Third of March 2017 saw the Central Jail, Kot Balwal, Jammu in a different light. Hard core criminals addressed as ‘Kaidi number ‘ (inmate number) changed into new T shirts the fabric of which stirred anxiety and excitement. It was no task they were going for but they were entering the sports arena created within the jail campus amidst much celebration and cheers; they were going to Play Unified with Special Athletes in the presence of 250-300 persons.
With a vision to spread the program across varied genres, a rather unconventional thought ignited in the mind of the Area Director of Jammu & Kashmir , Dr Ashwini Jojra- to take Special Olympics to the Central jail. The program that followed broke the déjà vu of all the news of terrorism, protest, turmoil and disaster from the picturesque regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The Special Olympics Unified Sports was slated to be part of the Stress Management Program conducted in the jail. A session was held for 3 hours , 10-15 days prior to the event , followed by a survey and selection of inmates who were considered fit to play.
The introduction to Special Olympics began with paying a tribute to Ms Eunice Kennedy Shriver, lighting the ceremonial lamp along with a guard of honour saluting her legacy. The Director General of Police- Prisons, Mr SK Mishra IPS, hoisted the Special Olympics Bharat flag unfolding an unprecedented experience. Inmates who had served 18-20 years behind bars played with the Athletes, cooked for them, served them water, gifted them roses and danced with them.
Unified Sports within the Jail campus kick started with 20 inmates playing with 18 Special Athletes under guidance of 5-6 Coaches. The participating inmates were those who were fighting physical/psychological challenges, to whose benefit Unified sports would serve as a rehabilitative exercise.100 m race, wheel chair race, football skills (running and kicking) , zig zag dribbling, Bocce and Badminton were the disciplines at play during the event that lasted eight hours.
The program was graced by the DGP(Director General Police) – Prisons Mr MS Lone, Superintendent of Police , Ms Sabah Shawl, Superintendent- Jails, the Chairman of Sahyog India amongst many esteemed guests who included officials from other jails , retired judges, TV artistes, representatives from AIR (All India Radio). The success and enthusiasm generated around the program have made the authorities consider it to be a regular exercise
In an overwhelming moment an inmate wearing the Special Olympics t shirt, expressed himself- I am overcome with a feeling of regret of what I have done in the past. How honourable is this day , how extraordinary is this experience for me. I hope I can do this again
In his address, the DGP said- let us introspect and also repent our doings of the past. Your mistakes brought you here but when it is time for you to move out of this place carry this experience with yourself and fulfil the dreams of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Promise me that