Six Years Behind The Bars

Six Years Behind The Bars

10 May 2021 11:48 am

I have written this book on my inexplicable experiences for six years as a prisoner of several penitentiary settlements in Sri Lanka, which commenced exactly 50 years ago.  

I was a youth of 22 years when I was taken into custody on 5th April 1971, because I was actively involved in the Socialist Uprising in Sri Lanka. After several years spending in a Remand Prison as a suspect, and after the hearing of our cases in a specially appointed courthouse; popularly known as “Criminal Justice commission”, I was given a  sentence of six years Rigorous Imprisonment. The same “Commission” sentenced about ten thousand other suspects with me for the same ‘crime’ and an equal number were killed in the uprising.

Out of the six years as a prisoner, most of the period I spent in Bogambara Prisons (Kandy). Apart from political prisoners, there were many other criminals as well, sentenced for various crimes, such as murderers, gangsters, rapists, thieves and many more, totaling about 1000 all together.

In this book, I have given special attention to discuss the characters and expectations of those other criminals who were convicted on ‘other crimes’. They were entirely a different group of characters who had no any connection with the youth uprising. My special consideration was to express the common life style and existence of inmates of a prison. During the period of this extremely difficult and intricate stay in the prison, I met various people of diverse character. Most of them were dangerous murderers and underworld gangsters. However, after close association with them, I understood that the humanistic expression “Prisoners too are Humans” is true and perfect! It was the fault of the social disparity and inequality that they had become criminals. No one was born as a criminal.  The immorality is a product of the existing social standing. The ruling authorities must eradicate the root causes of the adverse social conditions before penalizing a person for a prison term or sentencing him for capital punishment. I realized that most of the hardcore prisoners at Bohambara, presented with exemplary moral character and humanitarian feelings. I was really amazed to think about how such people became so much ghastly criminals!

According to what I understood during my six years as a prisoner, the best place to understand the transparency and precision of the human character of a person is the prison. Among the prisoners, majority of them were murderers or other categories of criminals such as those misused the public funds or those who had organized similar crimes. They happen to be hailing from the so called sophisticated society. Some of them were holding high positions in state sector, including some parliamentarians or ministers. One time they were the lawmakers of the country. They know how to screw the law and how to get out of any offence. Strangely, it was their associates or henchmen those had been sentenced on behalf of thereal criminals! Apart from them, there are some innocents who had once, and only once, made a mistake of acting strangely perhaps on sudden anger and mistakenly killed someone, unexpectedly. There were also smalltime thieves, who had been given long term punishment.                   

Thus, the prison is a clear mirror image that reflects the social injustice.

I wrote this book, considering all those information, opinions and experiences I gained during my prison term. As an artist, I painted 30 drawings about the speckled life styles of some prisoners. All those pictures and their topics and approach have been discussed in this book.  

The significance of this book shall be illustrated by reading the postscript written by one of the eminent novelists and a poet in Sri Lanka; Mr. Parakrama Kodituwakku. I believe that this book shall reach not only the booklovers of Sri Lanka, but also the international readers. Therefore, I hope this is a social fairness if it will be translated to several languages.

Charles Dayananda


Left Voice