progress at Indore Central Jail
Following a small news item in a
vernacular daily of Madhya Pradesh, I went to Indore to explore a
'mystic' reformation which was taking place in Indore Central Jail.
For a change I found convicts walking around with rosary beads made
of wool! They were uttering 'Ram naam' They greeted me with
folded hands. They were smiling and their eyes were sparkling. I
watched them walk down to their 'barracks'.
Everybody rises early to do
the morning chores and then they listen to 'amritvani', a
melodious kirtan (devotional song) played through a sound
system fitted in the prison barracks. The convicts meditate and
practice yoga and then they go to the workshops to do their allotted
work. Every evening they do their japa (rosary) before
bedtime. During the day there were no noisy brawls or abuse.
Every one was getting silently reformed. There was no personality
like Kiran Bedi to make this unusual happening an international news
item. Yet, convicts were engrossed in deep sadhana.
Before we address this
wonderful reformation system we need to understand the minds of
Convicts with Dr.
speaking, vengeance, insult, infliction of pain and lure etc., often
lead one to commit a crime. Sometimes even innocent people are
convicted. In jail they face the gloom of darkness and societal
seclusion. One convict, Ramesh (name changed), landed in jail along
with his two brothers and father facing the charge of murder. First
Ramesh attempted suicide and then went into depression and
became an introvert until 1997, when he started he started his japa
and became a different man. Likewise, many convicts fight out a
deadly battle within themselves. During several interactions with
convicts it was found that, faced with the prospect of nothing but
pain and pathos, most of them nurture suicidal tendencies. In most
jails this is the overall picture where reformation is only a
bureaucratic fancy. But Indore Central Jail tells a different tale
where the reformation spirit is working with no reformation thrust
Jails are fertile
ground for spiritualism once they are used for the purpose. It so
happened that Dr. Vishwamitter Ji, Head of Shree Ram Sharnam was
conducting a sadhana satsang at Jhabua, a tribal belt
inhabited by the Bhil tribe, in Madhya Pradesh. There he learnt that
the son of one of his disciples had landed up in jail though he
claimed to be innocent. He went to meet him at Indore Central Jail.
News spread like
forest fire that a guru was coming to meet a disciple in prison
where even near and dear relatives seldom come because of the
stigma. A guru coming to visit an inmate facing trial under IPC 302
raised many eyebrows. The other convicts expressed a desire to
listen to a discourse by the guru. Dr. Vishwamitter Ji agreed. He
started his discourse by saying that in this world there is nobody
who has not committed any crime in his lifetime. "For your one
fault you are imprisoned. But you are not the only convict! In fact
all those holding the highest office are in perpetual imprisonment
and all are caged in the concept of birth and death."
the discourse many queued up to get initiated. This was year 1997.
Since then the atmosphere of Indore Central Jail has undergone a sea
change. "Convicts who used to fight among themselves and abuse
each other over trifling matters turned to meditation and japa,"
said Mr. Khanna, Superintendent of the jail.
should take a look at the list of prisoners released on parole. It
may be kept in mind that recommendations for parole is subject to
the personal improvement of the convict and only when this is
ensured does a jailer moves the file for parole action. The
following figures will speak for themselves:
||Persons released on
|2000 (Jan. - March)
There were two convicts,
Sarnam Singh and Shivraj Singh. Both were convicted for committing
seven and a half murders! They were referred to as "sare
saat murdari" because they had killed seven people and the
eighth victim had luckily escaped death. In 1990 it so happened that
Sarnam SIngh's daughter got married against his wishes. Both the
brothers, out of sheer anger, killed seven people. Since then they
have been in Indore Central Jail. Several Wardens confided that
Sarnam Singh was very ferocious and frequently picked fights. Once
he even caused self injury to initiate a fight with fellow inmate.
However, in 1997, he was moved by the Ram naam discourse and
was initiated. His behaviour pattern changed. Nevertheless, both the
brothers languished in jail when, finally, on July 30, 1999, they
were sentenced to death. The brothers spent most of their time in japa
as they awaited the gallows. Sarnam Singh used to say that even God
could not deprive him of heaven as he had uttered the name of the paramatman
18 to 19 hours daily. On 27th January, 2000 Sarnam Singh wrote a
letter to Dr. Vishwamitter Ji saying that on January 2, 2000 the
death sentence had been changed to life imprisonment.
Very shortly they will be out
of jail and Sarnam Singh declares that he has discovered an oil
which helps hair growth. He has successfully experimented with it in
jail. He plans to make this discovery his future occupation after
his release from jail. He also plans to run yoga classes for the
benefit of society. Such is the positive transformation of a convict
who was waiting for the gallows.
I further interacted with a
few life convicts. I found that due to the influence of spiritualism
their creative urges had come to the fore. Some were writing lyrics
and some giving tune to them. They sing as well in melodious tune.
An inmate, Suresh (name changed) from Maharashtra one day picked a
fight with another person. Out of sheer rage he killed the person
and so landed in jail. In jail he continued his dadagiri
picking quarrels with other inmates. However, Ram naam japa
made him a different man. He has composed music and made a cassette.
He also took to painting, selecting subjects on social awareness. He
even bagged a prize for one of his paintings on AIDS awareness.
While interacting with the
convicts I found that many of them aspired to play a positive role
in society once they were out of jail.
According to V. Raghavan, it
is recorded in Kalisantaranopanishad that, at the end of Dvapara
Yuga or era, Narada asked Brahma how he could cross the Kali
Yuga. Brahma prophesied: "You can shake off Kali by
reciting the name of Lord Narayana, the prime being."
Moreover, Vishnu Puran proclaims that "Meditation in Krita (Satya)
Yuga, sacrifices in Treta Yuga, worship in Dvapara
Yuga and chanting of name in Kali Yuga remains the mode
of attaining salvation."
Jhabua Bhils with Dr.