MADURAI: In a break from a tradition that sees law as an instrument of punishment, a Judge of the Madurai district court has set a good precedent to change educated youth resorting to caste violence. Instead of putting them behind bars, the offenders are sent to Madurai Gandhi Memorial Museum to study Gandhian principle for 15 days.
Judge C Kamarappan of III Additional District and Session Court (PCR), who introduced this novel initiative in July 2013 with the noble intention of changing the mindset of educated youth, has created a lasting impact on the students. “Reading Gandhi’s book My Experiment With Truth has changed my life. Now I practice non-violence,” said Ramesh (name changed), a student of Government Law College, Madurai.
Ramesh was one of the six students of the same college booked for alleged caste violence. When these students were sent for training to the museum, they came dressed in modern attires and behaved rudely. “We first told all of them to visit the museum wearing ‘dhotis’. Though they were reluctant, they came wearing ‘dhotis’ the next day,” recalled K R Nanda Rao, administrative officer of the museum.
Now the same students visit Gandhi Museum often and continue to read books. In the 15-day training programme, the students were first asked to visit the museum’s galleries which feature photos explaining various phases of Gandhi’s life.
“After a brief discussion with the students, we asked them to read Gandhi’s book My Experiment With Truth and taught them the non-violence principles he had adopted,” said S Jayaraj, the research officer of the museum, who teaches Gandhian principles.
Gandhi Museum secretary M P Grurusamy said that more than 30 students had been trained on this programme. “In the final day, they have to submit an essay on any aspect of Gandhi’s life. These would be sent to the Judge,” he said.
Explaining the attitudinal change the training has brought in him, Kannan, a fourth-year law college student, said: “Earlier I used to wake up only at 11 am and waste time. But now I wake up at 5 am and read books,” he said.
Kannan of Ramanathapuram had found it difficult to adjust to the Madurai culture. “I learned Gandhi had traveled to various places of the world and fought for people’s right. Now I learn good things wherever I visit,” he added.
(The students’ names have been changed to protect their identities)