Tikapur residents fear possible unrest over court’s order to imprison 11 peopleThe ripples created by the 2015 Tikapur incident had just begun to settle down. The town’s residents were gathering themselves from the incident that resulted in violent killings of nine people, and nearly stoked communal violence between the Tharu and non-Tharu communities.
The ripples created by the 2015 Tikapur incident had just begun to settle down. The town’s residents were gathering themselves from the incident that resulted in violent killings of nine people, and nearly stoked communal violence between the Tharu and non-Tharu communities.
But after the Kailali District Court’s decision to hand down life sentence to 11 people in connection to the incident, the Tikapur residents fear that there could be another communal flare-up.
Among the 11, Resham Lal Chaudhary’s, a lawmaker from the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, sentencing in particular has been received with shock and anger by the Tharu community. Locals in Kailali, Kanchanpur and Tikapur are now worried about history repeating itself causing social disharmony among the Tharu and Pahadi communities in the district.
The residents of Tikapur voice concerns about what’s to come after Resham Lal Chaudhary’s supporters strongly opposed the Court’s order. They have approached the concerned authorities to help mitigate the chances of disharmony and violence that stands to jeopardise the hard-won concord in the community.
The authorities, on their part, have beefed up security in Tikapur to control possible violence. The increase in the number of security personnel deployed in the area reaffirms the locals concerns about possible dissent among groups supporting and speaking against the court’s verdict, and that the security personnel will only add fuel to the fire. “We were still reeling from what happened in 2015. Normalcy had just begun to return to Tikapur but now things seem to be taking a turn for the worse. Now, we again have to live in fear of possible violent activities that will claim our lives, property, our livelihood as it did in 2015,” say the locals of Tikapur unanimously.
Min Bahadur Shahi, a lecturer of Tikapur Multiple Campus, is of the opinion that the Court made a technical decision while giving out verdicts on the incident instead of taking the case as a political one. “The court’s decision has of course not been received well in the Tharu community because the case was a political one and should have been treated as one. However, it is now important to work towards establishing peace and social harmony in Tikapur. We cannot afford communal discord,” said Shahi.
“Social harmony must be given top priority in Tikapur at present. It’s important to look back at the aftermath of the 2015 incident and what it did to the Tikapur and its residents,” said Khadgaraj Joshi, a civil society leader of Dhangadhi, adding that Tikapur shouldn’t be made to go through the trials and tribulations it did three years ago.
Lahuram Chaudhary, who was one of the released as per the court’s verdict, said that those who are unsatisfied with the verdict have the chance to appeal to the higher courts and upper tier judiciary. “I know that most are not happy with the court’s orders and there is a proper system in place to bring justice where necessary. But, everyone should take responsibility to maintain social harmony in Tikapur whether they be against or for the verdict,” he said.
Prasuram Chapai, chairman of Tikapur Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is worried about businesses being disrupted in the area putting a halt to what it otherwise a bustling market. He said, “There are many businesses operating in Tikapur. Most people from the business community have invested in businesses here and this brimming tension post the court’s decision doesn’t bode well for economic transactions that were just beginning to pick up.”
Following the court’s order, different factions of Tharu political leaders organised gatherings and summoned participation from the locals to raise a united voice against the court’s verdict.
In reply to that, security agencies in Tikapur are on high alert. Bikram Bahadur Chand, Senior Superintendent of Police, said, “Our job is to ensure social harmony in Tikapur. We have beefed up security and are doing what we can to maintain law and order. We are also in touch with all concerned stakeholders to ensure safety of the people.” According to him, so far the situation in Tikapur does not spell violence and unrest.
Meanwhile, Tharu leaders reiterated their initial reaction to the court’s verdict. They state that the court ruled “with prejudice” against the entire Tharu Community. Jit Bahadur Chaudhary, a local Tharu leader, had pinned his hopes on the court and its ability to understand Tharu community’s mandate, he said, “But we were wrong. The court leaned towards a populist verdict. The state yet again failed to treat Tharus with equality.” He questions the court that is yet to put those involved in torching Tharu houses and shops on August 25, 2015 on trial. According to him, Tharus were only arrested on charge of being involved in Tikapur clash on August 24 and the perpetrators of August 25 were allowed to go scot free.
According to Tharus, the entire community has been imprisoned after the Court decision. Rup Lal Chaudhary of Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha Tikapur, said that it is not justifiable to give life imprisonment to a parliamentarian elected by the people. “We will launch protests in according to the direction of the Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha from the central level,” said Rup Lal.
Lal Bir Chaudhary, father of Reshamlal Chaudhary, also said that the Court’s order was biased and prejudiced against the entire Tharu community.
In Maitighar of Kathmandu, Tharu community also staged a protest demanding the courts take a political view on the Tikapur case and to release the accused.
Kailali police had filed cases against 58 people for their involvement in the 2015 Tikapur incident. Twenty-seven people are now in judicial custody while 31 others are on the run. The court said cases of 31 suspects at large are pending.