On the other hand, I was shock but not surprised to read this report from The Hindu.
In June 2002, the modest and respected journalist Iftikhar Gilani was arrested for violating the Indian Official Secrets Act 1923, an act doubly spiked with bogus Obscenity Act allegations. The Indian military suggested that information he held was "secret" despite being publicly available. A second military intelligence report contradicted the first, stating that there was no "official secret".Iftikhar Gilani wrote:Question: What would you say about how Tihar jail is managed?
Iftikhar Gilani It's run along medieval lines. Prisoners are beaten mercilessly. There is no accountability. Kiran Bedi brought about some reforms, but nothing really trickled to the lower staff, who are barbaric and in actual touch with the prisoners.
Question: What about NGOs and important people visiting?
Iftikhar Gilani: Whilst I was there I saw no politician, etc. visiting. Only two NGOs are actually working, Mother Teresa's sisters and one NGO based in Model Town. Groups like Asa Ram Bapu and Brahma Kumaris give religious discourses and you could be beaten if you don't participate. There was a young Hindu inmate who refused to participate in Asa Ram Bapu's discourse. He was beaten by the jail staff. It's time they had trained counsellors working independently of the jail staff. Most inmates are tense, worked up and cannot express themselves.
Question: What about prisoners' basic fundamental rights?
Iftikhar Gilani: Twice I tried keeping a diary but each time it wastaken away and destroyed. You cannot complain, otherwise the consequences are nerve wracking. Even doctors behave as though part of the jail administration.
Question: Is there some way out?
Iftikhar Gilani: Foremost accountability, otherwise you are raising a crime university. For prison life that I saw and experienced cannot be reformed. It makes you a worse criminal or else you have a breakdown. It would be better to hang the prisoners than keep them like animals. I am out of it but I feel very strongly for those still imprisoned. A large percentage could be innocent. Then, I also feel there has to be a major responsibility of crime reporters not to go just by the police brief. They should investigate independently.
The Indian government knew his was innocent but denied the opinion of the military and was on the verge of challenging it only when the contradictions were exposed in the press by other journalist-activists. On January 13, 2003, the government withdrew its case against him.
Gilani was released the same month after 7 months of false imprisonment imprisoned without bail in Tihar Jail, the largest complex of prisons in South Asia. It was found that the Intelligence Bureau, under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government, had falsified evidence. The Brahma Kumaris, despite "doing service" in his jail, played no part in his release. Do they condone involuntary attendance and such treatment?
The article makes a slight error in suggesting Pancham Singh converted to Brahma Kumarism before surrendering when in fact he surrendered to the government in 1972 before meeting the BKs.Manoj Khatri wrote:All in the Mind in The Times of India on April 20th, 2002
Every morning, about two thousand prisoners of Thane Central Jail gather in the various barracks to participate in a special session. For an hour or so, the participants embark on a spiritual journey wherein they enter the world of self-discovery and god-realization. The positive effects of the "Spiritual Awakening" Programme conducted by Prajapita Brahmakumaris have transformed a number of inmates. Incorrigible addicts have given up drugs, alcohol and smoking. A large number of them have turned to vegetarianism. Negative emotions like violence, anger and depression are increasingly being substituted by peace, harmony and inner-contentment. The once contaminated atmosphere is gradually paving way for a pure ambience.
This amazing transformational programme was initiated in July 1998 by the then superintendent of Thane Central Jail, Ramkrishna Mahale, along with a few volunteers of Prajapita Brahmakumaris. Dr. Sudhir Bhatankar, Deputy Municipal Commissioner of TMC, who is one of the Gurus who conduct spiritual discourses in the Jail, provided many examples of convicts who were transformed. Like Balasaheb Nirmale who was convicted in the fake-currency case.
Bhatankar says, "Nirmale was so influenced by the course that he vowed to dedicate his life to the welfare of others, after he serves his sentence." Today, Nirmale is a social worker helping a credit society based in Thane. Even after his release from the jail, he has remained a follower of Brahmakumaris." [BK] Pancham Singh attended the inaugural batch of "Spiritual Awakening" programme in Thane Jail and gave a live account of his transformational journey - from a hardened criminal to a spiritually conscious human being.
The regular turnout at the discourses and the visible transformation among the participants made a strong case for making this programme a permanent feature of the Jail. "Many members of the police staff observed the positive effects of the programme and asked for a similar programme for them and their families."
This is not the first time that meditation techniques have been used in correction centres. Spiritual meditation is fast emerging as the key to rehabilitation of lawbreakers serving in jails the world over. Perhaps the best example is that of Dr. Kiran Bedi, India's first female police officer. When Bedi took charge as Inspector General of prisons, she introduced a [Vipassana] meditation course in Tihar Jail and the results were simply remarkable.