Most recently, the Maharashtra Home Department has made plans to open up the iron gates of jails in the interest of preserving history and displaying it for the public eye. According to Times of India, Home Ministry officials are working on creating a ‘Jail Tourism Policy’ that will grant the common man access to the insides of these institutions that have largely been kept secret. With over 30 jails in the state alone, there are decisions to be made as to which ones will be opened to the public - the critical deciding factor being security.
As it stands, it seems most likely that the Yerwada jail will be made open to the public given its history of prisoners. Topping the list are Gandhi, Nehru, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, and most recently, Sanjay Dutt. There is a keen sense of interest in wanting to know what the insides look like, and how these people spent their time in the institution. Times of India also reports that the jails will now be made available to filmmakers to truly depict what the interiors of these spaces look like. Talks are also on to open a Jail Museum of sorts, where articles of famous prisoners left behind will be put on display.
Jail Tourism as such is not a new phenomenon in India. The Cellular Jail in Port Blair of the Andaman Islands is one of the main tourist attractions. Complete with a light and sound show that debriefs the audience on the complete history of the jail, and the reason for why it is called ‘Kala Pani’ jail draws people in by the hundreds. Many a freedom fighter were sent off to this jail, and today it stands to be a national monument. Taking this nature of tourism further, the colonial era jail in the Medak district of Telangana allows people to experience life in prison first hand. Thats right - a “Go Directly to Jail” card can be bought for just INR 500, as reported by The Hindustan Times. However, the report does go on to say that there hasn’t been any tourist who has availed of this opportunity. We wonder why.
Words: Tansha Vohra