Tihar to train inmates in yoga and meditation

More than 5,000 inmates, including some Muslim prisoners, were provided training in meditation, yoga and breathing exercises during a four-day course at Tihar Jail in Delhi.

Prison authorities said that never before such a large number of prisoners have simultaneously participated in such a programme. The jail houses 13,000 prisoners.
But involving so many prisoners, most of who were untertrials, was not an easy task. Given that anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 prisoners visit courts daily, jail officials needed to arrange a time when most of them would be inside the jail.

“After planning for months, the breakthrough came in the form of the week-long recess at courts this month. With very few prisoners leaving for courts this week, we used it for organising this course,” said Vimlaa Mehra, Director General (Prisons).

The course was organised from December 26 to 29 by 120 teachers sponsored by NGO Art of Living.

However, despite availability of time, there were security concerns. A few hardcore criminals housed in a separate jail inside requested that they also wanted to be a part of it. “After due consideration, we issued special permission for 100 such prisoners,” said Mehra.

Overall, the participants included 400 convicts and the rest were undertrials, a senior officer said.

But not all were interested in this training that was imparted in 67 batches. Charan Singh, a jail welfare officer, said 20 Muslim inmates resisted the idea.

“Having seen the benefits of the course on some other prisoners, we forced them to be a part of it. Though a few of them resisted it again on the second day, it slowly had an effect on them. On the last day, some of these prisoners were even seen touching the feet of the teachers and thanking them,” Singh said.

On Sunday, some prisoners recounted the impact the course had on them. Rais Ahmed, an inmate who said was frustrated with his life and slept till 12 noon on most days, now wakes up early in the morning. Vinay Kumar, another prisoner who has been in jail for the past 12 years, even wrote a poem on his experience.

Yet another prisoner Rakesh Kumar recalled that he was mentally disturbed by the incident that landed him in jail nine years ago. “I have attempted suicide on numerous occasions but now I feel my life has some meaning. I look forward to my release so that I can do something constructive outside,” he said.

Of the convicted prisoners who underwent training, 50 will be selected for a six-month-long course where they will be trained to teach other inmates. “Of them, 10 would be chosen to become teachers,” said Tripta Dhawan, one of the teachers and a trustee of the NGO.

Some 500 prison staff also joined the prisoners to receive training in these exercises.

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