Through the lens of her jail experience and that of her fellow prisoners, Anuradha’s vivid description takes us to the unknown and unseen world of women prisoners, their children, their day-to-day lives and their worldview of society as a larger prison even outside the jail. Anuradha wonders what constitutes a crime. Who does the law protect? Are the laws of the land capable of rendering justice to classes and social groups that are exploited? Whether the existing laws are being implemented fairly? At the end, the questions remain: What is a crime? Who is a criminal?
A luminous account of jail from the pen of a sensitive young woman who draws deeply moving sketches of women who sometimes do not even know why they are in prison. Anuradha’s stories move from children who are born in prison, with no idea of the world outside their walls – not even knowing what the moon looks like except on television – to old women bent with age serving life sentences and longing for release before they die so that they can die at home. But jail life is also throbbing with humanity in the midst of trauma and sadness. Women share their pain, write petitions for each other, discover histories of the jail where the staff recall other inmates who are incarcerated for their conscience, and unexpectedly the jail library has a copy of one such memoir. This is a poignant book about a world we need to know and think about: a world that presses against conventional boundaries and is just beyond the prison walls, not so far from us at all.
UMA CHAKRAVARTI, Feminist Historian and Filmmaker
Every story compiled in this book has its heart-wrenching moments and all the stories stir different emotions in the reader – anger and helplessness the foremost. Some stories are bound to give you watery eyes. At the end, some of the questions remain, perhaps unanswered: What is a crime? Who is a criminal? How to make law of the land accessible to hapless common man?
SURESH PANT, Writer and Linguist
She is the empathetic sutradhaar who gently navigates the harrowing stories of imprisoned women.
PRIYA RAMANI (http://www.BloombergQuint.com)
B. Anuradha’s book takes on the literal meaning of freedom and tries to deconstruct its meaning through several narratives of lives in prison…This book is not just an account of how life inside a prison has been but is also an attempt to decipher one’s own experiences. Thematically the book explores the concept of freedom as one of the strands to understand human nature. Birds that fly in and out of the prison turn into reminders of the captivity of these women.
B. Anuradha’s powerful account of the Hazaribagh jail gives an insight into the condition of the women prisoners and their children…What the book tries to show is not just stories about women but after listening to the stories of these women, the writer of this book questions the very concept of what constitutes as a crime. Who is the law protecting? And are the laws capable of providing justice to the oppressed strata of the society? Anuradha does not shun away the idea of women as not being capable of committing crimes but she poses a relevant question—“But what of the society that creates the conditions that lead to such crimes being committed?”
SEEMEN ALI (Sparrowonline.org)
B. ANURADHA is a women’s rights activist based in Hyderabad. While working for a bank in Hyderabad, she came in touch with the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee and worked as an activist from 1990 to 1993 and later, as a women’s rights activist. She resigned from her job in 1996 to work in the Chaitanya Mahila Sangam, a state-wide women’s organization. She was on the editorial board of the magazine, Mahila Margam. In 2005, she relocated to Jharkhand to work as an activist in the Nari Mukti Sangh. She was arrested in October 2009 and spent four years in the Hazaribagh Central Jail. Anuradha has written several articles and twenty-seven short stories. Most of the prison stories have been published in the Sunday special edition of the daily, Andhra Jyothi, as well as in Mahila Margam, Aruna Tara, Sahithi Godavari and the web magazine, Saranga. Sixteen of these stories were later published as a collection by Virasam (Revolutionary Writers Association). Some of the stories were also translated into Hindi and published in Hindi magazines. ‘Paro’s Children’ was translated into Bengali. She has translated The Prisons We Broke by Baby Kamble, Articles of Ambedkar on Women (Feminist Ambedkar), and Feminising the Labour Relations by Dr M. Vanamala into Telugu, and co-translated Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth along with N. Ravi.