The strokes of the brush tell the heart of the artist and what is going on in his mind. Majority of the jail inmates, barring the miniscule of the hardcore ones, remain there with their psyche wounded in varying degrees. Painting is a great medium to depict through colors the inner thoughts of the artist. To be considered as a good artist, one has to create several good paintings, so that the viewer and the art critic get an opportunity to assess the talents. In Tihar Jail, Delhi, when an opportunity was provided and proper facilities were given, many talents surfaced, and this process of encouraging budding artists is now an ongoing process through Painting Workshops conducted within the jail premises, on a regular basis.
Such piecemeal efforts were going on in the Jail premises since long but a concrete shape was given by the efforts of Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, a socio-spiritual NGO, in the year 2004. The nomenclature of this effort is “Yathartha”. This is the place from where the inmates look forward to solace and mental peace, as the Preachers of Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan are available daily, for social and spiritual counseling. 35 artists (inmates) participated in this project, and created 360 paintings, of which 60 were selected for display in the exhibition. The sale proceeds of the Paintings are ploughed back to the Prisoner Welfare Fund. There is also a proposal to create an Art Studio within the jail premises for arranging professional training facilities in modern and contemporary art.
The paintings were revelations through spirituality, as the artists brought to life their thoughts that flashed on the curtain of their mind, in profound silence of meditation. This organization arranged a painting exhibition from 2005-12-8 to 2005-12-20 at Hotel Intercontinental–the Grand (now renamed as The Lalit) at New Delhi. The space for the Exhibition was provided free of cost by Late Mr. Lalit Suri, MP, Rajya Sabha. The exhibition was inaugurated by Mr. Kapil Dev, former captain of the cricket team of India. Renowned artists visited the exhibition. They could not believe when they were told that the paintings were the creation of Jail inmates after they were provided training for about three months. ‘Such paintings require the expertise of twenty years at least,’ they exclaimed. The enlightened Tihar Jail Administration gave whole-hearted co-operation to this unique venture, perhaps the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
This joint effort by Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan and Director General Prisons, Tihar created several firsts in the field of Art & Paintings. This novel experiment further strengthened the claim of Tihar Jail as to why it has been considered as a model jail and how reformation and rehabilitation activities for the benefit of the prisoners are encouraged by the administration. For Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, it was yet another feather in the cap, as it conducts many such innovative projects, from the space provided to its Ashram within the premises of Jail No.3.
Swami Vishalanand (an Electronic Engineer in his Poorvashram) oversees the “Yathartha” Art Project. That Swami Narendranand, Secretary and Swami Adityanand, President of Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, take personal interest in this project, speaks about the importance the Sansthan attaches to this initiative. Jail No 5, already has a beautiful gallery with paintings made by prisoners. “All this is due to the benign grace of Shri Ashutosh Maharaj Ji. Our life is entirely transformed. Farewell to the crime-life forever”, say the inmates who have been blessed with Brahm Gyan. They say it with tears of gratefulness and with all the humility.
Creative Art Therapy is another initiative encouraged by the Tihar Jail Administration. It is psycho-therapeutic in nature. As for prison setting, this therapy is a reformatory process in more than one ways. It is a channel to express the pent up emotions. The inmate is able to convert on the canvas his ideas, though under tremendous stress as he stands exiled from the rest of the world.
Paintings and greeting cards of the inmates are generally available from the outlets created by the Jail Administration from time to time. A Website was launched on 2nd Oct., 2000 by Mrs. Sheila Dikshit, Honorable Chief Minister of Govt. Of India NCT of Delhi for online selling of paintings made by inmates, address: – http://softronindia.com/expressionstihar