Indu Sinha has worked for the stress-relief of 5,000 prisoners across seven prisons in India.
One morning, Indu Sinha, who was visiting her home state of Bihar, read a feature in the local newspaper of a massacre in Senari village where Naxalites beheaded nearly 67 people. Being an Art of Living faculty member, Indu was deeply dismayed to find that this kind of violence had become a routine part of life in the villages of Bihar. She also learnt that Naxalite groups like the Ranveer Sena, Communist Party of India (ML), Peoples War Groups and Mala were present in Senari village.
Indu decided to do something to eradicate the climate of violence prevailing in the state. She immediately sought the blessings of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Spiritual leader and Humanitarian and Founder, Art of Living, and began her journey into the dangerous territory of Senari. It was an arduous journey, and in all probability, the first time in the history of the Bihar that a woman had dared to embark on such a dangerous mission.
Indu knew that a long-term solution was needed to eradicate the culture of bloodshed. She decided to start by changing the mindset of children and youth by opening a school in Senari. The first step was to convince the parents to allow their children to school, which they were against due to security hazards. To add to her burden, there were not many men left in the village- many killed by terrorists and many others locked up in prison cells. However, she continued her efforts to convince the women and gradually they rallied around the idea. Indu took personal responsibility of each child and soon the school was alive with the sounds of knowledge and carefree laughter of children.
The next step was to start work in prisons and aid the transformation of various members of Naxalite groups lodged there. She hoped that this might ensure that they didn’t lapse into their old ways of bloodshed and violence upon release. It would be a new beginning for them and their families. She organized a Prison SMART Program (a specially designed program by Art of Living for prisons) for the inmates of Beur Jail.
Her first block was the District Magistrate who was not very convinced about the program and its benefits. He also had reservations about allowing a woman into the jail premises. However, Indu’s conviction and diligence paid off and soon she was given permission to begin the Prison SMART Program with the jail inmates under tight security.
Speaking about the Prison SMART Program that includes the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique, Indu says, “This is a first of its kind program that is progressive, practical and result-oriented, providing effective solutions to break the cycle of violence and escalating global crime rates. The vision is to give prisoners an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves back into society.”
The prisoners of Beur were notorious criminals with over 200 crimes to their name. However, Indu insisted that security for her be lessened and told the prisoners that they were her security personnel. Quoting her spiritual master, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who always says, “There is a victim hidden behind every culprit. With love, compassion, and understanding and patience, there is no way that the change will not happen.” Indu soon began her mission of transformation.
Indu believes that the basic nature of all human beings is of love, not violence, and says, “What really changes a person is the environment and what they are going through in their life. I explained to the inmates that hatred and violence is futile and the most important thing is to change the present situation and usher in peacefulness.”
The transformation began, evident even in four dreaded inmates who were constantly involved in internal jail violence and a huge threat to the jail staff itself. They soon began referring to Indu as Didi (sister). The program came to an end on January 13, but the prisoners would not let Indu leave, stating that as per Indian tradition the daughter of the house does not leave her home on that particular calendar date. A deeply moved Indu acquiesced to their wish and left the next day, on the auspicious occasion of Sankranti.
A sea of once hardened criminals with menacing looks were now softened and healed with eyes filled with tears of love and gratitude as they escorted Indu to the prison gates. Observing this behavioral and attitudinal change was the head warden, Mr. Ganesh Prashad, who turned to the Jail Superintendent, Mr. Surendra Kumar Gupta, standing by his side, and said, “Yeh sab toh sadhu sant ban gayen hain! (All of them have now become saints!)”
• The notable impact of this program led to similar programs in the Central and District Jails of Bihar. In Patna, Aara, Gaya and Muzzafarpur, over 3500 prisoners have undertaken the Prison SMART Program, with 2500 inmates in Beur Jail alone.
• Over 3.5 million prisoners have been rehabilitated across 32 countries. [figure as on May, 2014]
• Between 2011 and2013, 60,915 prisoners underwent the Prison SMART Program in 24 states of India.