort, however, began last year, following which four of the seven inmates were transferred to a prison in Amreli in Gujarat. Kanji was arrested in December, for allegedly trying to poison his wife, and has his case pending at court. If convicted, he too will be transferred to Amreli.

It is convenient to keep him here while he is an undertrial because his hearings are at the Diu sessions court and Amreli, the nearest prison, is so far away,”  Chandrahas Vaja says.

The fort stands as a reminder of the Portuguese rule over Diu, which had remained a Portuguese colony from 1537 to 1961. The jail where Deepak Kanji is housed is one of the oldest functioning prisons of India.

ASI officials expressed uncertainty over the fact that this part of the fort was always a jail. A senior conservator of the ASI said that the bakery present there suggests otherwise. But prior to the departure of the Portuguese in 1961, it was a fully functional prison.

As for Deepak, he spends his days reading newspapers and Gujarati magazines. His TV set has only Doordarshan and spiritual channels.

Deepak’s exit from the Diu prison will also mean good news to Diu collector Hemant Kumar, who is striving to bring in “crime free” status for the island. The jail officials too eagerly await his transfer as they find it difficult to arrange company for this sole inmate.

Assistant Jailor Dinesh Baraiya says that Deepak asks about the status of his case every day, and they ask him to wait for the next court hearing.