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High-profile prisoners turn to art, spirituality

india Updated: Jun 07, 2009 02:29 IST
High-profile prisoners turn to art

Maria Susairaj, co-accused in the murder case of TV executive Neeraj Grover, and Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur are exploring their creative sides in prison.

The two high-profile inmates of Byculla jail are learning how to make paper flowers.

Every Tuesday, a cell is transformed into an art class with Susairaj, Thakur and other inmates making paper roses and daffodils. The workshop, organised by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), began a couple of months ago. “Susairaj and Thakur attend it every Tuesday,” said a prison official, requesting anonymity.

Rajnish Seth, deputy inspector-general of prisons, said: “The idea is to keep inmates occupied and divert their attention towards productive work.”

Sources said Thakur was recently barred from attending these classes for security reasons. Seth, however, denied this.

The classes are conducted under the strict vigil of jail officials and the NGO. Security measures tend to interfere with the learning process because inmates are not allowed access to all the tools required.

“They can’t use scissors, cutters, knives, hammers, wires or electric machinery,” said an official.

Meanwhile, at a prison facility 40 km away in Taloja, Thakur’s alleged accomplice and self-styled godman Dayanand Pandey is earning a following. Pandey conducts religious discourses. Right-wing activists arrested in connection with blasts in Thane in 2008 have created a religious atmosphere in prison, sources said.

The days begin with discourses and slogans in favour of ‘Bharat Mata’. Hindu inmates call Pandey ‘swamiji’. “There is a clear communal divide in the prison,” said a source.

Back in Byculla, the inmates are waiting to graduate to satin and organdy flowers.