Cake, dance and gifts: Birthday celebration of 2-year-old at Mumbai’s Byculla jail
Two-year-old Rishikesh’s birthday, celebrated on June 22, was not like that of other children his age. The difference? The son of an inmate, Rishikesh who has been in Byculla jail with his mother since birth, cut a cake, danced to the latest Bollywood numbers with 21 other children and was showered with chocolates and gifts – all inside prison premises.
In a first, Byculla prison authorities celebrated Rishikesh’s birthday as part of its reforms to ensure that children of inmates receive care and love so that they do not go astray when they walk out of the prison at the age of six. Confirming that prison authorities have decided to celebrate every child’s birthday this way from now, Aruna Mugutrao, superintendent of Byculla prison, said, “For the first time, we celebrated the birthday of a child who has been with his mother in prison. Our main aim is to make the children realise that they are not prisoners, and that they have a separate identity and life to live.”
In Maharashtra, kids below the age of six are allowed to be with their mothers who are jail inmates. Currently, Byculla prison has 388 women undertrials and houses 21 children, including 13 boys and eight girls, said prison authorities.
Earlier, only festivals like Diwali, Eid and New Year were celebrated in the prison. It was only the children who were part of these celebrations. “Every prisoner was given sheer korma and chicken dishes to celebrate Rishikesh’s birthday,” said an officer of Byculla prison.
As part of the new approach, a few months ago, three-month-old Armaan’s naming ceremony was also held in the prison. “We looked up how naming celebrations take place according to Muslim rituals and carried out the naming ceremony. The name of the child was kept by a woman constable. We will ensure that at-least once a month, there is a celebration for kids, which will encourage them.”
Apart from toys and outdoor play equipment, the Byculla prison now plans to introduce Cartoon Network on the television on a daily basis for the children to enjoy, added the officer.