Freed more than five hours later following protests led by parties, civil society


Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leader Ram Kumari Jhakri was arrested today for derogatory remarks against President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, but was freed in the evening after protests by the NCP faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, the Nepali Congress, and civil society.

Senior Superintendent of Police Deepak Thapa, incharge at Metropolitan Police Crime Division, said Jhakri was released in the evening on the guarantee of her husband. She was kept in detention for five-and-a-half hours. During her interrogation, she told police that she spoke against the conduct of a person, not of the president as an institution.

Jhakri, who is a leader of the Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP, said her release was a prelude to the fall of Prime Minister KP Sharma-led 'authoritarian' government.

"Regressive forces will soon be history. Democracy and constitution will prevail over authoritarian rule," she told mediapersons. Jhakri said she was released from police custody unconditionally.

Earlier, police had arrested Jhakri from her residence in Shankhamul on the charge of offence against the state.

Over a dozen plainclothes cops under the command of Deputy Superintendent of Police Durgaraj Regmi at MPCD handed a copy of the arrest warrant to Jhakri before taking her into custody.

An offence against the state is punishable with jail term not exceeding seven years or a fine up to Rs 70,000 or both, as per the Criminal Code Act.

Jhakri said she was targeted for raising her voice against the unconstitutional move of President Bhandari and Prime Minister Oli dissolving the House of Representatives.

SSP Thapa said Jhakri was held for interrogation based on a complaint lodged by the All Nepal Women's Association of the Oli-led NCP faction over her alleged defamatory remarks against Bhandari.

Speaking at a recent function in Gorkha, Jhakri had lambasted President Bhandari for engaging in active politics by acting as a 'yes woman' of the PM, instead of protecting the constitution.

She was referring to Bhandari's move to dissolve the HoR on the recommendation of Oli. In the function, Jhakri had also termed Bhandari as 'queen' and asked her to vacate Sheetal Niwas (the Office of the President) and move to 'Koteshwor, Chabahil, Balkot, or wherever she likes 'if she really wants to engage in active politics'. Oli's private residence is in Balkot.

"We have been paying the price of the erstwhile CPN-UML's move sowing the culture of fielding a woman clad in 'white saree' in elections after the death of Madan Bhandari (President Bhandari's husband)," Jhakri had said in reference to parliamentary elections of 1994 when Bhandari was elected.

Protesting against her remarks, ANWA submitted a memorandum to Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa last week, demanding legal action against her.

Jhakri was a lawmaker in the dissolved HoR and former president of All Nepal National Free Students Union.

Her arrest drew flak from leaders of the Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP, the Nepali Congress, and civil society activists. Dahal accused Oli of ordering her arrest. His faction of the NCP issued a press release demanding immediate and unconditional release of Jhakri. It said charging a critic of the government of state offence was the height of arbitrariness and political vendetta.

Senior NC leader Ramchandra Paudel said Jhakri's arrest had exposed the authoritarian conduct of the government. "Her arrest amounts to trampling on a citizen's right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution," Paudel wrote on Twitter. NC leader Gagan Thapa said the government was trying to jail all the people who question its unconstitutional move. "Trying to terrorise people by sending them to jail for raising questions against such move? The government should increase the number of prisons because you cannot prevent us from speaking the truth," Thapa tweeted.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.