Dahal hints at withdrawing ‘fake’ cases related to Tikapur incidentTharu activists have long argued that the Tikapur violence was a spontaneous political event and should be treated as such.
Former prime minister and co-chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been in talks with Baluwatar regarding those jailed in relation to the Tikapur incident, he said on Sunday in Sunsari.
“Recently, we discussed the Tikapur incident at Baluwatar. We are, in principle, in favour of withdrawing all fabricated cases and we are moving the process ahead accordingly,” Dahal said at a function organised to mark the Jitiya festival.
Nine people, including a police official and a toddler, were killed on August 24, 2015, when clashes between security personnel and Tharus turned violent. Members of the Tharu community had been protesting the ‘Akhanda Sudurpaschim’, or Undivided Far West, campaign which was backed by the leaders of the major parties.
The government had subsequently filed cases against 58 Tharu activists, charging them with murder. The district court had convicted 24 of them.
Three and a half years later, the Kailali District Court, in March this year, convicted Resham Chaudhary of masterminding the violence and handed him a life sentence. Chaudhary had won the 2017 parliamentary elections on the ticket of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal. Ten others were also sentenced to life in jail.
Tharu activists and the Rastriya Janata Party have long argued that the incident was a spontaneous outburst against injustice, demanding that the incident be treated as a political case and not as a criminal one.
“I would like to tell you that an environment will soon be created to bring those elected with the people’s mandate out [from jail],” Dahal told the Sunsari programme.
Dahal, however, stopped short of mentioning Chaudhary by name.
Earlier this month, Republica daily reported that Dahal had told representatives of Tharuhat-Tharuwan Joint Struggle Committee that he was still in favour of a political solution to the Tikapur incident. Tharu leaders said that Dahal had told them the “anti-constitution” protest was a political uprising, according to Republica.
Dahal on Sunday also said that he understands well the pain of the Tharu community as some Maoists, who were part of an insurgency that he led, are also in jail.
Dahal’s statement in relation to the Tikapur case comes at a time when the government has promised to expedite the transitional justice process in order to conclude it at the earliest.
Ruling party insiders say that Dahal’s reference to the Tikapur incident at this point of time may well be intended at moving the process forward to get other Maoist leaders, who are either in jail or facing murder charges, acquitted.
A secretariat member of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) who refused to be named said that discussions on the Tikapur incident must have taken place at the government level, not at the party.
“The issue did not surface at Saturday’s secretariat meeting,” said the member.
According to him, Dahal and his co-chair, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, have been holding discussions recently to find ways to withdraw the murder case against Agni Sapkota, a standing committee member of the party.
Agni Sapkota of Sindhupalchok and Suryaman Dong of Kavre, both former Maoist leaders, face charges of murdering Arjun Lama of Chhatrebas, Kavre, more than a decade ago. The case is pending at the Supreme Court.
Lama’s kin had filed a first information report on June 28, 2007, against Sapkota and Dong at the District Police Office following an order from the Supreme Court. The case is pending at the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court regarding whether the regular court can oversee conflict-era cases.
The Maoist party has maintained that Lama was killed in a battle in Ghartichhap 12 years ago.
Those demanding Chaudhary’s release say since cases of violence during political movements have been treated politically, the Tikapur incident should also be treated similarly.
Rajendra Mahato, a leader of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, told the Post that Dahal should work to implement decisions, rather than just talking.
“The government should have released our leaders and cadres who are serving terms at different jails, including lawmaker Resham Chaudhary, long ago,” said Mahato. “Hundreds of our protestors have been charged with fake cases and dozens are serving jail terms.”
Even though Dahal has hinted at withdrawing ‘fake’ cases in relation to the Tikapur incident, there is no clarity on how the process would move forward.
One leader who holds a crucial position in the Oli administration and is well-versed on legal issues said that any decision needs to be backed by legal provisions.
“Unless the law paves the way for political decisions, such decisions cannot be implemented,” said the leader.