Giving a fresh lease
of life to the inmates of Tihar Jail in India, the prison authorities have
organized 'Tihar Idols', a venture based on music therapy to refine the
attitude and character of the inmates. A competition similar to Indian Idols, 'Tihar Idols' was held with five categories of participation, for the first
time this year as a one of its kind initiative in the whole of the country.
Naresh S. Baisla, Director of a private production house, who was instrumental
in establishing the competition talks to Medindia on the effects of the venture
on the contestants.
Q. Why music therapy for prison inmates?
Music is like the refresh button in our
computer. No matter in how depressed state a man is, he cools down after
listening to music. There will be fresh ideas in him. Music will change the
negative thoughts in him into positive thoughts. His involvement is fulfilled
by it. Studies show there is no other effective therapy than this to soothe the
mind. Having this in our mind we decided to introduce the inmates to music
Q. How did you conceptualize this idea of 'Tihar Idols'?
was an advertisement in the local newspaper that a music band is being launched
in Tihar jail. Now, if a band is being launched one day and if we conduct an
event another day, the whole effort is scattered. So we thought, Why not bring
in something like the Indian idol, India's music reality show on TV, but with a
wider scope of participation? If Indian idol has 1 category, we decided to make
it five categories- singing, dancing, acting, instrumental and lyrics writer.
When contacted, the prison authorities ensured full support for this venture.
Thus, the entry forms were distributed and awareness about the programme was
spread among the inmates.
Q. Since when have the competitions been going on? And what
reward did the winner/winners get?
is the first season, and though we started enrolling the contestants since
February this year, the competitions began in full swing only around October.
Till then, all inmates were given training in their respective fields as most
of them were amateurs. The final was held on 30th
November and seven
people including two women were declared winners in various categories. The
winners get an opportunity to record a music album all by themselves, for which
a separate recording studio has been built inside the prison. The music album
is expected to be released soon.
Q. What was the initial response of the inmates towards such
gave enthusiastic response while others felt thoroughly hopeless about life.
They felt that there was no one or no need to do all this for. But with
continuous interactive sessions and grooming sessions, quite a few of them were
convinced. In fact, a few of the finalists were from those who were skeptic in
Q. So what changes are observed in the attitude of the
inmates from before the competition and now?
change is tremendous. Before, they never spoke, were always morose, lonesome
and sad. But now they are more social and jovial. They are more disciplined,
they do not fight any more, nor use abusive languages, and are much positive
about life and its opportunities. The prison staff have testified that
depressions and suicidal tendencies among the inmates have taken a sharp fall
ever since this venture began. In their attitude, in their body language, in
the way they talk, in their personality, there has been a huge change. The
competitions and the rehearsals are the only thing that occupies their mind
now, that even after 4-6 hours of practice, they still continue to practice
after going back to their cells.
Q. How have the families of the inmates responded to the
getting to know that they are turning over a new leaf in prison, family of the
inmates have come to mend terms with their kin. There was an inmate's mother
who, after getting to know that her daughter has had a transformation within
jail, came to visit her along with her aunt. This also serves as a tool for the
inmate to shape up in their prison life to easily rehabilitate and be accepted
by the society once they complete their jail term.
Q. Is there any particular incident that you remember with
fondness during the whole of this venture?
as we mentioned to you earlier, many were skeptical. There was one person in
jail 9, Saurabh Singh (Name Changed). He played the Tabla well. When we
requested him to take part, he was not interested. We insisted and asked him to
just join us in the rehearsal sessions even if he did not want to take part in
the competitions. We summoned him for two days. But then he came on his own
will from the third day saying that he wanted to participate, that he wanted to
be the 'old him!' There have been several such transformations.
While the clichéd attitude towards prisoners
continues, the scope of rehabilitating law offenders and shaping a better human
being out of them should be attempted without a break, rather than stigmatizing
and isolating them from society.