A convict undergoing his sentence at the district jail is breaking the age-old shackles of religious bigotry. Imran bin Jameel (28), a Muslim imprisoned at the Karnal district jail, volunteered to head Jiyo Gita (live the way of Gita) programme of the jail management and his request has been granted. Under the programme, classes are held to propagate the teachings of the ancient Indian scripture, The Bhagavad Gita. The aim is to reduce stress among inmates.
Imran, sentenced to 10-year rigorous imprisonment in 2008 for two dacoities, is otherwise a staunch Muslim; however, he sees nothing wrong in reciting or propagating the teachings of the Gita.
"Some orthodox members of my community tried to dissuade me from reading the Gita, claiming that this was against Islam. However, a reading of the holy book helped me get through the turbulent times in my life. I follow all the rituals of my own religion and pray five times a day," said Imran.
Imran is well-versed in giving a commentary on the holy book and has started a drill to memorise its Slokas or Sanskrit verses by heart.
'The moment of truth'
Imran, a native of Shamli in Uttar Pradesh, claims that a lecture by Swami Gyanananda on the Gita on the jail premises three years ago brought about an inner transformation in him.
"During that lecture, something moved within me. Later, I was overwhelmed to read that the Gita preaches all to be dutiful, truthful and learn from mistakes to lead a peaceful life," he said.
Impressed by Imran's commitment, Swami Gyanananda also offered him a job in his religious trust. "If my circumstances permit, after my release from jail, I will love to earn my livelihood by spreading the message of the Gita," Imran said.
"After initial months of frustration in jail, local prison superintendent Sher Singh introduced to the Jiyo Gita classes. After being introduced to the Gita, I realised the power that it could bestow," he said, adding that even his parents were won over by the change in him and forgave him.
'All religions teach compassion'
Imran added it was unfortunate that people had misconceptions against Islam that bordered on prejudice.
"Both the Quran and the Gita teach all to be patient and say that eliminating one's own vices is the greatest virtue. Love the oppressed and be compassionate is their greatest teaching," he added.
A fan of yoga, Imran claimed that this traditional way of breathing and physical exercises was a very helpful and essential tool for jail inmates, as they faced limitations to their physical movement.
"I don't see any point in opposing exercises that have proven to be beneficial against ailments. I encourage other inmates to practice yoga to control anxiety," he said, crediting his transformation to jail superintendent Sher Singh, who encouraged him to take benefit of reform measures for jail inmates.
"Both the Quran and The Bhagavad Gita teach all to be patient and say that eliminating one's own vices is the greatest virtue. Love the oppressed and be compassionate is their greatest teaching."