Meditation classes for Tihar inmates

1 Jul 2004

NEW DELHI: Yoga’s the new mantra of well being for terrorists and hardened criminals serving time at Delhi’s Tihar Jail. While meditation courses for undertrials have been in the news for quite some time, this is the first instance that the same "reformation technique" was being used for this high-security bunch.

Big-time names like Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar (behind the attack on Maninderjit Singh Bitta; several people were killed in the incident), Dheeraj Rana (main accused in the Phoolan Devi murder case), Ijaz Ahmed (Pakistani terrorist accused of causing the Lajpat Nagar blasts), Gafoor Ahmad (arrested in the Najafgarh encounter) and Afghan national Taz Sarbaz (said Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist) are among those who reportedly took yoga and meditation classes. "To begin with, we carried out the exercise with only 25 high security prisoners in Jail No 3.

The meditation course was conducted by Art of Living, which is a world-renowned body. Soon, all the high security prisoners will be included in the programme," said a Tihar official. Encouraged by the positive feedback from prisoners, the authorities have also arranged sessions for the prison staff. "After all they, too, have to tackle very tough situations every day," he said.

Although prisoners brought in terror charge are usually among the quietest lot in the jail, prison authorities felt this was one way they could let out their pent-up anxiety. "We have adopted a twin-pronged strategy for reformation — education and meditation.

Often education is not enough and as such some of these people are already well-educated. What they need is mental peace and probably refocusing of their thoughts," the official said. Yoga lessons were initiated a couple of years back when Kiran Bedi was in charge of Tihar.

Over the years the lessons had a palpable effect on the residents, say officials. Instances of inter-gang violence within the prison, and riots have also been on the wane. "It is extremely important to maintain the mental well-being of the inmates given the kind of crowded environs they live in. Our sanctioned capacity is for 4,000 inmates, but over 12,000 prisoners have been stuffed here," he explained.