#JusticeForNirmala calls get louderHundreds of protesters marched from Maitighar Mandala to New Baneshwor on Saturday, demanding justice for Nirmala Pant, the 13-year-old who was raped and subsequently strangulated to death in Mahendranagar in July.
Hundreds of protesters marched from Maitighar Mandala to New Baneshwor on Saturday, demanding justice for Nirmala Pant, the 13-year-old who was raped and subsequently strangulated to death in Mahendranagar in July.
The march was attended by people from all walks of life, including young children, as they chanted slogans demanding that the government arrest and punish the culprits with the harshest actions possible.
Protesters carried signs that read ‘Nirmala is our sister’, ‘We want justice’, ‘Punish the rapists’, ‘Government, show concern’, ‘Where is women protection?’, ‘Hey, Silent Government!’ and expressed their dissatisfaction over the delay in nabbing the culprits. Local residents in Kanchanpur and protesters across the country have expressed outrage at the authorities’ failure to take action against the investigating officers, who have been accused of tampering with evidence at the crime scene.
Emotions ran high when Nirmala’s parents arrived in New Baneshwor, where the march had turned into a sit-in. A frail, tearful, and overwhelmed Durga Devi Pant, surrounded by her kin and rights activists, thanked the supporters who had gathered to mount pressure on the government.
“How can I return and continue my livelihood while the culprits roam free and the memories of my raped and dead daughter haunt me? Please help us find the culprit and provide justice to my child,” a visibly shaken Durga Devi told the protesters.
“It’s nearly two months since I lost my child. The culprits are being protected by powerful people. We cannot fight with those people alone so we need the support of all Nepalis,” said Yagya Raj Pant, Nirmala’s father.
Across the country, thousands of people participated in sit-ins, rallies, and street performances organised by civilians to express solidarity with the #JusticeForNirmala and #RageAgainstRape movement that began last month.
Protests were held in Nuwakot, Kavre, Chitwan, Sindhupalchok, Makwanpur and Nuwakot districts. People demonstrated also in Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari and Udayapur districts.
Civilians also came together in Kaski and Jumla, demanding that the government find the culprits and put them behind bars. Mass demonstrations were also organised in Banke, Pyuthan and Palpa.
On September 12, Nirmala’s parents and rights activists hosted a press conference in the Capital, requesting the central government officials to find the murderer and rapist of their daughter. On September 14, they also met Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa to express their grievances.
Saturday marked the 52nd day since Nirmala went missing. She was found dead in a sugarcane field close to her home on July 27. A forensic report showed that she was raped and strangled to death.
Investigations of Nepal Police’s Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB) and the probe committee under the Home Ministry have made no headway but rather exposed how the local police unit, including then Kanchanpur Police chief, his subordinates, and the CIB team deployed four days after the incident, were involved in contaminating the crime scene and other pieces of evidence connected with the rape and murder.
Horrific citizen videos have emerged on social media, purportedly showing how the local police, instead of preserving the crime scene, destroyed fragile evidence, which could have been insightful for a forensic study. There have also been a number of accounts by local residents who say they were tortured by the police during the investigation.
DNA analysis of 41-year-old Dilip Singh Bista, who was paraded by Nepal Police as the main suspect, tested negative last week when matched with the Bureau’s lab results of the vaginal swab, questioning the motives of investigating officers. Bam sisters—Roshani and Babita—who were detained in connection with the case and are believed to be the last ones to see Nirmala that afternoon, have also been freed. The bureau has since formed another team to investigate its earlier teams deployed for investigation.
Bowing to pressure mounting from all quarters of society over the slow and flawed investigation process, blood samples of suspended Superintendent of Police Dilli Raj Bista, his son Kiran Bista, and the town mayor’s nephew Aayush Bista were collected on September 13. Officials say the investigation under way will help “narrow down the case”.
Talking to the Post, Nepal Police Spokesperson SSP Shailesh Thapa said, “It will take two weeks for the DNA analysis to arrive. A new team is investigating the case with a new angle and the culprits will be arrested soon.”