KATHMANDU, Sept 1: Life is high and dry for those languishing in prisons, but not for everyone. Some people are more than equal if they were in a higher position before coming in. And, its even more so, if the prisoner is Khum Bahadur Khadka.
A former home minister and influential Nepali Congress leader, Khadka´s life in jail has hardly changed, as hordes of supporters throng the place everyday.
His support base is so strong that his cadres even took to the street to protest his arrest on August 14, after the Supreme Court convicted him of graft.
"I wish I could be a prisoner like Khadka but...," one of the prisoners at Sadar Jail at Dillibazaar shared with Republica. "Prison is in fact a fight for survival but this is not the case with high-profile prisoners," he said, with envy.
The jail has virtually turned into Khadka´s office, as scores of his supporters visit him everyday.
Jaya Nepal, a popular greeting among NC members, echoes around a tin-roofed hut, set up with 12 plastic chairs, two tables and thin carpet, in front of Block-B of the jail everyday where Khadka is ususally seen surrounded by his supporters.
Among the visitors on Wednesday was Purna Bahadur Khadka, former home minister and NC leader, who briefed Khadka about current political situation.
Most of the visitors, who bring along fruits and juices, symphathize with Khadka, as many of them believe that Khadka has been wrongly convicted. With them, he not only talks about politics but also shares health and family affairs.
"I have a little health problem, so I am taking medicines regularly but rest is all fine," he told his supporters. "I don´t have any other problems in here."
Sadar Jail has a capacity of holding 180 prisoners but accommodates more than 650 prisoners including foreigners. Among them, Khum Bahadur Khadka is the latest high-profile entrant. Chairman of Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Republic (MJF-R) Jay Prakash Prasad Gupta and chairman of Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandidevi) Shyam Sundar Gupta are also languishing in the same jail.
But Khadka is like a celebrity inside the jail, according to Jeevnath Kattel, a policeman. "He hardly manages time to meet his cadres and well wishers from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm."
"On Wednesday alone, 71 people met Khadka," he said. "Its not much of a pressure today (Thursday) and I am feeling somewhat relieved as the number is less."
Upto 122 people have visited Khadka in a day, according to the register kept at the entrance.
"We had to arrange for a special place for the leaders, Khadka and JP, to meet their supporters," said Inspector Diwakar Ghimire.
JP Gupta, who has also been convicted of graft, is pleased to share his compartment with Khadka.
"We share a common kitchen and a prisoner cooks meal for us for Rs 2000 per month," Gupta told Republica. "Khadkaji is not healthy so eats very light food but I am not that conscious."
According to him, they get 700 gm of rice, Rs 40 for vegetable and pulses and Rs 5 for other expenses per day. Such a meager rationing makes life inside the prison harder for a common prisoner, said Gupta.
And, its not easy for the jail management to look after these high-profile prisoners due to security challenges caused by lack of space.
"We had already planned space for Khadka soon after the court´s verdict," said jailor Krishna Bhadur Khadka. "We have provided a bed, clothes, some furniture, and cupboard to keep books. But he has to share seven-inch TV set with JP now."
Unlike Khadka, JP spends his time on his own. He reads till late night and remains quiet most of the time, according to the jailor.
"I practice yoga and some exercises early in the morning to keep fit," JP told Republica. "But I can´t explain the pathetic condition of other prisoners here."
But on the other Block Shyamsundar Gupta, convicted for involvement in the kidnapping of a businessman Pawan Sanghai, doesn´t like to share the condition of the prison. He, however, said, "How can it be like a home?"
The Department of Prison Management knows well about the jail´s condition, he said, laughing.
"Ranjanji (suspended Armed Police DIG Ranjan Koirala, who is in jail on the charge of killing his wife) and I share the compartment of room no 3 and we too have a man to cook meals for us," Gupta said. "I have not met Khum Bahadur since he entered jail because he is much busy meeting visitors like I was in my earlier days in prison."