Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt took part at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Nov 21-22 in New Delhi. On day 2 he spoke at the interactive session “Leadership Lesson From Munnabhai” (named after Dutt’s role in the popular Munnabhai series), in conversation with HT Advisory Editorial Director Vir Sanghvi. Having been behind bars himself, Dutt stated that “everything is injustice in jail” as the rules in the prison manual from the days of British colonial rule make prisoners: “dehumanized…less like human beings. The jail manual is 100 years old and it has not been changed till today. That (the manual) was for the British to prosecute the Indians, break our will and treat us like dogs and that has continued.”
Sanjay openly spoke about his time in jail. “I was locked up on Independence Day from noon till seven the next morning even though I as an Indian, wanted to celebrate my country’s Independence Day. The jail manual says that prisoners should be locked up on any holiday. When I asked for a spoon with the usual mug and plate that you get there, I was told that there is no such provision in the jail manual. It (the manual) was (meant) to break the Indians down by the British. These things should change now. I couldn’t meet my spouse (Manyata – though they were not married then). A person who is convicted can meet his spouse only once a month and that too because mine was a special request I got to meet her alone – unlike others where 20 prisoners meet their families in one room. I could meet my lawyer (Satish Maneshinde) only for a brief moment and that too in my cage and I couldn’t talk as I had cops standing all around.”
He also recalled moments from his first incarceration in the 90’s when he was arrested after the Mumbai bomb blasts in 1993 and jailed for 16 months, e.g. when he was taken to hospital and was handcuffed to his bed. His father, the late Sunil Dutt, broke down when he saw his son in this state. “He held my hand, and said ‘son I can’t do anything’. It was the most difficult moment for me seeing my hero so sad,’”said Sanjay. He also remembered the sparrow and the rat he made friends with in his cell. “It took me three weeks to get the sparrow to eat from my hands,. And I named the rat General Saab because he would come everyday at 11pm, collect food and leave sharp at 12.15.” But Sanjay also took care for his inmates: “I was with some sardars in jail and there was a guy called Pyara Singh. He was there for nine years under trial. He was caught for possession of a firearm for which he had a license. I called his lawyer to my court (during my hearing) and I warned him about going to the press and he got bail. The lawyer was making money all this while,” Sanjay narrated amid applause from the audience.
Sanjay confessed that he missed his late father, actor and MP Sunil Dutt who always had been his pillar of support, when he was convicted for illegal possession of arms in 2007 and sent to jail again. “As long as dad was alive, I knew he’ll be there for me. But this time, when I went to jail there was no dad and I realized that I was the oldest in the family and I have to work around and thanks to my wife and family, I could,” he said.