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Prisoners in Gujarat’s Sabarmati Jail Are Striking a New Chord With Gandhi’s Favourite Bhajans

As the nation celebrates 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Navjivan Trust has started a unique initiative wherein prisoners of Sabarmati jail sing Bapu's favourite bhajans thrice a week in the evenings.

Vijaysinh Parmar | CNN-News18

Updated:April 8, 2019, 6:55 PM IST
Prisoners in Gujarat’s Sabarmati Jail Are Striking a New Chord With Gandhi’s Favourite Bhajans
Jail inmates singing one of Mahatma Gandhi's favourite bhajans.

Ahmedabad: Pass through the Navjivan Trust building behind Gujarat Vidhyapith in Ahmedabad after 7 pm on any given weekend and you will be surprised by the recitals of ‘Vaishnav Jan to Tene Re Kahiye’ that fill the evening air.

What’s more surprising is that the singers of the bhajan, which was a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, are no professionals but, in fact, the inmates of Sabarmati Central Jail. Most of them are murder convicts.

As the nation celebrates 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi, Navjivan Trust, founded by the freedom fighter, has started a unique initiative wherein prisoners of Sabarmati jail sing Gandhi’s favourite bhajans thrice a week between 7 pm and 8 pm.

“The prisoners are brought from Sabarmati Central Jail to Navjivan Trust office thrice a week in the evenings, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They are very good singers and sing various bhajans that Gandhi ji was fond of. Anyone can come and listen to this one-hour programme for free. We welcome people from all walks of life to come and listen to these bhajans sung by prisoners. We started this initiative last Friday and will continue it for a whole year as part of 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi,’’ Vivek Desai, managing trustee, Navjivan Trust, told News18.

Desai said various reform programmes are being conducted for the inmates, including an examination on the life of Gandhi. “For this initiative, the jail authorities have extended help and cooperation by relaxing norms for inmates so they can come in the evening and run the show. As per the jail manual, prisoners can’t be taken outside jail after 6 pm. But the authorities have relaxed this norm,’’ he said.

After the musical programme ends at 8 pm, the inmates are brought back to jail in a police van.

The convicts taking part in this unique initiative are Ghanshyamsinh Rathod, Bhanvarlal Luhar, Ajay Luhar and Bharat Maru. “It’s a healing experience. I like singing Mahatma Gandhi’s bhajans. It gives me eternal peace,’’ says Ghanshyamsinh Rathod, a murder convict.

Gandhi had declared Navjivan Trust his heir for his writings and publications. The copyrights of all of Gandhi’s writings, including his autobiography, belong to public since January 2009, as the copyrights expired and can be reproduced and used by anyone without the prior permission of Navjivan Trust, which had owned the copyright of the writings of Mahatma Gandhi since 1948.

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