Oct/Nov 2011 – Solution of Question #3

Paper 8001/22, Maximum Marks: 50 & Time: 1 hour

3 Study Passage 3 in the Insert [posted below in this article] to answer the following Questions (a) – (e).

A brush with the law: Delhi jail uses paint to rehabilitate prisoners

Some show bars and locked gates, others portray magical birds and beasts; many picture an idyllic colourful world away from the harsh, stark realities of their creators’ lives. For the one thing all these paintings have in common is that they provide the young men producing them with a way of communicating their experiences inside South Asia’s largest prison.

Delhi’s sprawling Tihar Prison was once notorious across the region. But this assorted collection of works that goes on display tomorrow is evidence of an ongoing effort that experts say has transformed the jail into a forward-looking institution with rehabilitation programmes that would shame many institutions in the West.

For two years, a small team of artists and curators have been working with young inmates at Tihar to promote art as a means of dealing with the pressures of incarceration. As part of the project, they persuaded a number of India’s leading artists to visit the facility and work with some of the inmates. Those behind the project hope that in addition to helping the inmates, the exhibition will open a window on the realities of life in jail. The paintings will go on display alongside works specially produced by some of the artists who gave up their time to work with the prisoners. “It was very strange,” said Chintan Upadhyay, one of the artists who met with the inmates. “Because we have seen all these jails portrayed in the cinema, and in India cinema is larger than life. But when I got there, it was completely different – you were seeing ordinary people. I felt lost.”

The project was conceived by the art curators Anubhav Nath and Johny ML, who said they were interested in providing an insight into prison life for ordinary people as well as trying to help the inmates. The artists they took to the jail spent half a day with prisoners between 19 and 21 and discussed painting techniques as well as the theory of art with them. They were also asked to produce a work for the exhibition. “The artists did new works with the Tihar experience in their minds,” said Johny ML. “Not just the jail, but thinking about ideas of imprisonment, confinement and separation.”

For Tihar – an institution once notorious for corruption and brutality and a place where prisoners such as the serial killer Charles Sobhraj were able to bribe their way to freedom – the project is the latest in a series of efforts to transform it. The process of transformation began under Kiran Bedi, who was India’s highest-ranking female police officer and also served as the jail’s inspector general before she retired. During her time at the jail in the early 1990s, she introduced literacy projects, drug rehabilitation, yoga and meditation. Ms Bedi also expanded the jail’s library, talked directly with inmates and restarted the practice of celebrating all religious holidays at the prison, which currently houses about 12,000 prisoners.

The art project has her backing as well as the support of the current head of the jail, BK Gupta. He said art was being used as part of a process to rehabilitate prisoners and to ease the hardships of incarceration. “The prisoners are very stressed. The art helps relax them,” he said. “They are young people and they need some direction. They happen to be here because of things they have done but this is their solace.”

Bose Krishnamachari is another of the artists involved in the project. Born in Kerala, the painter said he had previously visited a jail in the United States but that he had been surprised by what he had found at Tihar. He too said that he had been expecting a scene like those portrayed by Bollywood but, instead, he discovered something closer to a “classroom”.

As for the benefits for the prisoners, Mr Krishnamachari had no hesitation in acclaiming them.

“Jail is an isolated place. By isolation, I mean the inmates are isolated from the mainstream life. So anything that comes from outside and meets them inside should be welcomed. Everything will have a deep impact on the minds of these young people. Art can soothe the inmates, provided they are inclined to the finer sides of life. I don’t believe that even if they have committed crimes they are totally devoid of finer senses.”

The artist said he was under no illusions about the need for prisons or for the punishment of people responsible for events such as the terror attacks in Mumbai. Yet he said he believed jail must have a rehabilitative element – especially for younger prisoners. “I found young people with not so much of a criminal bent. I could talk to some of them. They might have done something seriously wrong. But they are not hardened yet,” he said. “Those who are not hardened criminals should be given a second chance and the hardened ones should be punished severely.”

Note: When a question asks for an answer IN YOUR OWN WORDS and you select the appropriate material from the passage for your answer, you must still use your own words to express it. Little credit can be given to answers which copy words or phrases from the passage.

Questions and Answers

(a) In about 100 of your own words, explain the various specific benefits of the art project at Tihar Prison. [10]

First and foremost, the art project enables prisoners to express themselves and to describe their life in prison through paintings. Second, the prisoners get chance to interact with the outsiders which relieves them from the frustration of being secluded in the jail. Third, the project gives prisoners something specific to aim at and thus kindle a positive attitude in them. Fourth benefit is that it lets the outside world see what life is really like in prison, as opposed to how it is depicted by the media. Last but not the least, it provides an incentive to the artists to explore new themes.

(b) Why was it not altogether surprising that such an exhibition was staged at Tihar Prison? Answer in about 50 of your own words. [5]

Tihar Prison saw many reforms in the past 20 years. The prisoners were taught to read and write, given spiritual lessons and meditation classes, and were treated well. With all the transformations, the organizers were eager to set the prison as an example in front of media and public. Therefore, unsurprisingly the exhibition was staged at Tihar Prison.

(c) Identify by either quotation or line-reference: [4]

(i) an admission that some of the artists involved had to think again because of their experience in Tihar;

‘But when I got there, it was completely different – you were seeing ordinary people. I felt lost!’ (lines 17–18)

(ii) a hint that the art exhibition would make life easier for prison staff;

‘The prisoners are very stressed. The art helps relax them.’ (lines 36–37)

(iii) a fact that has no relevance whatever to developments at Tihar Prison;

‘Kiran Bedi, who was India’s highest-ranking female police officer…’ (line 29)

(iv) an indication that the involvement of artists with young criminals was not a complete success.

‘I could talk to some of them.’ (line 52)

(d) Assuming that they had all committed the same serious crime, do you agree that a distinction should be made between ‘young’ and ‘hardened’ offenders? Answer in about 40 of your own words. [4]

I disagree with the notion to distinguish between the ‘young’ and ‘hardened’ offenders and provide them with different kind of punishment for the same crime because it is unjust and it can kindle rage among the ‘hardened’ inmates resulting in severer repercussions.

(e) (i) Explain the meaning of the following words as they are used in the passage. You may write the answer in one word or a short phrase: [6]

  • notorious (line 5) = infamous

  • means (line 10) = a way of doing something

  • insight (line 20) = a way of understanding

  • solace (line 38) = comfort

  • impact (line 46) = effect

  • illusions (line 49)=  false impression


(ii) Use these words in six separate sentences to illustrate their meanings as used in the passage. Your sentences should not deal with the subject matter of the passage. [6]

  • The officials at the municipality office are notorious for bribing and corruption.

  • I need a means of earning money to survive in this expensive city.

  • Because his insights are wrong, he is totally biased about the matter.

  • After walking uphill for two hours, the trekkers took solace under a big tree.

  • We should try our best to reduce the impact of pollution in the environment.

  • The arts depicting optical illusions are always interesting to me.


Note: Up to an additional 15 marks will be available for use of English.

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