Exhibition of paintings made by Tihar inmates

Colours of Hope, a two-day exhibition showcasing the art works of Tihar Jail inmates, opened on July 8 at Gandhi Darshan. It was, in the words of organiser Siddhartha Vashishta Charitable Trust (SVCT), “a projection of paintings reflecting their inner beauty expressing one thing – all men are inherently good”.

The SVCT is named after Siddhartha Vashishta, better known as Manu Sharma, presently serving a life sentence for the murder in 1999 of model Jessica Lall.

Lodged in Tihar Jail, he came up with the idea of a trust which claims to have so far provided social assistance to at least 130 children of inmates.

Proceeds from the sale of paintings at this exhibition, the SVCT said, would go towards the education of children of jailed inmates and lending financial support to their families. Over 150 paintings, from landscapes to abstract, by 76 inmates and upcoming artists were on display, prices ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 35,000.

The event was inaugurated by MP Jaya Prada and Professor Zargar Zahoor, Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, Jamia Millia Islamia. Both praised the organisation and its efforts.

In the list of painters, there was Kamlesh Thakur, who teaches the Tihar inmates how to paint. At the exhibition, Thakur beautifully interprets the feelings of Tihar Jail inmates. Thakur helps interpret works that depict the atmosphere inside the jail premises to onlookers at the exhibition. He tries delving into works that are inspired by the relationships the inmates share with each other. “Some inmates draw lovely sketches of their loved ones just by looking at the family photographs,” he informs.

Another Tihar inmate was Dal Lama, who had completed his term in 2010. He said, “I never liked painting. I used to spend my time doing yoga, learning to use a computer and exercising. But when I saw my seniors painting on the canvas, it really attracted me. Initially, I copied paintings made by prominent artists and gradually I worked on enhancing my skills. Various charitable trusts and people in the jail administration helped us sell our works.”

The works depicted mesmerising images and realistic scenarios. Some works described real life incidents showing high spirits and restlessness. Some inmates have expressed their religiosity by painting images of Krishna, Ganesh, Shiva, Buddha and other deities. There are canvases which have explored the serenity of flora and fauna showing birds flying in the sky. Then, there were beautiful sketches of children.

Art, music and yoga for long have helped criminals in Indian jails connect with themselves. And at Tihar Jail, where inmates have been encouraged to meditate and paint from time to time, there are a number of criminals who have found solace in painting.

Emphasising the importance of rehabilitation, Jaya Prada said: “Everyone makes mistakes, but it is our responsibility to hold them (inmates) close to our hearts and help them out of their troubles. After all, they are human beings.”

The event concluded with a speech Manu had written earlier: “I feel miserable in jail, but I also feel, after coming to jail, I have seen misery in its most profound state.”
MG News Desk

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2011 on page no. 8

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