Sudhir Sharma ,prisoner no.797 ,in a Goa Jail had only one addiction - books. He opted for the job of cleaning the toilets because this was the only way to get time to pursue his interest .Scores of Hindi writers and social activists sent him books. This worked smoothly initially but soon over jealous Jail officials stopped delivering him the packets of books and started returning them. They had very funny excuses for it." You can get any thing in Jail- drugs,liquor,women , if you have money or right connections but not books" Sudhir wrote desperately to an outside friend in a letter which was smuggled out clandestinely. People like Vibhuti Narain Rai, a senior Police Officer and Hindi writer and Sumant Bhattacharya, a journalist took his case to National Human Rights Commission and with the intervention of Commission and Judiciary, Sudhir once again got the books. After serving ten years in the Jail, Sudhir has joined the world of books. He is the librarian of Sri Ramanand Saraswati Pustkalaya.
एक नयी भूमिका मेँ भूतपूर्व कॆदी
हेरोइन रखने के आरोप मेँ गोवा जेल मेँ बन्द कॅदी नम्बर 797, सुधीर शर्मा से जेल जाने के बाद हेरोइन की लत तो छूट गयी किंतु वह एक नये नशे का शिकार हो गया ! यह नशा था किताबोँ और पत्रिकाओँ का ! सँयोग से ज्ञानरंजन और उनकी पत्रिका पहल से हुआ परिचय जीवन मेँ एक निर्णायक मोड साबित हुआ! ! उसने ढूँढ ढूँढ कर लेखको से किताबेँ मँगवानी शुरु कीँ ! देश भर के तमाम लेखकोँ ने उसे किताबें भेजीं ! पढने के लिये अधिक समय मिले इसके लिये सुधीर ने जेल अधिकरियों से अपने लिये टायलेट साफ करने का काम माँग लिया क्योंकि यही एक अकेला काम था जिसमे काफी वक्त बचता था ! कुछ दिनों तक सब कुछ ठीक ठाक चलता रहा पर जल्दी ही जेल अधिकारियोँ ने उसे किताबें देने से मना कर दिया और किताबोँ के पार्सल लौटने लगे ! इस हरकत के लिये जेल अधिकारियोँ के पास बडे मजेदार तर्क थे ! "अगर आपके पास पॆसा या सही पहुँच हॆ तो जेल के अन्दर आपको शराब, गाँजा यहाँ तक कि लडकी भी मिल सकती हॆ किंतु किताबेँ नहीँ मिलेँगी", सुधीर ने छिपा कर भेजे गये अपने एक खत मे लिखा ! सुधीर की लडाई पुलिस अधिकारी एवँ लेखक विभूति नारायण राय तथा पत्रकार सुमंत भट्टाचार्य ने राष्ट्रीय मानवाधिकार आयोग , न्यायपालिका तथा मीडिया के माध्यम से लडी ! अंतत: सुधीर को फिर से किताबेँ मिलने लगीं ! 2003 मे जेल से छूटने के बाद सुधीर सीधे किताबोँ की दुनियाँ में चला गया ! आज वह श्री रामानन्द सरस्वती पुस्तकालय का लाइब्रेरियन हॆ जहाँ खुद किताबें पढने के अलावा वह एक बडे पाठक समुदाय को किताबों से जोडने का काम कर रहा हॆ !
Women dare to ask question:
The mundane and routine life of Prabhawati had always been on the receiving end. Poverty, ill treatment of in laws and regular beating by a drunkard husband Bhagwat were all she could remember till she met Kusum and Pushpa, two activists on gender issues. SRSP, with support of OXFAM, has initiated a campaign against gender violence in fifteen surrounding villages. Prabhawati's village Sahnupur is one among these. She learnt the art of protest during interaction with Kusum and Pushpa and that was the beginning of the end of accepting cruelty without asking questions. "How dare you ask question" was the reaction of Bhagwat, with a sense of disbelief on his face, one day when he slapped her and a defiant Prabhawati asked uncomfortable questions. Since then Prabhawati never looked back. She giggles while narrating, before women participants in a discourse on gender, how she reacts to the violent behaviour of her husband and how much he fears raising his hands on her because he knows that she will pay him back in the same coins. Prabhawati is one of many women of different age groups who regularly attend various capacity building programmes and discussions organised by SRSP. These exposures have taught them to ask questions and not to accept violence against them in different forms and at various levels.
