Niharika ends fast unto death after government assured her justiceNiharika, mother of a 21-month-old son, had been on a hunger strike demanding justice, saying she was raped by a man who then fled after impregnating her.
Sonali Kumari Singh, also known as Niharika, ended her week-long fast unto death on Thursday night after the government’s assurance to address her demands.
“Niharika ended her week-long hunger strike yesterday at 11pm,” said Logshari Kunwar, a journalist who helped manage the agreement with the government. “She ended the fast by drinking juice offered by Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand.”
Government officials including Joint Secretary Shivaram Pokhrel and Under Secretary Basanta Bhattarai both representing the Home Ministry signed a five-point agreement before she decided to end her fast.
Niharika has accused Shivaraj Shrestha, a resident of Chhireswornath Municipality-3, Mahendra Nagar, of repeatedly raping her and impregnating her.
Niharika had decided to fast unto death after her demands for Shrestha’s DNA test were rejected by the Dhanusha District Court last year.
The government representatives have now agreed to take initiative in the legal process for the DNA test of the accused and Niharika’s son.
Both the Home Ministry and Ministry for Women, Children and Senior Citizens have also agreed to take initiatives for the security and rehabilitation of Niharika and her son.
“The Home Ministry will also extend financial support to her,” states the agreement.
On Thursday, a division bench of judges Gunaraj Dhungel and Rameshwor Regmi decided to summon the accused to Janakpur High Court.
According to registrar Khadga Raj Adhikari, after the court hears both the plaintiff and the defendant, a division bench will decide whether to uphold the Dhanusha District Court’s decision or annul it.
After a UML lawmaker and former Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizens Tham Maya Thapa raised concerns about the case at the Parliament on Wednesday, Law Minister Govinda Sharma Bandi had informed that there was nothing the government could do for Niharika as the case was pending at the Janakpur High Court.
Speaking at the zero hour of the House of Representatives, Thapa had said it was a shame for the government that a woman was forced to fast unto death while nursing an infant. “Niharika was repeatedly raped and now has a 21- month old infant,” said Thapa. “None of the state mechanisms have done her justice.”
Niharika had reached the Dhanusha District Court on March 2, 2020, after she was allegedly raped on October 29, 2019. She gave birth to her son on August 21, 2020.
The Dhanusha District Court decided that the existing evidence could not establish the crime against the accused.
The case was also not decided in Niharika’s favour because she had mentioned Shrestha and her relationship as that of a husband and wife, said advocate Rinku Kumari Yadav, who was looking after Niharika’s case at the district court.
Niharika then went to Janakpur High Court on February 27 appealing to quash the decision of the Dhanusha District Court.