Nepalese Police on Thursday arrested Ramkumari Jhakri, an influential female politician from a rival faction of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), for allegedly commenting on the clothes worn by the country’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
The police’s warrant produced at the time of Jhakri’s arrest alleged that she had committed a “crime against the state” by violating Section 58 of the Nepal Penal Code, which prohibits anyone from “intimidating” the president or the parliament that would keep them from discharging their constitutional obligations, according to local media reports.
The police warrant stated that Jhakri had insulted Bhandari’s dress during a speech at a protest rally this week, in which she had also been scathingly critical of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli over his decision to dissolve the federal parliament and call for snap elections on 30 April and 10 May.
Jhakri had allegedly questioned why Bhandari always presented herself in a white sari (a wrap around dress worn by women in South Asian societies), prompting criticism from women groups and an intervention by the federal Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa who also demanded that she be arrested.
Jhakri has pledged allegiance to a rival Communist Party faction, led by two former prime ministers - Pushpa Kumar Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Madhav Kumar Nepal.
The NCP's central committee on Thursday condemned Jhakri’s arrest, accusing Prime Minister Oli of stifling criticism and his “unconstitutional” decisions.
रामकुमारी झॉक्रीलाई रिहा गर ! pic.twitter.com/o84eTIgrJJ— Bishnu Rijal (@bishnurijal1) February 11, 2021
“Blaming the critics is the culmination of dictatorship and tyranny,” tweeted Bishnu Rijal, the deputy chief of foreign affairs department and member of the central committee of the Nepal Communist Party.
The anti-Oli dissident faction has challenged Prime Minister Oli’s decision to dissolve Parliament unilaterally, and even expelled Oli from the ruling party in the wake of the move.
Oli, however, has refused to legitimise his ouster, with the country’s Election Commission also seen as helping the prime minister by accepting his call for a re-election.
Nepal’s Supreme Court is also in the middle of ruling on a clutch of petitions challenging Oli’s 20 December decision.