A still from Bikhare Rishte
In an 11-minute short film on children of women prisoners, a young woman recalls the moment she was reunited with her children after two years when she received bail from court. “On our train journey back to Mumbai, my sons began sharing everything about the time they were apart from me. They told me they were not sent to school nor given adequate food by my in-laws, who had taken them away without their wishes. I did not realise when the three-day journey went past while listening to them,” she says.
Bikhare Rishte, the film made by Malati Rao with Prayas, a field action project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, through the story of one unnamed woman prisoner, seeks to bring to light the condition of their children. The woman in the film, for instance, was not aware of where her children were for months after her incarceration. With she got in touch with social workers of Prayas, they contacted her mother and found out that her in-laws had taken the children, then aged 7 and 4, and were being made to do manual labour. She eventually filed for bail and on her release sought permission from the court to see her children.
According to rules, a child is permitted to reside with the mother in prison till attaining six years of age. Following which, the child is shifted to an institution or with a relative. “In many instances, in violation of Supreme Court law, we find that the women, while being taken in custody by the police, were not asked whether they have minor children. Women inside would find it difficult to find out the condition their children are in,” said social worker Varsha Lad, who features in the film.
“In one instance, a woman in a Mumbai jail had not seen her children for eight years...,” said Reena Jaiswar, also with Prayas, who visits city prisons.
“The idea is to visibilise a group which largely remains invisible. The film also provides information for various stakeholders and the general public, who if ever know someone in that situation, know what provisions are available to them,” said Vijay Raghavan, project director of Prayas.