The pen is mightier than the sword, they have learnt, even if the lesson has come a bit late.
Prisoners at Tihar Jail, one of the largest prison complexes in Asia, have launched a number of monthly newspapers, becoming journalists in their own right.
While sub-jails 1 and 2 have published their papers — Shakti Times or Power Times and Karagar Samachar or Jail News — the remaining seven are awaiting clearance for their publications from the prison headquarters.
Each newspaper, distributed in prison and official circles, has a circulation of around 100 copies.
The editorial teams boast of prominent names such as former assistant commissioner SS Rathi and inspector Anil Kumar — convicted in the 1997 killing of a businessman in the infamous Connaught Place fake encounter case.
Bhupinder Singh Bisht, bodyguard of slain liquor baron Ponty Chadha, is a part of the ‘creative team’. He has penned poems on demonetisation as well as a piece on introspection among prisoners.
Mahmood Farooqui, writer and husband of Peepli Live director Anusha Rizvi, convicted in a rape case last year, has written about his jail experience and interaction with fellow prisoners.
Others such as Sunil Gora-wara, a bank manager jailed along with former Haryana Speaker Satbir Singh Kadiyan in the 1991 IFFCO graft case, have made poetic contributions.
Each newspaper has four pages, and one of them is dedicated to covering monthly events at the nine sub-jails. Editorial team members source images shot by jail photographers from the superintendent’s office.
Shakti Times, the in-house newspaper of sub-jail 1, offers a glimpse into how the prison media operates.
A front page item, titled Ticket to Mandoli, pertains to the shifting of prisoners to the Mandoli jail complex. The facility was constructed to ease pressure on Tihar, bursting at the seams with 14,000 convicts and undertrials until recently — more than twice the sanctioned number of 6,225.
A page 3 item reports on the final of a cricket tournament between inmates of sub-jails 1 and 2 last month. The match was held as part of the jail’s “annual winter Olympics”.
A third newspaper, Tihar Akhbaar — simply Tihar newspaper — is in the works. It has details of classes and exams to be held by the National Open School in Tihar and the success story of a Bangladeshi prisoner who recently passed with flying colours.
Prisons director general Sudhir Yadav said inmates are encouraged to publish their own newspapers so they can express themselves in a creative manner. The editorial content is monitored by senior officers.
Subhash Chandra, superintendent of sub-jail 1, is excited about the response from prisoners to the initiative.
“Many are sending in their articles and poems. We are selecting only the best ones,” he said.