The Hindu

A Whiff of Fresh Air in their Lives

08 February, 2000

MADURAI, FEB 7. A life convict pens a poem on the 'blissful tranquility of solitude.' A sworn-psychopath, known for his inhuman act of violence, speaks on milk of human kindness and a diseased mind thinks non-malignantly.

Can such pleasant surprises possible? Yes, of course. An act, bordering closely on the concept of ahimsa, is unfolding inside the ominous-looking prison walls of the Tamil Nadu. "Few unsavoury incidents of violence in the prisons of the State can be ignored. Because, there also exists a positive side", said a senior prison official attached to Madurai Central Prison, Thanks to the introduction of various welfare schemes for the inmates in State prisons, particularly Yoga, a distinct positive change in the attitude of prisoners, are being noticed. The schemes and the Yoga have ushered in a whiff of fresh air into their lives, that have been lost.

"I became soft and started loving others", said Manoharan, a prisoner. Another prisoner  Ganesan said, "The unquenchable fire of revenge in my mind has died down." For Sikkander, the practice of Yoga has helped him to retain his mind from getting perverted. The three are a part of a fortunate 120 beneficiaries in Madurai Central Prison, which in the past had witnessed some of the worst prison riots in the State.

According to Mr. Raman, DIG of Prisons Southern Zone, the 'Sahaja Sthithi Yoga,' being conducted by Coimbatore's Isha Yoga . Centre, for the select inmates of Madurai Central Prison, is a part of State-wide welfare  package being conducted in all important prisons. The programme is organised in two batches.

The genesis of the noble gesture lies in Coimbatore Central Prison. The then DIG of Prisons and Jail Superintendent requested the Centre's yogis to conduct a special camp for 67 life convicts in 1992. As expected, the programme disciplined the wavering minds of the hardcores. But due to inexplicable reasons, the same could not be sustained. Thanks to the efforts of the present Inspector General of Prisons, the Yoga has been revived from 1999. Till date, 400 prisoners in Coimbatore prison alone have been benefited.

At the dawn of the new millennium, the Isha Yoga Centre, in close co-ordination with the State's Prison officials, have also extended their practice of Yoga classes to the 'rejected' in the prisons of Salem, Madurai, Tiruchi and Palayamkottai. Two sessions for each prison have been allotted to cover 400 prisoners, most of them hardcore elements.

The results of the preliminary experience is enthralling. The prison officials confided that the prisoners had started showing tremendous transformation mentally. "Such programmes will encourage us to go for more welfare schemes for the inmates in future", pointed out Mr, Rajkumar, the Jail Superintendent of Madurai Central Prison. The beneficiaries also have started thinking positively and extending all co-operation to jail officials. "Finding volunteers for various works inside the Jails, is not a problem now," said an official.
The Inner Freedom of the Imprisoned,' as the programme has been named, no doubt, has the soul-stirring effect.

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