January 6, 2019 02:30 AM NPT
By administering oath of office and secrecy to Resham Chaudhary, who is accused of masterminding the 2015 Tikapur massacre, the government of K P Sharma Oli has made the most serious mistake. On Thursday, the government instructed the jail authorities to take murder-accused Chaudhary, Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) leader elected to House of Representatives from Kailali, from Dilli Bazar jail to parliament secretariat at Singha Durbar where he took oath of office and secrecy. With this RJPN might pressure the government for his unconditional release. Resham Chaudhary is accused of masterminding Tikapur massacre of August 2015 in which seven police personnel and a little child were killed. A case against him is sub-judice in a court. It is no secret that the government was under pressure to administer oath on Chaudhary. RJPN, whose support the government enjoys, had made allowing oath to Chaudhary one of their major demands and they had even threatened to resort to street protests if this particular demand was not met. Both RJPN and the government should have waited until Chaudhary proved himself innocent or the court declared him so.
Granting oath to Chaudhary is wrong for the following reasons. First, the court has not pronounced him innocent yet and this particular decision might influence the court verdict too. Second, family members of those who were killed on that ill-fated day are still waiting for justice. Their agonies and sufferings can only be imagined. Third, the public report of massacre is yet to come out and it is unclear what actually happened. Fourth, Chaudhary’s oath is likely to open the floodgate of pardon for perpetrators of crimes. This could lead to blanket amnesty to criminals who enjoy political backing. Finally, following the massacre, all three major parties of the time—Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Maoist Center (today’s Nepal Communist Party)—had denounced violence and had made public their commitment to bring to book those involved in that heinous massacre. There are records of current prime minister and a number of ministers in his cabinet promising not to spare a single perpetrator. Oli himself had called Tikapur massacre ‘an act of terrorism and Chaudhary a criminal.’ We wonder what made the ruling party leaders default on their own promise of justice.
The government has made the mockery of law and order by allowing a massacre-accused to take oath of office. It should at least have thought about its repercussions and the dangerous precedent such an act will set. RJPN is as much to blame. The party which claims that security forces committed atrocities on their cadres during 2015 protests should have waited for the court verdict. We fear administering oath to murder-accused will also set a bad precedent for cases of rights violations during conflict era. It is obvious that RJPN made Chaudhary’s oath a bargaining chip to justify the worst crimes and the government made it a tool to ensure continued support from RJPN (it could do without it too, for it would still enjoy considerable majority in the parliament even if RJPN and Upendra Yadav-led party withdrew their support). Both sides compromised justice for the sake of an individual. Such a blithe response to serious cases will certainly attract international notice and might impel the victims to knock the doors of international courts.