“And when the night is cloudy,

There is still a light that shines on me,

Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.”

 (Let it be – The Beatles)

This song by The Beatles conveys a sense of hope to wake up and do better every day. But what is hope? “It is being able to see light in the darkness, it is being able to overcome fears.” 

At Observation Home, Bastar, the month of June was of hopelessness and shock. Two children Suraj and Brijesh turned 21 and were transferred to the Central Jail to complete the remainder of their sentence. 

As per JJ act, Section 20, Child attained the age of twenty-one years and is yet to complete the prescribed term of stay in the place of safety

(1) When the child in conflict with the law attains the age of twenty-one years and is yet to complete the term of stay, the Children’s Court shall provide for a follow-up by the probation officer or the District Child Protection Unit or a social worker or by itself, as required, to evaluate if such child has undergone reformative changes and if the child can be a contributing member of the society and for this purpose, the progress records of the child under sub-section (4) of section 19, along with evaluation of relevant experts are to be taken into consideration.

(2) After the completion of the procedure specified under sub-section (1), the Children’s Court may—

(i) decide to release the child on such conditions as it deems fit which includes the appointment of a monitoring authority for the remainder of the prescribed term of stay;

(ii) decide that the child shall complete the remainder of his term in jail:

Provided that each State Government shall maintain a list of monitoring authorities and monitoring procedures as may be prescribed.

These two boys were like elder brothers to the rest of the children in the facility. Both of them had taken the responsibility of taking care and looking after the children. They created an environment of home away from home. They handled many responsibilities in the facility, from helping in the kitchen to gardening, and were trusted by the staff. The superintendent had even bought Suraj formal clothing and he’d dress up every day like one of the staff members of the facility. 

Looking at the progress of both the children and the report submitted everyone was sure that the children would be released under the supervision of a non-profit or probation officer. So, when the orders came to shift them to the Central prison, everyone at the facility including Ashiyana team members and staff of the facility became numb. 

The boys themselves were in shock. They started preparing themselves for this major shift in their lives. On the day of their transfer, everyone in the home, be it children or the superintendent, got emotional. The children started hugging them and wishing them good health and safety.

Once they left, all the children in the home were petrified and became quiet. If Suraj and Brijesh who had shown so much positive transformation could be transferred to prison, then what will save us from being transferred? What if this happened to us? 

The air was filled with fear and disbelief. To cope with the grief and anxiety, Ashiyana members organized a  “Circle of Hope” to get back hope and positivity in their lives.

The circle began with a small prayer and by acknowledging what had happened and naming what everyone was feeling. A beautiful drawing with a dove became the centerpiece of the circle. In the check-in, each child in the circle lit a candle and placed it in the center in the name of the boys and prayed for their well-being, good health, safety, and happiness.  

The children were asked to share one good memory with Suraj and Brijesh.  As the talking piece passed, it made them reminisce about the good times that they had with them and how they helped each other and taught each other every day. 

They were then asked to share one good quality that they learned from them and would like to imbibe and the responses were astonishing. They shared how Brijesh respected everyone and treated everyone equally. He welcomed all the new children and helped them get used to the facility. Suraj on the other hand was trusted by everyone. He had taken up so many responsibilities in the facility. One of the boys shared that when he is released he will go to his village and become responsible like Suraj Bhai. 

After the session, all of them had a little ray of hope that everything will be alright and that every day is a new day and they should look up to it. One of the boys,  Siddharth, shared how he felt relieved.

When members from Ashiyana visited Suraj and Brijesh at the Central prison, it was a truly touching moment. The boys were in disbelief that didi and bhaiya were there to visit them and that they were not forgotten. Brijesh couldn’t t stop smiling and shared, how, had it not been for Samuel bhaiya, he would have committed suicide when he heard of his transfer. He was sharing that morning with his friend about circles and how he remembers what he had learned in circles and continues to nurture hope in his heart each day. They were touched listening to what their friends had shared about them when Ashiyana members narrated the ‘Hope circle’  to them. 

When the boys will be released we don’t know but what we know is that we have planted seeds in their hearts that will help them see through the dark times. We pray that their inner light continues to shine wherever they are and guide them. 

– Kruti Dave