Inspired by Gandhi, prisoner confesses to crimes

By Quaid Najmi, IANS

Mumbai : The impact of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy came to the fore in a most unexpected place – the Nashik Central Prison. A jail inmate underwent such a transformation after reading “My Experiments With Truth” that he confessed to his crimes.

Support TwoCircles

And prisoner Laxman Tukaram Gole did more. He happily accepted the court’s verdict sentencing him to 25 months in prison and also offered to spend two months extra behind bars in lieu of a fine of Rs.1,050 which he could not afford to pay.

All that was in August last year. Having already spent 18 months in prison as an undertrial, Gole will walk out a free man in February.

The Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal (BSM), which had sent him a copy of Gandhi’s famous book, now proudly refers to Gole as its ‘Brand Ambassador’ in the Nashik Central Prison in Maharashtra.

“Because of him, scores of prisoners from across the country are demanding Gandhiji’s books, especially the autobiography,” BSM trustee T.R.K. Somaiya told IANS.

Gole had 19 minor and major cases slapped against him by Mumbai Police over the past few years. However, he was declared innocent in 18 cases.

After reading the book, Gole became a changed person. He wrote to the special metropolitan magistrate, Vikhroli, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai, confessing to his crime in the only case pending against him.

Gole made a simple handwritten plea in June 2007 that all court proceedings in the matter be stopped immediately since he did not wish to waste the government’s precious time. He confessed to all the charges against him and agreed to accept “any punishment” awarded by the court.

The magistrate, taken aback by this unusual plea, finally awarded him two sentences of two years’ jail term each, plus a one-month jail term, all running consecutively. In addition, he was fined Rs.1,050, failing to pay which he would have to spend an additional two months in prison.

Gole said that since the amount was beyond his capacity, he would gladly suffer two extra months behind bars.

As Gole had already spent 18 months behind bars as an undertrial, he was left to serve the remaining seven months which will be over next month.

In a heart-warming gesture, when BSM heard about Gole’s inability to pay the fine, it volunteered to clear it on his behalf. “When he has changed so much, what is the purpose of forcing him to spend an extra two months behind bars?” Somaiya said.

Prior to his formal release, in a rare occurrence, the Maharashtra government has permitted the BSM to organise an interaction with the media inside the prison premises Monday.

Gole will speak about his own experiments with truth, how other prisoners were drawn to Gandhiji’s teachings and philosophy and the relevance of the Apostle of Peace in today’s turbulent world, Somaiya said.

BSM has been conducting a Gandhi Peace Examination – which tests the examinee’s knowledge on Gandhi and his works – for jail inmates across the state for the past five years. It also organised special screenings of the super-hit Bollywood movie, “Lage Raho Munnabhai” in six major jails in the state last year.