Nepalese police have detained a man earlier this year as investigations into the murder of RK Budathoki, the founding president of the exile-based Bhutan People’s Party (BPP), continue.
Devi Charan Dhaurali was allegedly hiding in Dhangadi in the Siraha district in Nepal under the alias Aarif Sharma when he was arrested by police. He was taken to the Jhapa district court.
According to a local source in Nepal, Dhaurali will be sent to prison as directed by the court following a COVID-19 test. Dhaurali was teaching in a local school. Currently Dhaurali is being held in custody facing charges.
Budathoki was hacked to death in broad daylight on September 9, 2001 at the party’s youth wing office in Damak where he was attending a meeting. Budathoki was pronounced dead from knife injuries to the neck at the AMDA hospital in Damak.
According to the current president of BPP, the Bhutan Revolutionary Free Students’ Force which left behind pamphlets on the day of the incident had claimed responsibility for the killing. He said that while the court charged 39 individuals with the crime, only nine individuals were arrested and tried on the court. Many among those arrested were acquitted; rest are on the loose.
RK Budathoki left Bhutan in 1989 and launched the movement for democracy from the Indian soil through the formation of BPP on June 2, 1990. Later he came to Jhapa, Nepal along with the refugees and continued the campaign for the political movement in Bhutan.
Budathoki’s widow, Jasoda Budathoki, who resettled in Melbourne, Australia in 2017 told BNS that the arrest of Dhaurali has brought some peace and a sense of relief.
“My happiness has reached no bounds after hearing that Dhaurali is finally apprehended,” she said, adding– “There are many others who continue to remain loose — they must be brought to justice as well.”
Ms. Budhathoki said she had previously lost hope that the perpetrators would ever be brought to justice. “I now have a renewed hope, and that the Nepalese authority should go after the remaining perpetrators who committed the heinous crime.”
“I wish those who assassinated my husband, indeed a cherished leader in the Bhutanese movement, will suffer in the same way my family has suffered for years now,” she added.
TP Mishra, the Executive Editor of this news site talked with Balaram Poudyal, the current President of the BPP, who is based in Nepal, to seek his party’s reaction. Excerpts:
What is your reaction that now the Nepalese authority has detained Dhaurali?
Although this news came late, I feel that a bit of justice has been served to the Bhutanese community.
But the main other alleged fugitives are still on the loose.
Yes, that’s true. Dhaurali is one among those main fugitives. Ram Chandra Subedi, Tanka Subedi, Baliraj Giri, Beeboy Subba and dozens of other main fugitives continue to remain on the loose. It is imperative that all of them be booked to justice sooner than later.
Some people have already served time in jail in connection with the Budathoki murder case. Since many of them were ultimately acquitted by the court, they accuse that your party framed them. What do you say?
We cannot forget the fact that the murder of late RK Budathoki not only left BPP in pain and grief, its spill-over effect was greatly felt also by the entire Bhutanese community. Since it is the role and duty of the judicial court to determine legal matters, I think this question is irrelevant. Those with criminal intent cannot ever have an accurate perception. The series of assassinations of other front-line leaders in the refugee camps speaks of that fact.
There used to be claims that the government of Bhutan was behind the assassination of Budathoki. What is your take on that?
Dozens of proofs are available to corroborate the fact that the Bhutan government had a hand in killing him. The government was well aware of his political background. Just before his murder, Channel Nepal had broadcast his interview in which he had spoken of country’s grim situation; that the government could not digest it. After his assassination, mystery of collaboration of some anti-social element in the act got revealed. A lot of financial transactions had taken place at the time.
Isn’t the arrest of criminal minded people disguised as rights activist itself a proof of the accomplice in his murder? Had it not been an act of plotting the murder, it would not have been possible for the murderers to escape in broad day light. This can be judged valid by the evidence of having led the murderers to another rights leader said to be staying in Phuentsholing, Bhutan at that time.
You were with Budathoki when he was assassinated. What do you recall about the incident?
I was also one of the attendees in that meeting in Damak. A group of 13 youths requested that they wanted to have a separate meeting with late Budathoki once the general meeting was done. That’s when they hacked him to death with a sharp knife. The assailants also tried to hack me, but luckily Narad Dahal from the party’s youth wing was able to snatch the knife from them. Sadly, the incident continues to haunt me even today.
Dhaka Timsina and Buddha Mani Dhakal contributed to this report.