Mangalore: Prisoners Narrate Heart-rending Tales of Woe
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Jul 22: Prison has long been the traditional punishment for people who commit crimes and many convicts in our country are sentenced to life imprisonment as a punishment for the offence they commit. According to Prison Manual in India life imprisonment means incarceration for 14 years, when lifers are entitled to get remission. When we talk about offences, crimes and convictions there is every possibility of wrongful convictions and many innocents pay a heavy price for an offence they don’t commit. Sometimes even judiciary fails in providing justice to those implicated wrongly due to errors in justice.
Recently Sankalpa Mysore along with Karnataka State Prison Department had organized a four day theatrical festival “Jailininda – Jailege Rangothsava” which was held in Mangalore. Prisoners from the central prisons of Bangalore, Mysore, Dharwad and Belgaum participated in this drama festival which gave the convicts an opportunity to demonstrate their acting prowess. Most of these prisoners who took part in the theatrical show were sentenced for life and each one had a story to narrate giving us a glimpse of their so called crimes and the punishment.
Daijiworld.com took the opportunity to meet some these convicts inside the Mangalore prison with the support of Denis D Silva of Sparsha, Mangalore, when they had come to Mangalore to participate in this theatrical. This gave us the first hand view of their life in prison, their crime and the punishment they face, errors in justice and the suffering they face at the peak of their lives, their pains, frustrations, sorrows, anguish and misery and even the remorse (when they actually commit the offence) they go through when they undergo punishment.
Nanjunda, who came from Mysore Central jail, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and has completed 13 years of sentence. He was convicted for a murder arising out of family feud and in these 13 years he has mellowed down quite a lot. He says that when other states have introduced lot of reforms for prisoners Karnataka state has been lagging behind in this aspect in the last 5 or 6 years which has resulted in discontentment among prisoners.
Repenting for Betraying Family
A S Jain, who has come from Bangalore Central jail, is a qualified mechanical engineer and has been sentenced for 10 years for his involvement in counterfeit currency. He has completed 8 years in prison and will be out of jail after six months having completed 2/3 of the confinement. He bears no grudge against the system or the judiciary which has held him guilty. However, he pleads that the parole undergone by a prisoner should be treated as “part of the sentence”. He says many states including our neighboring states Andhrapradesh and Maharashtra have already brought about this change where parole is treated as part of the sentence.
Jain is going to be 60 now and being a professionally qualified man who worked as a plant manager one is tempted to ask him whether he repents his offence. It looked as though the question was the trigger point and he burst with uncontrollable tears. In between he managed to say “more than the offence I repent for betraying my family when they needed me the most. My older daughter was just 14 when I came to the prison and I think at that age I should have been with my family to guide them in the right path and be their source of strength and I regret for letting them down badly”.
Commenting on the appalling condition of Mangalore prison he said if he were to be in Mangalore jail he would not have been able to cope and would have committed suicide long back. Luckily for him he said Bangalore jail, where he is imprisoned, has got all the facilities and the library has a stockpile of some of the best books and reading them gave him an opportunity to tranquilize his frantic mind and maintain his sanity.
Caught in a Whirlpool
However, the story of Basavaraj Hanumaya Odyarahalli from Dharwad jail is like story of a potential bestseller novel. He was teaching at Hirekeruru Taluk of Harealikatte and had rendered 8 years of service when the incident occurred. Having lost his parents at a young age he worked hard and even joined engineering course and completed 1st semester. He could not continue engineering due to financial constraints and finally became a school teacher. He was staying with friends in a rented house which was close to the house of his uncle. This uncle (maava) had a daughter and for fun sake many used to associate her name with Basavaraj as his future wife. But somehow elders fixed his marriage with another niece which infuriated the first niece and family. To take revenge on him they lodged a complaint of rape. The girl’s father made use of the political clout he had and succeeded in influencing the judges to convict him.
