Speaker: Ms. Roopa Moudgil; Ms. Vrinda Grover; Ms. Sunetra Choudhury; Ms. Alokananda Roy;
Moderator: Dr. Kunal Sarkar
Venue: Taj Bengal
Date: 24th January, 2018
Ladies Study Group unveiled the ‘Gripping Tales of Lives in Jail’ and peek into the prison lives of celebrities in a rare and engrossing session with a commendable panel, highly reputed in their respected fields. The experienced Dr. Kunal Sarkar– with his sardonic humor, easy sharp wit, and candour prompted the panelists to respond with alacrity, to come up with some exciting revelations– moderated the event.
“Journalism to law enforcement, Indian women have carved a niche”, stated LSG President, Namrata Sureka in her introductory speech.
Sunetra Choudhury, journalist and anchor with the Indian news channel NDTV 24×7, author of Behind Bars: Prison Tales Of India’s Most Famous revealed how she emotionally travelled the spectrum in writing this book.
“I met someone who came out of jail and started telling me wild things that they did inside,” said Choudhury. “I couldn’t believe it and then my curiosity led me to do some more digging.”
The book is not only about life behind bars, but also about the profiles of these VIPs, details of their alleged crimes, of her conversations with them. Choudhury also spoke to jail officials to verify stories. The objective was never to determine if someone was guilty or innocent. It was always to tell the story of what happens when an unlikely person ends up incarcerated, she said.
“In fact, the prisoners carry all their social privileges as well as their vulnerabilities and discriminations into jail,” she stated. “I guess it can be called an exposé.”
Ms. Vrinda Grover, lawyer, researcher, and human rights and women’s rights activist professed that justice must reach everyone — not just privileged Indians on the top rungs but those in insurgency-torn areas, those unjustly tortured, jailed or executed, and those who slip through the many cracks in the system. Her determination to force an often recalcitrant political and legal system to change in the ‘colonial model institution’ was evident. She stated, “Is the jail a great leveler as invariably economic disparity is carried inside the four walls of prison?” She cited the inhuman treatment meted out to prisoners and the inadequate diet was a hindrance to the mindset in order to bring about transformation. In her opinion, the government or think tanks look at prisons only from a managerial perspective. She voiced, “Torture is not a crime in India. In fact, India is the only democracy where there is no law on torture!”
Roopa Moudgil, the deputy inspector general (prisons) of Karnataka, recently transferred, made it to the national news for exposing the special treatment given to AIADMK interim general secretary, V K Sasikala, who is lodged in Bengaluru’s central prison. There is no doubt that DIG Moudgil honored her commitment to the public by throwing light on corruption in the jail system. She confirmed what has been widely known for a long time, in fact— the rich and powerful are of course given VIP treatment even behind bars, such as in the case of mafia don-turned politician Mohammad Shahabuddin, or even Sahara chief Subrata Roy. She cited, “It is a reality that India’s prisons are a living hell for a majority of the inmates, while the rich and the powerful manage to carve out a privileged existence for themselves even within the system by using their money and clout.”
Alokananda Roy, actor, dancer has been using the arts, especially traditional dance and music, to change lives of convicts at the Presidency Correctional Home in Kolkata. Her work involving reforms for jail inmates, especially for convicts under-trials through her art and love-therapy has provided new life to hardened criminals. She stated, “I believe in love therapy as a human touch.” The dancer-social worker told the LSG forum that she never asks any personal questions; she only wants to share the joy of music and rhythm with the inmates.
There was a general consensus amongst the distinguished panelists that ‘our social silence’ is largely the problem at hand. The forum witnessed a superb expose’ event, with moderator Dr. Kunal Sarkar who had the LSG members in splits with his witty repartee.