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Imprisoned by law, freed by canvas

August 01, 2003 22:22 IST

They are confined to prison cells, but have been made aware that there is no such bar on their imagination.

Some young inmates of Tihar Jail have given shape to their dreams, their aspirations, their thoughts, their feelings, in the form of paintings and hand-made greeting cards.

People will get to see their work at a week-long exhibition at Cottage Emporium in downtown Connaught Place in Delhi from August 7.

The exhibition, titled: Expressions Tihar, is being organised by a Non-Governmental Organisation Arman and will display works of only those in the 18-21 age group.

"We want to direct the minds of young jail inmates towards some constructive work, and to teach them some skills. This is why we have selected only young people."

In the last one-and-half-years, Arman has helped about 250 inmates, including 60 women, learn painting.

The subjects cover almost every aspect of life - deities, abstracts, the universe, animals, women and nature.

Sanjay, accused of murder, has painted a bouquet of flowers.

"I feel at home when I paint. I had never touched a paint brush before coming here," he says.

"I felt a change in myself when I started learning painting. It was difficult initially, but I am now comfortable with the brush."

He paints spontaneously, on any subject that comes to his mind.

Another inmate Kaushal says, "I have got so involved in this that I don't care about my problems. It helps in forgetting bad memories. I don't even think of my family now.

"When I feel uneasy, I start thinking about painting," he said.

Tihar Jail spokesman Sunil Kumar Gupta said: "We have launched a series of programmes to reform the inmates. Teaching them painting is part of such efforts."

"It keeps them busy. Otherwise, at times they fight among themselves or create other problems."

"We would prefer they learn skills that can help get some kind of employment after leaving the jail," he said.

To encourage the inmates, Union Textiles Minister Shahnawaz Hussain has agreed to inaugurate the exhibition.

M Ghufran Kidwai, teacher of fine arts in the Jamia Millia Islamia University, will judge the exhibition and chose the best painting.

"Paintings reflect your thoughts. Their (inmates') paintings show that there is a kind heart somewhere inside them," he says.

Arya said that 25 per cent of the profits generated from the sale of exhibits would go to the artists.

The Tihar Jail Complex is one of the largest in the world. It comprises of six prisons with a population of over 10,000, including about 500 women and 350 foreigners, against a sanctioned capacity of 3,637 prisoners.

EXTERNAL LINK: Tihar Prisons

More reports from Delhi

Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi