“Don’t call me a jailer” says a smiling Anju Mangla, the first woman incharge of a men’s prison in high-security Tihar jail.
Two women, Kiran Bedi and Vimla Mehra, have served as DG of Tihar but it’s for the fist time that a woman has been appointed as the superintendent of a men’s jail here and has a one-to-one interaction with male inmates on daily basis.
Mangla, who is looking after around 800 prisoners in the age group 18-21 years, is not your quintessential tough jailer.
The affable officer says she prefers to be called a Superintendent rather than a “jailer”, a term that she feels creates an image of a “harsh” person.
Having served as the superintendent of the women’s jail, she says that her mantra is to create a personal rapport with the prisoners, whether male or female.
“The inmates are like children for me. They are quite vibrant, young and full of energy but they have been on the wrong side of the law,” she adds.
Mangla prefers to call her jail a ‘gurukul’ or a ‘hostel’ where the inmates are given education.
“It’s a challenge but our DG Sudhir Yadav Sir reposed his faith in me. And I have accepted this challenge. How you treat other human beings makes all the difference,” said the officer, who has been in service since 1990 and has served in Tihar for over three years.
There has to be an understanding that most of the prisoners lack formal education as well as love and bonding from their families, she says.
“Imparting a disciplined way of life in a Gurukul sort of way is what we are doing here. They live like hostellers do,” she says.
The inmates have been segregated into groups based on what level of education they need. For instance, there is a group of people who have never received formal education and they are taught as per their requirements, she says.
After classes, the inmates also get to play field games like volleyball in the evening.
Mangla says her focus is to ensure that the inmates are able to continue their eduction when they are in jail.
“During the recent Constitution Week, we even organised a mock Parliament where the inmates raised various issues concerning women and children,” she says.
“During the festivals, we have day-long events with participation of all inmates,” she says.