Learning from the delinquents

Posted: November 11, 2013 by Ankur in Writes...
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There are times in life when you learn significantly more out of someone else’s experience than your own. My friend asked me to go along with her to pay a visit to the town’s juvenile prison a.k.a. the reformation cell as she had to do some field work. I half reluctantly accompanied her, not because I wanted to see the deplorable condition of those juvenile inmates but because she was my friend. But trust me, after the visit, I realized the reason should have been more the former than the latter. Anyway, after reaching there, my friend showed the in charge the permission letter that she had taken with her and the lady in charge after seeing it directed both of us to a poorly furnished room; technically to be called as her office. Yes, you got it right! I hadn’t liked the place. The reason being simple and a little obvious, it was a horrid place with suspiciously gazing people ( the guards and the workers) but what else I could h ave expected from an accommodation provided to the child offenders. 
Moreover, it was a steamy afternoon and as the fans were snail sped, profuse perspiration became the last refuge. I looked at my friend’s face she was determined. She readily assumed the role of a researcher or so to say, of an interviewer after taking out the papers containing a well made questionnaire. We exchanged smiles and waited for the juvenile delinquents to make appearances before us. We were not allowed to take pictures of them or to publish their names, as per the applicable act [although, this is not a legal piece yet I would love to enlighten you on this, the act being The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 and the pertinent section is S.21]

The first delinquent was an eleven year old. We kept on asking him to seat himself comfortably as it would in all possibilities take a little long but he was submissive and did the contrary. Also, not to forget that he had greeted both of us while entering the room earlier. This was surprising. I had thought the inmates would be uncultured, typically ‘violent’– Savage Beasts. He told my friend about why he was locked in here. I was not in the least interested in his story, yet let an ear opened. As he was in the middle of his narration, tears started rolling down his cheeks. My friend remarked, how can a weeping child would abet someone’s murder. Look at his sheer innocence .I retorted back while whispering onto her ears, “the fact is ‘he has’! They all look the same but you never know, there are criminal tendencies growing within them ‘inconspicuously’. He’s crying for he is guilty.” When he stood up to leave, I asked him if he wished to continue his life here. I knew the reply would be an expected ‘no’, but much contrary to my anticipation it was a yes. He said he had no one guarding him in the outside world, he at least gets to read, learn and eat a four square time meal here. 
I held my tears back at once and felt like slapping myself hard, hard to an extent that I start feeling some pangs of regret. Yes, REGRET! regret for constantly ignoring what my parents do for me. Regret for being so indifferent towards the miseries of the downtrodden people of the society. I knew that it was going to be a short lived thought and nothing else. I took my phone out in order to avoid that emotional upheaval.

But not all were the same, some looked dangerous while some over aged (the age limit is 18, isn’t it?), not fit enough to be in a juvenile reformation unit. 

Then, we met a boy aged around 16 who had scored a seventy plus per cent in his tenth board. He had wanted to study further and continue with his education in the same school until this thing happened. He got charged of theft. My friend asked if his parents came to see him. He told us that they were not even informed by the police authorities. After hearing this, I could feel a lot of blood boiling in my veins. How could the officials be so irresponsible and ruthless!! 

She interviewed around twenty delinquents, each with a saddened version of their stories which were heart wrenching enough to compel me to struggle with my tears throughout. But the good thing was, we were done for the day. No more crying and feeling pity for others. However, I, definitely, was wrong there. Those moments still remain to be thought provoking and action stimulating. So, finally, I am doing my bit by engaging myself in a Prisoner rights’ initiative. However, that is not the end in this direction.

Aishwarya Dhakarey

Symbiosis Law School, Pune

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