Pipes ‘n drums: Jammu jailbirds play a new tuneMarch 28th, 2011 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS
Jammu, March 28 (IANS) Five pipers, five drummers, one on a big drum and a band master, all dressed up in red and black uniforms. Could be a band playing anywhere in the country. But this is in Jammu’s high-profile Kot Bhalwal Jail and all the players are convicted criminals.
The 12-member band, all lifers, is part of the jail authorities’ experimental plan to “reform the prisoners and create opportunities for them once they are out”.
“Once a criminal is not always a criminal. With changing times, it was required to change our thinking,” Rajni Sehgal, senior superintendent of the jail, told IANS.
And what better way to change than with music. “This is food for the soul. It dilutes the mind’s cruelty, hate and aggression,” she said.
Narinder Sharma, in his late 30s, serving life imprisonment, is the band master.
The members of the group, attired in red and black colour police band uniforms with ‘Jail Band’ embossed on the masts of the pipes, do not look like prisoners; nor do they feel like one.
“When we change into this uniform and start practising, we forget that we are prisoners,” said Mohammad Yasin, who plays the pipe. The prisoners declined to say what crimes they have been convicted for.
Sehgal says the focus is to reform the prisoners.
“He has to come back into the society after completing the confinement. The idea is to make them self-dependent and strong, so that they do not revert back to crime.
“There is a big gap from when they enter the jail to when they go out. They tend to forget the pace of the outside world and lag behind. This way we can give them some skill to make sustenance with honour possible after they are freed. This is re-induction into society in a dignified and honourable way.”
Bhupinder Singh, who has been in the jail for 16 years, said: “I used to work as a weaver or in ‘langar’ (kitchen) earlier and I was under a lot of depression. But after I joined the band I am feeling better.”
The start was not easy. More than grappling with pipes and tunes, the prisoners had to convince themselves they could do it.
“We never believed that we will be able to play the band,” said Mohammad Yasin.
The band can now play the national anthem and a number of Hindi, Dogri and Kashmiri songs.
“Though we love to play any music, my favourite is the Hindi film song ‘Jaane waale aaja teri yaad sataaye’,” said Singh.
Sharma said he told his father, who came to meet him last month, about his learning the pipe and being the band master.
“He was happy and delighted…. as I am expecting to be released for good conduct. I can earn my livelihood when I go home.”
Now the band wants to venture out — well literally.
“We want that this band should play at public functions now,” one of the band members said.
To this jail superintendent Sehgal said: “Why not? The state home department is already working on the modalities of how this band can play in public functions. The day is not far away when this will happen.”
(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: aggression, band uniforms, bhupinder singh, confinement, drummers, gap, high profile, induction, jail authorities, life imprisonment, lifers, masts, member band, mohammad yasin, new tune, pipers, police band, prisoners, sustenance, weaver