Eight imprisoned for life for 2015 Tikapur incident are ‘political’ prisoners, struggle committee saysThe court has found them guilty of involvement in the killing of nine persons in the run-up to the promulgation of constitution.
Two weeks after the Dipayal High Court upheld the Kailali District Court’s verdict of life imprisonment for eight of the 11 individuals implicated in the infamous Tikapur incident of 2015, in which nine persons were killed by a mob, as many as 21 organisations have announced a struggle for their unconditional release claiming that they were political prisoners.
The Tharuhat/Tharuwan Tikapur Revolt Political Prisoners Release National Campaign, led by Surendra Chaudhary, on Friday announced a struggle from January 4 for their release.
“This incident must be settled through political discussions,” said Chaudhary, coordinator of the campaign, at a press meet. “Though it was not the issue of an individual, people were jailed in a biased manner.”
Resham Lal Chaudhary, a Tharu rights activist who was elected a parliamentarian in the 2017 election, is the main accused in the Tikapur incident that erupted on August 17, 2015 after a decision to put Kailali district, which is in the plains, in one province along with seven hill districts. Tharus across the country had opposed the decision.
The protest, largely branded as a Tharuhat movement of the ethnic Tharus, led by Resham Lal Chaudhary in Kailali, was part of a larger movement that had been going on for months in several Tarai districts as the constitution was being finalised against what they called Kathmandu’s conspiracy to discriminate against large sections of the Tharus, Madhesis and Janajatis.
On August 24, 2015, the Tharuhat group called for breaching prohibitory orders that were in place. Protesters and police clashed, and nine persons, including a senior police official and a child, were killed.
On September 15, 2015, police filed different charges, including murder, against Chaudhary and 57 others, besides 55 others without mentioning proper addresses.
Chaudhary went into hiding. But when the elections took place in 2017, the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal fielded him from Kailali-1. He won with a huge margin despite being in hiding.
On 3 January, 2019, he was sworn in as a member of the federal parliament. He is currently in Dillibazaar Prison in Kathmandu.
The Kailali District Court on March 6 had handed down a life sentence to 11 people including Chaudhary.
Surendra Chaudhary, announcing the protests in the Capital, said the state brutally suppressed the Tharus by deploying security forces after the Tikapur incident.
According to Chaudhary, the one-sided investigation by the government was not acceptable.
Chaudhary said they would begin a struggle demanding that the Lal Commission’s Report, the report of the probe committee formed by the Home Ministry under the leadership of former chief of the National Investigation Department Deviram Sharma and the all-party parliamentary committee’s report, all of which were prepared after the Tikapur incident, be made public besides unconditional release of the political prisoners.
The Lal Commission Report is that of the probe commission the government formed under the leadership of former Supreme Court justice Girish Chandra Lal on 18 September 2016 to look into the incidents of Tikapur Tharuhat revolt, Madhes and Aadibasi Janajati movements but the government has not revealed the findings yet. The commission had handed over the report to the government in December 2017.
“Not only the Tikapur incident, most protests in Madhes were brutally suppressed,” said Saroj Raya, chief of the organisation department of the Tarai Madhes Rastriya Parishad, a regional political party. “The struggle was meant for the rights of the Tharu people.”
The campaign will also begin Jail Bharau Abhiyan, or Fill up the Jails Campaign, as part of its protest programme which also includes interactions, pen down, demonstrations and mass meetings at different parts of the country besides handing over memoranda to the government through chief district officers.
On December 18, the Dipayal High Court upheld the verdict of life imprisonment given by Kailali District Court to seven individuals including Resham Lal Chaudhary.
While the high court overturned the sentences of four individuals, it gave a life imprisonment sentence to Laxman Tharu, who had earlier been given a three-year prison term by the district court.