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Abstract

It was in the early 80s that a landmark case in the Supreme Court of India shed light on the abuse of prisoners with mental disabilities within the Indian prison system. This case popularly referred to as Veena Sethi vs State of Bihar resulted in the release of 16 prisoners detained in Hazaribagh jail (Jharkhand) for over 25 years because they were of unsound mind. As of 2000 it became clear that prisoners with mental disabilities constituted 0.1 per cent of the total prison population in India. The proposed paper will proceed from this specific historical event and then go on to discuss literary references of prisoners with disabilities which dot the pages of Indian prison narratives. Initially, the paper will take up Chetan Mahajan’s Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail and focus on certain characters in order to understand the plight of prisoners with mental disabilities within the Jharkhand jail system. The argument will revolve around situations experienced by them within an already oppressive institution like prison. The emphasis will be laid on contextualizing these experiences within the wider framework of incarceration as a means of eliminating non-conforming individuals from society. This attempt will shed light on other types of disabilities associated with old age and illness. At this point the paper will extend its scope to include prisoners with other forms of disabilities. It will then take up M. Chandrakumar’s The Prison Diary of An Ordinary Man for analysis to show how prisoners with disabilities are able to cope with the trials of prison life. An attempt will further be made to highlight how depictions of prisoners with disabilities in these narratives reveal them either as victims or as heroes but only as individuals with their own merits and demerits.               

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