Nitin Chopra is no Mahatma Gandhi. But the kidnapping and extortion accused tried hard to emulate the freedom icon by leading a third of Raipur’s prison population in a ‘satyagrah’ hunger strike that began on Gandhi’s 147th birthday on Sunday.
Chopra and his band of satyagrahis in Raipur’s central jail had a list of fancy demands – chewing tobacco, cigarettes and three-star hotel food among them – which they were articulating through Facebook and Twitter.
Although the administration managed to pacify the agitating inmates and convinced them to call off their strike on Monday evening, the Facebook and Twitter pages of Jail Satyagrah continue to rile the state police.
“They have called off the hunger strike after we assured them that we will try and fulfil their legitimate demands,” said DIG (Jail) KK Gupta.
He said the list of demands of the inmates were forwarded to senior officials and they would take the final call on how best to address the issue. “But the Facebook and Twitter page of Jail Satyagrah is a matter of concern and the cyber cell is investigating it,” the DIG added.
Earlier, DG prisons Giridhari Nayak had said, “Some of their demands are legitimate for which we have taken steps but most of them are illegal and unethical.”
The prisoners’ novel social media strategy has the authorities in a fix with a probe ordered to figure out how the Facebook page -- Chhattissgarh Jail Satyagarh -- and Twitter handle –twitter.com/jailsatygarh were posting regular updates about the hunger strike.
“It is possible that some outsider was updating the page or some inmates, who go for court appearance outside the jail premises, update the page. I have talked to the DIG Raipur and the matter is now with cyber cell,” said Nayak.
Sources suggest that Chopra had the technical know-how to run the Facebook page and his aides may be behind the social media updates. “Soon the administrator of the page will be nabbed,” said Nayak.
Officials confirmed that more than 1,000 of the 3,391 inmates in Raipur’s central jail had refused to have food and repeated attempts to pacify them had failed. The prisoners had submitted a 16-point demand list that included minimum wages, telephone facility, bank accounts, daily meeting with family and increase in the number of barracks.
On August 24, the inmates had sent a letter to Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh and warned about the hunger strike on Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, if their demands weren’t met.