The Process of Forgiving

Written for ‘Positive News’, HongKong.
It is not unusual to have moments in life when one needs forgiveness. Often, even though we may have been forgiven by others one finds it difficult to forgive oneself. And what if society feels that one needs twenty years of isolation in a prison before one can be forgiven?
The process of forgiving would indeed be a long and ardous one in prisons. It seems, fortunately, that there are some prisons where this process is facilitated through activities that induce self reflection and reconstruct self esteem, along with the discipline and rigour of prison life.
The Tihar jail in India has long been in the news for the progressive steps it has taken towards the rehabilitation of its inmates as responsible citizens of society. These steps begin well before the release of the inmate, and the years spent in the Tihar prisons offer several opportunities to its residents to turn over a new leaf.
Tihar is now making further news through its efforts to provide education in various spheres to its residents. The most important aspect of the education system in Tihar Jail is that educated prisoners voluntarily teach less educated prisoners. An illiterate person landing in Tihar Jail can look forward to being literate if his stay is more than a week. For those who already know how to read and write the Tihar Jail offers several higher education courses such as capsule computer courses, diplomas in subjects such as Creative writing, Tourism, Human Rights and Distance Education. If one would like to learn a vocational skill, typing and commercial arts are a possibility here. Besides, conventional forms of education, the Tihar jail also taps into the wisdom of great Indian leaders. Gandhian philosophy is taught at a Gandhi center.

To help inmates reintegrate into a society of law and order , the Tihar jail has created its own participatory system of management of welfare activities. Prisoner bodies  called ‘Panchayats’ which administer several activities? Once a year, a maha ( great) Panchayat assembly gives a chance for the prisoners to speak about their grievances in the presence of media persons. This unique organization has created an atmosphere of a self contained village within the prison where prisoners have an opportunity to participate in the delivery of justice!!
And finally, to help residents of the prison, to deal with their own inner turmoils and finally forgive themselves, the Tihar prison has integrated Yoga and meditation into their daily life. . In the year 1994 Tihar Jail created  history by organising a Vipassana Meditation camp for more than one thousand prisoners. Since then a permanent Vipassana center has been opened in Tihar Jail No.4, where two courses of ten days duration are organised regularly.

Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong’ and what better way to help people in the process of forgiveness than helping them to find their own strength within!
To read more about the Tihar Jail visit

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