Prisoners to play in Bengal football league

Kolkata: They certainly do not belong to the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" nor can they be clubbed among "Few Good Men" but these proverbial bad boys want a final shot at redemption through the `beautiful game`.

A serial killer, who has appealed to Calcutta High Court against death penalty, an abductor, a few accused of ghastly crimes, are those among the 36 prisoners, who have formed a team registered under the name of "West Bengal Inmates Sports Club".

The inmates will be competing in the North 24 Parganas District Football league tournament starting tomorrow in an unique initiative taken by West Bengal Correctional Department to "correct" the criminals.

A brief profile of the team will send shivers down the spine as it contains names of some of those associated with much publicized criminal cases of recent and distant past in Bengal.

Robin Mallick a serial murder convict who has appealed against capital punishment at the Calcutta High Court; Mukesh Singh accused in Roma Jhawar abduction case; Somnath Mistri and Jagannath Naskar abduction and murder convicts and Piyush Biswas convicted in Kolkata Police Sergeant Bapi Sen`s murder.

"Yes, they`re all high profile prisoners but at the same time they are all human beings. But at the same time they are all governed by the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992. It`s about reforming them and making them acceptable to the society that`s the main objective," ADG (Prison) Adhir Sharma told PTI.

The inmates are aged between 25-30 years, a big enough reason to reform them at the young age, Sharma said.
"It`s how you look at life even a glass of water is always half-full or half-empty! It`s about implementing the Act and not just hang a signboard and ask them to follow it. Under the Act, they can participate in cultural activities and sports too is one of them."

He pointed out that the team was formed about three years back and they`ve been playing outside including in the Maidan (at the East Bengal ground) but there had not been a single case mischievous act by these men.

"There`s always been tight security but we`ve not faced any trouble so far. We give them some hours of parole to play outside and their families also come at times."

The team will compete among five teams in their group and will kick off their campaign against home team Agarpara Krira Sanstha tomorrow afternoon in the two-month long tournament.

Coach Mihir Das has picked the side from West Bengal Correctional Department`s six homes Presidency, Alipore, Dum Dum, Medinipore, Baharampore and Jalpaiguri.

The team trains for about two hours five days a week at the Dum Dum Correctional Home under the tutelage of Das for more than two years.

"Recently, we played against Army side in Fort William and at the East Bengal ground. They feel very happy to come out of the confinement of four walls and perform in the field even as it lasts for a couple of hours!" Das said.
It`s not just football the inmates are also competing in kabaddi tournaments

"I`m not looking at miracles that they reach the championship stage and emerge triumphant. My objective will be filled if they`re reformed through football and society accepts them as normal human beings.

"After all they all are repentant of the heinous crimes theve committed and desperately want to return to normal lives," coach Das concluded.

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