He has lost his job and even whatever money he had has been spent to fight the case. His wife and three kids live along with his brother’s family. He is totally disgusted and devastated with the judicial injustice meted out to innocents like him. His only grouse is that “judges should be able to comprehend the finer aspects of incidents of this nature while awarding punishment. I was punished just on the basis of the girl’s evidence and another witness. I have completely lost my faith in our judiciary”. Basavaraj also rues the fact that he has been deprived of the joy of witnessing the growing up of his three children. “I know I will never get that period back. When I went to jail my youngest son was hardly a month old and now when I wish to hold him when the family visits me he just refuses because he hardly knows me and treats me as an outsider. That is rally breaking my heart and I am unable to come out of it” he says with tears welled up in his eyes.
The girl and her family having realized the injustice they did to Basavaraj have come to him to repent for their act of revenge. But their repentance has come a little too late and it cannot take away the tag of conviction and the imprisonment awarded to him.
Never-Say- Die Spirit
Take the instance of Dharanesh, another prisoner from Belgaum who at 35 has already completed 8 years of his youthful life inside the four walls of the prison. There is no place for regret in his vocabulary despite sentenced for life along with three other colleagues for an offence they have not committed. His is another classic case of false conviction which he says was by purpose. And what was the crime he committed? He was studying in evening college and working for BPL Company during the day and had the dream of becoming a Chartered Accountant. But all this changed when a few women working for the same company approached him to fight on their behalf to ensure they get the basic facilities and rightful salary for the work done. At 24, he jumped into the bandwagon to fight for the cause of women workers who formed 90% of the workforce at the company and were not giving minimum wages and other basic facilities.
There was no union until Dharanesh came on the scene and that naturally infuriated the management. The management he says was terminating the services of women employees soon after completion of two years of training period to avoid giving them facilities. The fight for the basic facilities for the workers continued and became stronger and eventually there was lock out. One fine day these workers decided to go for Jail Bharo programme. But some workers deserted the majority and began to go for work. When those opposed to such a move headed by Dharanesh tried to prevent there was violence and one person was injured. He was taken to hospital where he died after 20 days. Hospital reports where the person was admitted had registered the incident as a result of mob violence. Post Mortem report said the death was due to septicemia (due to negligence). Yet the judges had no compunction to punish them under section 302 of IPC, which is punishment to murder. In fact they should have been charged under section 304 Part II of IPC for culpable homicide and should have been jailed for 4 years. (Remember Cricketer Navajoth Singh Sidhu case?)
For a fighter like Dharanesh it does not matter where he uses his fighting spirits. Being in prison did not dampen his fighting spirits. Rather it encouraged him more to fight for better facilities and even better salary for prisoners who work inside the jail. Earlier jail inmates were not willing to work because they were paid pittance of a salary – just Rs. 300 per month. Dharanesh approached the state Human Rights Commission giving examples of other states. Due to his efforts prisoners are now getting Rs. 1,500/ salary per month for the work they do inside the prison.
For Dharanesh it gives immense satisfaction where other prisoners thank him for help them keep their self respect of earning and helping their families financially. Dharanesh along with a few likeminded prisoners has fought for better living conditions for prisoners. Jail authorities did not take his activism kindly and they did the best thing of transferring Dharanesh and his friends to four different central jails in the state. Even that has failed to douse his enthusiasm and it can be presumed it is going to be a part of his life. His parents support him in this endeavor.
May be English jurist William Blackstone had said the famous oft-repeated quote “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. But in our country this is an exception rather than a rule. Here innocents continue to suffer and money plays a vital role in buying justice. Thos who really commit bigger crimes go scot free and even commit more offences.
Imprisonment may be one of the ways of giving an opportunity for people to reform and prevent them from committing further crimes. These prisoners claim that Karnataka government is lagging behind in introducing prison reforms and want the government to be more humane and reciprocal to their demands so that they are not completely dehumanized when they come out of the prison.