This is a very attractive and heart-rending book not only with its text but by its very telling pictures too. The author Amba Batra Bakshi and photographer Renuka Puri say that they personally spent long hours with the female inmates and learnt so much about this dark hole, away from the bright lights, that they decided to put it across to the others too in book form.
Some women inmates of Tihar confess that they live happier lives within the jail than they ever did at home. They now have shelter and food, which are a luxury. However, may tell stories of desolation, of being away from their loved ones, the slow judicial system and the overcrowded barracks. What is absolutely shocking is to find that not one of the women confessed to her crime.
However a bright spot to the situation is to see many of the inmates engrossed in adult literacy classes, candle making, crèche management and attending beauty parlour curses. These facilities have been provided by the authorities in an effort to make the women change, grow and rehabilitate themselves.
After describing the fortress of the jail, which is the largest prison in South Asia with the reputation of being one of the leading reformist prisons in this part of the world, the book introduces the reader to the many innovative programmes for rehabilitation of prisoners that are in progress. Sprawled over 4,000 acres in New Delhi, it has 13,781 inmates packed in the seven jails on the campus. The women inmates are kept in jail No. 6 which houses 600 women. What is strange is that 80 per cent of the women at Tihar are under-trials with 60 serving life sentences. Not one of the inmates has received a death sentence so far.
The author strikes a positive note when she points out that there are no prisoners in uniform and no barbed wire fencing and no iron bars. “Nothing about the place feels like a jail,” she says. “It is just the iron grills outside every cell which, upon a closer look, give the secret away.” The author also clarifies in the beginning itself that the objective of her book is neither to offer her sympathies nor question the reasons for the punishment; nor is it to praise the efforts of the inmates to remain behind bars. Instead, she makes simple observations of how women endure their time spent at the jail and “survive through their darkest hours and find a deep-rooted strength, both individually and collectively.”
(Roli Books, M-75, Greater Kailash Market-II, New Delhi-110 048.)