Authorities sit on probe report as Banke activists’ sit-in nears monthOne of the accused, former Constituent Assembly member Badshah Kurmi is contesting for Banke district president of the ruling Nepali Congress.
Every morning, a group of 16 people, who have come to Kathmandu from Banke district in western Nepal, walk from Kalanki to Maitighar, where they stage a sit-in for the whole day demanding that the government investigate the death of Nankunni Dhobi and disappearance of Nirmala Kurmi.
They have been demonstrating at Maitighar since November 25, but the government has taken no step to address their concerns.
Earlier in October, the group had staged a 12-day sit-in at Maitighar, which ended after the Ministry of Home Affairs agreed to form an investigation committee to look into the death of Nankunni and the disappearance of Nirmala.
Their protest drew national attention as they had walked for 20 days all the way from Nepalgunj, Banke, to Kathmandu in search of justice.
Nankunni, 38, was found dead under suspicious circumstances at her home on July 20 in Ward 2 of Janaki Rural Municipality in Banke. Nirmala, 52, had gone missing in January 2010 from the same rural municipality. Her disappearance came just two years after her two teenage sons were murdered within the span of a week.
The government formed a probe committee led by Hiralal Regmi, a joint-secretary at the ministry. The Regmi-led committee on October 31 submitted the report to Minister for Home Affairs Bal Krishna Khand recommending arrest of, and investigation into, eight people for their alleged involvement in the disappearance of Nirmala. The police arrested seven, who were released later, but never arrested Badshah Kurmi, a member of the first Constituent Assembly.
Badshah, a Nepali Congress leader, was in Kathmandu when the Regmi panel submitted its report. However, the police took no steps to arrest him. Badshah was busy in the Congress’ 14th general convention as party representative when the 16 people were staging the sit-in at Maitighar.
“I returned here [Nepalgunj] on Wednesday for the preparation of the district committee election,” he told the Post over the phone. “I am contesting as a district president from party President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s panel and my victory is certain.”
The agitating activists claim that police are not arresting and investigating Badshah for he belongs to the ruling party.
“The government has given him full protection. And the government’s reluctance to even discuss our demands proves that,” Ruby Khan, one of the activists staging the current sit-in at Maitighar, told the Post.
The government is yet to make the probe report public. The activists claim the report has been kept secret because it has implicated Badshah.
“The report must be made public and a separate investigation team led by the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police must be formed to investigate the whereabouts of Nirmala and her property,” Khan demanded.
The protesters claim that Badshah and his men abducted Nirmala to grab her land. Nirmala owned four bigha (2.68 hectares) of land in Paraspur, Banke. The land is in possession of different people at present.
Badshah had kept the land documents of Nirmala after the death of her husband which he claims was for protection.
“As a chairperson of the then Paraspur Village Development Committee, I had kept the documents in good faith,” he said. “I handed them over to the district administration later. Ruby Khan and her friends are making baseless allegations against me.”
The Banke police have been claiming Nirmala was killed in India. Therefore, there is no point investigating her disappearance. The activists, however, say the police have produced a fake document to protect Badshah.
“Let the CIB investigate the matter and the truth be revealed,” said Khan.
Human rights defenders, who have been following the developments, say the government’s reluctance to earnestly pursue the case shows its lack of commitment towards the rule of law. They say as the Regmi committee has pointed fingers at the Nepali Congress leader, Badshah, and recommended further investigation, they should follow the recommendation without making any excuses.
“What is the problem in allowing the CIB to investigate the matter,” said Mohna Ansari, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission. “The government must respond to the genuine demands of the activists.”