Letters from a Goa prisoner to writers: Sumant Bhattacharya in Indian Express of 18 th January 1998
NEW DELHI, January 17: From his tiny cell in Goa's Central Jail, Sudhir Sharma, Inmate No 797, has been fighting a long and lonely battle: he wants to read. The Constitution and the Supreme Court say he has the right to do so, his prison authorities say no.Sharma, a former addict, was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to a 10-year jail term under the Narcotics Act. While in prison, one day, a fellow inmate showed him a copy of Pahal, a monthly Hindi literary magazine. It was this that, Sharma says, gave him a reason to live.
He wrote to Pahal editor, noted Hindi writer Gyanranjan, who sent him his books. They reached the jail but authorities said he couldn't read them. The books were sent back and Sharma was moved to a sub-jail, in Vasco, where, he says, the conditions are worse.
Still, he keeps writing letters, to Gyanranjan, Hindi novelist and DIG of Border Security Force, Vibhuti Narain Rai; authors Nirmal Varma, S R Yatri and Asghar Wajahat. These letters aren't sent through ``official channels'', he smuggles them out, sometimes through an inmate on his way to the hospital, a friendly warden or an inmate's relative. In his latest letter to Rai on December 10, 1997, Sharma says he's perhaps paying for raising his voice.
The story of his life, as told through his letters: Once a student of Delhi University, Sharma left home for Mumbai. He began working for the underworld don Karim Lala's nephew Samad Khan, fell in love with a ``penfriend'' from Jodhpur. Things changed when Samad Khan was killed and his girlfriend ditched him. Sharma became an addict and began to peddle drugs until he landed in jail.
He clocked his days in despair until he read Pahal. ``Pahal ke ank ne meri zindagi mein pranvayu ka sanchar kiya,'' he writes in a letter to Rai. (Just one issue of Pahal gave me a fresh lease of life). He goes on to thank Gyanda (Gyanranjan) for accepting a prisoner as a reader. ``Thank you for agreeing to share your books with a criminal. I know I have done something wrong but I am conscious. Don't I have the right,'' he asks, ``to know what's going on, to be sensitive?''
Books and magazines came pouring in which jail authorities confiscated. He also wrote to Kiran Bedi. In a letter, he says he believes that his persecution by the jailer was largely due to his attempt to spill the beans in the letter to Bedi.
The IG (Prison), Goa, and the superintendent of the Central Jail in Aguada, quoted the jail manual to justify their action. In a letter to Rai dated July 8, 1996, the superintendent says:
"In view of Rule 17 of the Goa Daman and Diu Prisons (Facilities to the prisoners) Rules 1968, the parcel which was sent by you was refused by this jail."
According to this rule, prisoners' mail, both incoming and outgoing, "shall be carefully censored." And a prisoner may be asked to give "a list of persons with whom he is likely to correspond during his period of imprisonment. As far as practicable, this list shall be scrutinised."
Jail authorities claim that since these authors' names don't figure in this list, he cannot receive anything from them.
This despite a 1979 ruling by a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices V R Krishna Iyer, R S Pathak and O Chinnappa Reddy. The judges had said: "No prisoner can be personally subjected to deprivations not necessitated by the fact of incarceration and the sentence of the court. All other freedoms belong to him, to read and write... to creative comforts... to movement within the prison campus subject to the requirements of discipline and security, to the minimal joy of self-expression, to acquire skills... all other fundamental rights tailored to the limitations of imprisonment."Speaking to The Indian Express, G H Kenaudekar, additional Deputy Collector and Deputy IG (Prison), Goa north, says: "As per rules, books will not be given to prisoners but will be kept with jail authorities." When told of the Supreme Court's ruling, he says that probably the jail administration is not aware of the decision.
Ironically, the books sent to Sharma by Kiran Bedi, who was given the Magsaysay award for reforms in Tihar jail, were also returned. Says Bedi: "The Goa jail administration has overlooked the verdict and directions of the Supreme Court. It should be brought to book for this." Until that happens, Inmate No 797 will keep waiting -- and writing.