Who is Resham Chaudhary …

… and why is his release from jail for masterminding the killing of policemen significant for Nepali politics?

Resham Chaudhary waves to supporters after being released from prison on Monday. Photos: SUMAN NEPALI


Nepal’s new Constitution had just been endorsed by the Constituent Assembly, but Madhesi activists were not happy and there was violence in Tarai cities.

Following the promulgation of the Constitution in 2015, the Tharuhat Struggle Committee (TSC) rejected the seven-province federalism model that placed Kailali and Kanchanpur in Far-west Province, demanding greater autonomy for their indigenous group in a separate Tharuhat Province. 

However, the Akhanda Sudur Paschim movement that had been demanding a separate Far-western state had been celebrating the passing of the new Constitution, leading to a confrontation between the two organisations. 

On 24 August 2015, armed supporters of the TSC confronted police in Tikapur of Kailali district. Madhesi activists were reported to have instigated the indigenous Tharu community to join the Madhes Movement. 

Eight police officers were killed: lynched, knifed, or burnt alive. A two-year-old baby was also shot.

Police filed charges in the Kailali District Court against 58 suspects, naming Resham Chaudhary, the district coordinator of the Tharuhat Struggle Committee, as the mastermind behind the attacks.

Read also: Tikapur’s protracted trauma, Tufan Neupane

Resham Chaudhary
Resham Chaudhary with wife Ranjita Shrestha, who is the Minister of Land Management and the chair of the Nagarik Unmukti Party.

What did the courts do?

While still on the run, Resham Chaudhary ran for elections in 2017 as Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) and was elected to Parliament from Kailali-1.  

As MP, he turned himself in to police in February 2018, but was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment along with 11 others by the Kailali District Court and the High Court in 2019. On 17 May this year, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of the two lower courts. 

Why was he released?

On Nepal’s Republic Day on Monday, President Ram Chandra Paudel included Resham Chaudhary in his amnesty list on recommendation of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. 

Article 276 of Nepal’s constitution stipulates that the President may, in accordance with the law, grant pardons, suspend, commute or remit any sentence passed by any Court, judicial or quasi-judicial body or administrative authority or body.

From behind bars, Chaudhary last year got his wife Ranjita Shrestha to form the Nagarik Unmukti Party (NUP). Shrestha herself was elected to Parliament in the 2022 federal elections, and is Minister of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation. But she had not participated in Cabinet meetings. 

Read also: Displacement and defiance, Tom Robertson

Resham Chaudhary

Although the NUP is a part of Prime Minister Dahal’s coalition government, it had made Chaudhary’s release a primary agenda, threatening to pull out of the coalition if that demand was not fulfilled. 

The coalition was looking fragile after the exit of the independent RSP, the fourth largest party in Parliament with i21 members. 

Chaudhary’s pardon will now ensure the the NUP remains in the coalition for the time being. But this is bound to have a ripple effect on other smaller parties in the coalition to use similar bargaining tactics to gain political leverage.

The Dahal-led coalition government was pushing for Chaudhary’s inclusion in the President’s Republic Day amnesty list which also includes 482 others serving prison terms. Besides Chaudhary, 19 prisoners were also pardoned.

Read also: Atrocities against Tharu expressed in art, Sakina Abidi

Resham Chaudhary NT

What is the fallout?

The fallout of Resham Chaudhary’s release is sharply divided. Activists and members of the Tharu community, who have long demanded that the Tikapur protests be treated as a political movement and not criminal activity, have welcomed the government’s decision. 

Human rights activists and others say that his pardon undermines Nepal’s judiciary, encourages impunity and compounds the injustice to the victims and families of the 2015 killings. 

'It is abundantly clear that the government, by disregarding the judgement of the court and infringing upon the judicial rights of victims, is institutionalising impunity, ignoring the spirit of the Constitution, and making a mockery out of the republic,’ read a statement put out by the Accountability Watch Committee (AWC). 'It is reprehensible that the government, which has a responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of the victims, has repeatedly sided with the perpetrator.'

The opposition UML has been especially vocal, and has accused Dahal of pardoning a criminal solely to keep his shaky coalition intact. 

Resham Chaudhary’s release and the ongoing agitation in Kosi Province by activists who want Nepal’s easternmost province to be named after the Kirat ethnic group underscores the Constitution’s inability to address the grievances and demands for representation by Nepal’s ethnic groups. 

Read also: Chitwan’s Bote people in a changing world, Sravasti Ghosh Dastidar

Shristi Karki


Shristi Karki is a correspondent with Nepali Times. She joined Nepali Times as an intern in 2020, becoming a part of the newsroom full-time after graduating from Kathmandu University School of Arts. Karki has reported on politics, current affairs, art and culture.