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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 14:04 GMT

World: South Asia

Inquiry into Madras prison riot

The riot broke out after an inmate died on the way to hospital

By TN Gopalan from Madras

The Chief Minister of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Muthuveli Karunanidhi, says he will set up a commission to investigate the causes of an unprecedented riot in a Madras prison.

At least 10 people, including a jail official, are known to have been killed and more than 150 injured in the riot that took place on Wednesday.

[ image: The injured were rushed to hospital]
The injured were rushed to hospital
Mr Karunanidhi has announced a grant of about $20,000 for the family of the prison official killed - assistant jailer Jaya Kumar - and about $4,000 for the families of the nine prisoners killed.

He has also said that his government would ensure that the other inmates of the Madras prison are not harassed in any way by prison authorities.

Death sparks riot

The rioting broke out following the death of an inmate, Redivelu.

According to official reports, Redivelu, who had been sick with diarrhoea, died on his way to hospital.

[ image: Anxious relatives gathered outside the prison]
Anxious relatives gathered outside the prison
The news of his death led to a rampage by his fellow inmates who set fire to a room where the assistant jailer had taken refuge.

The prison authorities called in the police, who first used tear gas to quell the riot, and then resorted to live ammunition.

A number of senior police officers are said to be among the injured. According to some reports a few prisoners have escaped.

Concern raised

The state's Law Minister, Aladi Aruna, has confirmed the death toll.

During today's session of the state assembly, both the chief minister and his law minister refused to give in to the opposition's demands for their resignation.

They said they could not be held responsible for the incident, although they did promise to work towards improving the quality of prison administration throughout the state.

Meanwhile, the anxious relatives and friends of the prison inmates have crowded around the prison premises.

Most of them were allowed in for a visit today in a gesture of goodwill by the authorities.

A large number of people have also gathered outside the main government hospital in Madras, where most of the injured have been admitted.

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