Let Resham Chaudhary off!
After murder convict Bal Krishna Dhungel, leader of the then Maoist Centre, got presidential amnesty and walked out of prison I got a chance to visit western Nepal for a week. I talked with some local Tharu community leaders and activists how they have been looking at the recent political developments in Nepal. They collectively responded to me while keeping the issue of Resham Chaudhary in the centre. They poured anger upon state’s double standard in treating its own people. On what basis did Bal Krishna Dhungel receive presidential amnesty? Isn’t it an arbitrary step of the government? Similarly, how some Madhesi leaders alleged to be involved in similar crime took their oath and received certificate of elected representatives of Nepal?
Indeed, these questions are critical. I also found the level of alienation in Tharus mushroomed due to the above-mentioned developments. Concerned with the situation, the Alliance of Tharuwan Struggle Committee has issued a press statement asking the government to allow Resham Chaudhary take his oath of office and to remove cases filed against several Tharu leaders.
While Madhes-based parties protested initially against the local elections and said that they would not take part in any elections unless their demands of constitution amendment were met, all the Madhesh-centric parties took part in three levels of elections.
Specifically saying, a couple of elected mayors and members of legislative assembly [MLA] are convicted in murder case of ASI Thaman BK killed in Mahottari during the Madhes Movement that took place in 2015. The state has issued an arrest warrant in the name of few central level leaders of Rastriya Janata Party [RJP] and few elected representatives. In the current political scenario they are dwelling in Nepal and as elected representatives are exercising all the privileges.
In contrast, Tharu leaders and activists alleged as perpetrators in the carnage in Tikapur during the movement on 21 August 2015 have been facing discrimination from the state. Here, the writer is not saying that the person criminally alleged should not be let off by law. However, a genuine question arises here, basically in regards with Resham Chaudhary. Why he was given a chance to contest election for Member of Parliament even though he was self-exiled? He won the election in 2017 garnering much attention with massive number of votes (34,341 is more than double the votes of his closest rival Madan Kumari Shah). His rival was from Left Alliance that won almost two thirds of the seats in the national parliament in the first-past-the-post elections. What does this show? It shows that the state seems biased against Tharus because most of the votes Resham received are from Tharu community.
Last time when Pushpa Kamal Dahal was the prime minister he not only met Resham during his India visit but his government also offered compensation to those whose property was vandalised and looted by non-Tharu community and Resham was given Rs 17,400,000.
Among all democratic movements in Nepal, Tikapur carnage is the blackest one which will continue to shock upcoming generations in Nepal. Meantime, the culprits of Tikapur incident have still not been penalised. We often say Nepal believes in rule of law but the day after Tikapur incident hundreds of Tharus were compelled to flee away from Nepal seeking protection in neighbouring country India. A mob belonging to non-Tharu vandalised property of Tharus in presence of security personnel. Moreover, 80 Tharus were detained, 58 were charged with homicide, out of whom 22 were in jail for more than two years while their case was sub-judice and stalled. In May 2017, the government decided to withdraw cases against them, but stepped back after media criticism of the government’s “callous amnesty”, although the court has not held anyone in detention.
Government needs to do two things in this case. First, investigate both the cases properly: Tikapur carnage and aftermath of the carnage where Tharu population got terrorised and looted by non-Tharus. Second, what will happen to those detained for last two years if they were to be proven innocent by the court? Would they get compensated? No, because there is no such law in Nepal! So, proper investigation is necessary. Implementing ‘selective prosecution in criminal justice system’ can never reflect the spirit of rule of law.
Deputy President of RJP and member of Upper House, Brikhesh Chandra Lal, shared his view to the writer, “I challenge the government to show me which article of the constitution stops them to bar Resham Chaudhary to have his privileges as an elected member. RJP may hit the street to support Chaudhary as we have a legitimate base for that.”
First, government must allow Resham Chaudhary to take oath of office as the lawmaker and be granted certificate of victory from the Election Commission. Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa personally had even gone to meet him few months back and broken his hunger strike. This step of government can address the sense of alienation in Tharus and can let them sense rule of law. People residing in Resham’s constituency can have justice for the betterment of their constituency.
Government should proactively push for proper investigation into the case and punish culprits of Tikapur carnage and those guilty of damaging and looting Tharu property and terrorising them.
All human rights advocates should speak up against selective justice system as seen in the case of Resham Chaudhary. Otherwise, it would be proved that the present government believes in “elected totalitarianism” which is not good for any democratic state.
The writer is a freelancer.
Published on 26 July 2018
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