| Jorhat Central Jail |
Jorhat, Feb. 10: Fourteen inmates of Central Jail Jorhat will open a new chapter in their lives tomorrow. They will start attending classes for a graduation course being offered by K.K. Handique Open University inside the prison.
The open university, established in 2005, has study centres only in two prisons of Assam — Central Jail Jorhat and Central Jail Guwahati. It organises classes and provides study material to the prisoners free of cost.
Jailor Brojen Das told The Telegraph today that the group would be the second batch to pursue the course. The first batch of eight prisoners, including a woman, is scheduled to appear for the final examinations later this year.
“All the 14 convicts (all men) are very excited to turn over a new leaf in their lives,” he added.
Das said the convicts, who were within 30 years of age and had been lodged in the jail about a year ago, had expressed their eagerness to pursue the course after they saw the first batch attending classes. Most of them come from Upper Assam, are serving life sentences (convicted of murder) and are anxious to begin their life afresh by treading the path of education and knowledge.
The jailor said the convicts’ keenness to move from darkness to light was an extremely “positive development”. “The jail inmates’ endeavour to come out of their crime-tainted past will definitely send the right message to society,” he added.
All the 14 convicts have passed matriculation, which is the minimum qualification required to enrol for the K.K. Handique Open University graduation course. A few of them have also passed higher secondary.
The coordinator of the university’s Jorhat jail centre, lecturer Parag Sarmah from the commerce department of J.B. College, said according to the university’s rules, the aspirants will first have to study a one-year preparatory foundation course, Bachelor’s Preparatory Programme, and then pass an examination having six papers to start the three-year graduation course.
Sarmah said there were 10 aspirants in the first batch, eight of whom had qualified for the graduation course. They sat for their preparatory exam in 2008. Seven of them got into the arts stream and one enrolled for commerce. The jailor said the classes were held inside the prison on Sundays and sometimes on weekdays as the concept of the open university was consultancy.
The 100-year-old Central Jail Jorhat had once lodged great personalities of the state during country’s Independence movement.
These included former xatradhikar of Majuli’s Garmur Xatra, Pitambar Goswami, former President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed and former chief minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha. Freedom fighters Kushal Konwar and Kamala Mir were hanged inside the prison.
All prisoners in the state condemned to death can be executed only in Central Jail Jorhat. Death row convict Mahendra Nath Das has been lodged in the jail since May 27, 2011. His appeal to commute his death sentence to life term is pending in the Supreme Court.
Akon Bora, minister for social welfare and prisons, had recently announced that Dispur would organise the prison’s centenary celebrations later this year.