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Cache on display...

From masterpieces of disguise to daggers, Tihar Museum has it all. SANJAY AUSTA peeps into the treasure trove of unusual creativity.

DIFFERENT STROKES: The Tihar Jail Museum in New Delhi displays the creative strokes of inmates in more ways than one. Photo: S. Arneja.

LETHAL DAGGERS made out of aluminium plates, shards of glass and serving spoons. Narcotics smuggled in through false-bottom shoes, swing-shoes and even holy books. Electrical appliances like iron heaters made out of broken wires, bricks and heat-reflectors. You name it, and the innovative and restless minds at the Tihar Jail have invented and accessed almost everything that is prohibited to them. The dubious methods they employ at keeping themselves one step ahead of the law are exhibited at the unique Tihar Jail Museum, located in the lobby of Tihar Jail Headquarters, Janakpuri.

Open to the public, the museum is a collective gene pool of the inmates' genius, with over 70 articles confiscated from different prisoners at different times. The museum is the first of its kind in the world, and the Guinness Book of World Records representatives are in the process of recognising it as such. Meanwhile, it already finds mention in our own Limca Book of Records.

According to Law officer, Tihar Jail, Sunil Gupta, it is especially an eye-opener for the police. "The police should know what sort of innovations the inmates make in getting around the law so that they know how to tackle them," he says. And the innovations are many. There are shoes and slippers with false bottoms, used to smuggle in drugs or tobacco-based products. "Tobacco is banned inside the jail and it is in great demand here. A bidi that sells for one paisa in the market sells for Rs.10 inside," says Gupta. Bidis, cigarettes or drugs are also smuggled in by stuffing them in linings of blankets or any cloth item.

In one interesting case, a prisoner was caught carrying narcotics in the Ramcharitmanas. He had made a cavity in the middle of the Hindu scripture. As the display of drugs is an offence in itself, the museum mostly uses bidis for representation.

The inmates get their narcotics or tobacco products from their associates whom they meet on their periodical visits tothe courts. Often they bamboozle the policeman escorting them, but sometimes the policemen are paid to look the other way. However, daggers and electrical appliances are made within the wards. The daggers and knives come handy in intimidating each other and sometimes are used in lethal fights. Tihar Jail has no provision for hot water for the inmates even in the biting Delhi winter. But the geniuses confined within its walls have invented the water heater from a piece of wire attached to a broken piece of metal plate. They have even fashioned a brick as a heater to warm their hands in the cold. Then there are dandy prisoners, who want their clothes well creased and thus invented the iron by ripping up the base of the bulb sockets in the barracks.

Then there are those who do not want to eat at the prescribed time and take their food to their barracks where the food is heated up on a ruptured heat-reflector connected to an electrical wire. Some get away with it, but those who don't find their ingenious gizmos displayed at the Tihar Jail Museum.

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