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sojourn in jail

sojourn in jail

march 2020

nelson mandela

nelson mandela must take the top position with more than twenty seven year spent in jail pursuing justice. arrested on 1.9.1962, he was released on 11.2.1990. of this period, he spent 18 years in brutal robben island prison. he had a small cell without a bed or plumbing. he had to work on a stone quarry since this was sentence with hard labour. arrested in 1961 for sedition but was acquitted. he was rearrested for leaving country without permission and sentenced to five years of imprisonment. put again on trial in 1964 on charges of sabotage, he was given life imprisonment.

while in jail, nelson could write one letter every six months. once a year, he was allowed to meet a visitor for thirty minutes.

lokmanya tilak

arrested on the charge of sedition on 27th july 1897, he was granted bail by the high court after a month. the trial proceeded and, on 14th september 1897, he was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months of imprisonment with hard labour. he was released on 6th september 1898 on condition that in the case of fresh conviction in another case, six months of remaining sentence shall be added thereto.

on 22nd july, 1908, he was sentenced to six years of imprisonment and sent to mandaly jail in burma (now myanmar). he spent the next six years confined to a single room in solitary imprisonment except for a brief period when cholera was virulent in mandalay jail when he was shifted to another prison). he could keep two books at a time with him. he was allowed to meet visitor once in three months. he could not write to anyone. his wife died in 1912 while he was still at mandalay. he was then permitted to write a letter to a friend, and that was the only concession.


sukarno, the nationalist leader of indonesia, started his activities early but ran foul of the dutch authorities and was sentenced to four years imprisonment with hard labour on 29th september 1929. following his protests of ill treatment in jail, the sentence was reduced by three months. however he was released on 31st decemebr 1931, about two years before the tern ended. in 1934, he was rearrested, convicted and deported to flores island in eastern indonesia. as the climate effected him adversely, he was shifted to bengkulu in sumatra island. in 1942, the dutch retreating before the japanese hurriedly left for australia intending to take sukarno along. but the japanese advance with great speed and sukarno had to be left behind.

the dutch seeking to reoccupy indonesia imprisoned sukarno in dec 1948 but had to release him in june 1949.

mahatama gandhi

mahatma gandhi suffered imprisonment six times in his political career in india. he was asked to leave champaran in 1917 (his first foray into movement for independence) but was not arrested. on 10th april 1919, he was arrested in palwal (hayana) and taken to mumbai where he was released on 11th april.

first regular conviction came on 10th march 1922 when he was sentenced to six years imprisonment and confined to yervada jail. he was, however, released on 15th february 1924. the next imprisonment came eight years later when he was arrested after the famed dandi salt agitation. arrested on 5th may 1930, he was released unconditionally on 26th january 1931.

he was again arrested on 4th january 1932 and released on 8th may 1933. next one followed on 1st august 1933 in mumbai but released on 4th, rearrested but again release on 23rd august.

the longest imprisonment was from 9th august 1942 to 6th may 1944 after the call for ’quit india’. he was kept in aga khan palace. his wife, was with him and she died on 22nd february 1944.

it may be mentioned that none of the sentences were with hard labour or in solitary confinement. while in yervada jail in 1932, he carried on with his normal activities, meeting people, and signed the famed poona pact with shri b r ambedekar. while in jail, he also carried on his activities for social reforming, inviting, meeting and discussing ways and means of doing it with other (non prisoners) like laxman shastri joshi, the religious leaders from varansi and other places.

in 1932-33, he had two rooms set with a yard. it had furniture and electricity as well. he was to have access to the newspapers and family members. however, he said all his ashram people were his family members and submitted a list of 160 persons but this was not agreed to.(mercy he did not say that all indians form his family). he was allowed to meet his wife and sons. he was granted company of a companion and he chose kaksaheb kalelkar. he could write letters and wrote about eighty letters while in yervada jail. he had no dearth of reading material.

in aga khan palace, life was even more leisurely. along with his wife, he had also the company of mahadev desai, sarojini naidu, mira ben and other top leadership. it was more of a club than a prison.


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