Priestly Prison: Bhopal Central Jail inmates trained to become priests

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The Bhopal Central Jail has initiated a unique step to make prisoners serving life imprisonment sentence mentally strong, and also make them able to restart life with spiritual thoughts when they eventually come out from jail.

For this purpose, the jail authority with the help of Gayatri Shakti Peeth has started making prisoners ‘priests’ with an over a month-long training course.

In the first batch of training that began in March-April, nearly 50 jail inmates, who are convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape, dacoity, kidnapping, have been trained as priests.

Most of them will be out of jail in the next 4-5 years, either due to completion of their conviction period or reduction in their jail term considering their good conduct in the prison.

The second batch of training will start soon and the jail authority is set to initiate the selection process of prisoners for this purpose.

The inmates are selected on the basis of behavioural report, interest, ability of reading and writing and most importantly, their willingness to accept the training.

“Last time, we had prepared a long list of over 500 inmates on the basis of their reports, of which around 150 had cleared written test. However, only 42 of them were selected for training. We are set to start the process of selection of inmates in the next one or two weeks,” Dinesh Nargave, Superintendent of Bhopal Central Jail, told IANS.

After the selection process is done, these inmates will be trained for 4-5 hours daily for over a month by the teams of Gayatri Shakti Peeth.

“Most of these inmates either have committed a heinous crime or they belong to poor families who can’t afford expensive lawyers to present their cases. Most of such prisoners suffer from depression in jail. It’s an effort to make their minds stronger to restart their lives after getting out of jail,” Nargave added.

Nargave, who has been the Superintendent of Bhopal Central Jail for over five years now, told IANS that he had implemented this idea for the first time when he was posted at the Shahdol prison a few years back.

“When I was appointed as head of Shahdol district jail, I heard that Gayatri Shakti Peeth provides such services to jail inmates. This idea had worked a lot and therefore when a delegation of Gayatri Sakhti Peeth, Bhopal, came up with this proposal, I asked them to conduct training at the jail premises,” Nargave added.

For the priest training course, the inmates were given eight to 10 religious books with mantras. They were taught three subjects — Karmkand, Sangeet and Boudhik — between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. by eight teachers.

In Karmkand, they were taught various ways of performing puja for occasions such as death, birth, marriage, Griha Pravesh etc., as per Hindu rituals.

In the Sangeet class, they were taught about the use of traditional instruments like ‘dafli’ and others, including tone and tenor of singing bhajans (devotional songs) and how to properly recite mantras.

“We prepare them (prisoners) for training step-by-step. First, we encourage them for narrating stories from religious and historical books. Once they start showing interest, we take further steps to encourage them to chant mantras and shlokas,” said Ramesh Nagar, a member of Gayatri Shakti Peeth, who was one of the trainers.

The Bhopal Central Jail at present has 3,605 prisoners, including 11 convicted under NSA.

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