By Soma Mitra
Kolkata, May 5 : Inmates at the Presidency Jail here are learning various dance forms as part of their reformation programme.
Apart from vocational training various performing arts are taught at the jail so that prisoners get a chance to express themselves and create their own world of entertainment.
The West Bengal government has been keen to transform the prisoners. The government is adopting various methods to engage prisoners in constructive activities and jails being termed as "Correctional homes".
Over 50 inmates, who have undertaken dance therapy for reformation under Eminent Odisi danseuse Aloknanda Ray for one year, have shown a tremendous change.
Alokananda says she feels she is not simply a therapist but a motherly figure to the imprisoned young boys.
She feels herself as the mother of these young boys, who had once refused to participate in dance. But to motivate interest at the outset, Alokananda opted for martial dance forms like Kalaripattu and Chhau, which have bold music and manly steps instead of Indian classical dance. But now the jail inmates are open to all kinds of dances.
These inmates have also given a public performance.
"Initially, none of the prisoners could move a step (properly). It's a pity that people don't see the beginning they (people) only see the finished product. If they did, they would see the tremendous physical transformation, which can only come through internal transformation," said Alokananda Ray, the dance trainer.
Inmates believe that learning of dance forms has brought cheer in their lives.
"The greatest thing that I have received from this dance is the happiness and the smile on my face. I had no smile on my face for the past few years. This is the greatest thing that I have received," said Naizal Axara, one inmate.
The prisoners admit that the dance has turned their prison cell into a lively home. It has given them a hope in their lives to look forward. Besides entertainment, the rhythm, music and dance movements have contributed to their mental and physical well-being.
Inspector General of Prison B. D. Sharma admits the transformation of dreaded criminals through dance.
Sharma says when the jail mates perform in various theatre and get applauded by the audience, the experience is totally new.