Innocence imprisoned

– Kriti Gupta

Tamanna is a 4 year old girl. She has spent her entire life in Tihar Jail, one of the largest jails in India.

Her mother Sonia and father Manav* were accused of murder and placed in this jail five years ago. Soon after, the jail doctors informed Sonia that she was with child.

Several women accused of crimes have children that are too young to be left alone. In this case, mothers are allowed to keep children below 6 years of age inside the jail complex. After that, the children are sent to government schools. Tihar Jail presently consists of 50 children.

The barracks where the prisoners stay is a space where children spend 12 hours a day. Sonia worries about the conditions in the jail. “People in the barracks abuse and fight a lot. And I am scared that Tamanna will pick up their mannerisms.” In fact, it is unnerving to see Tamanna and the other children discuss the “barrings”, the court and mulakat (the visitor’s room) with great ease. These children have never known a “normal” family life. All their joys and sorrows are institutional.

A crèche inside the premises provides the children with primary education. But from enclosed spaces, to neat lines in school – everything in their lives is preventive and confined. Sonia says with frustration, “The jail provides for basic amenities but I cannot do anything extra. And my daughter is confined to this restrictive atmosphere”.

Adding to her frustration is the fact that her case stretches on and on. She claims to be innocent but there seems to be no respite from the courts. The Indian judiciary is slow in pronouncing justice. In fact, 75% of all inmates of Tihar Jail are undertrials. That is, they have not been found guilty, but rather are waiting for verdicts. This wait often stretches into 5 – 10 years.

Sonia does not know whether she will be found guilty or innocent. But she does know that in a year’s time, she will have to surrender Tamanna over to state authority.

After that, time will continue to pass in silence and solitude.

*(name changed on request)

Tamanna in the creche at Tihar Jail. Age 4.

Tamanna’s mother, Sonia. She is under trial for murder. Her case has been going on for 5 years, but no verdict has been given.

Children play their innocent games under the watchful eye of the prison guard.

Tamanna is the apple of Sonia’s eye. Maternal love flourishes even in the most grim situations.

Sonia works inside the creche. This way, she is able to earn basic utilities for her daughter. Here, the coldness of the bars is softened by the children’s toys.

Having resigned to her situation, Sonia is as friendly with the guards as she can be.

The children consider each other as family. They have all grown up together in jail and are unaware of the world outside.

Reminiscing: Sonia looks at photos of Tamanna when she was younger. Tamanna will have to leave the jail once she turns 5. Restrictions border all actions.

This is the only photograph Sonia has of her husband and the only keepsake Tamanna has of her father.

Babu is Tamanna’s favorite doll. Sonia wants to keep the doll as a reminder of her daughter once she leaves.

Sonia - tired and alone at the end of the day.


~ by kritigupta on April 25, 2010.

2 Responses to “Innocence imprisoned”

  1. I absolutely loved this one..! This was such a great insight to the life of the inmates of jails in the country..Plus fabulous photography !

  2. thank u 🙂

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