Seven held from Oli’s event for wearing t-shirts with slogans demanding justice for Nirmala PantPeople who attended the function say they were not allowed to wear anything black, even caps or masks.
Police on Friday arrested seven people in Dhangadhi for wearing t-shirts with slogans demanding justice for Nirmala Pant, receiving widespread criticism from various quarters.
Pant, a 13-year-old girl from Kanchanpur, was raped and murdered in July 2018.
Police are yet to find the perpetrator(s) of the heinous crime.
Police rounded up the seven persons from a programme which was being addressed by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. The programme was organised by the Nepal Communist Party (Oli faction).
The seven persons who were arrested by police were wearing t-shirts with the slogan “‘Where is Nirmala Pant’s rapist?”.
DSP Pratik Bista, who is also the spokesperson for Kailali District Police Office, confirmed the arrests.
“Seven individuals have been arrested due to security concerns,” said Bista. “They have been detained for questioning.”
He, however, did not provide details as to how wearing t-shirts with slogans demanding justice for a girl who was raped and murdered more than two and a half years ago posed a security threat.
Journalists, activists and others took to social media to criticise the Oli administration for violating people’s fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.
“Dear Prime Minister, have you dissolved Article 17(2) of the fundamental rights which guarantee freedom to assemble peacefully?” Ameet Dhakal, editor-in-chief of Setopati, a digital news portal, wrote on Twitter. “If not, why were youths wearing t-shirts with the slogan ‘Where is Nirmala Pant’s rapist?’ arrested from your programme?”
Dhakal used the term “dissolved” in reference to Oli’s December 20 move of dissolving the House of Representatives, for which he has received widespread criticism, with experts on constitutional affairs calling it unconstitutional.
Even more than two and a half years after Pant was raped and murdered, the Oli government has failed to nab the culprits. While the investigation was going on, Oli, on the other hand, had made some public statements, which many said were uncalled for as they could have influenced the ongoing probe.
Ever since coming to power, Oli has shown little care for issues like civil liberties and individual freedoms and oftentimes used the state machinery to curtail public voices.
On December 2, last year, the Oli administration was accused of brazenly using security forces to arrest Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel.
After the seven persons’ arrest in Dhangadhi on Friday, Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba condemned the act.
“The act of arresting youths who asked for justice by wearing t-shirts with the slogan ‘Where is Nirmala Pant’s rapist?’ in Dhangadi is condemnable,” Deuba wrote on Twitter. “Arresting citizens who were peacefully protesting demanding punishment for perpetrators is against democratic norms and values. I demand their immediate release.”
“This is too much. Has the autocratic rule begun?...”, wrote another user on Twitter.
Despite being elected from the ballot box, Oli has on many occasions displayed his authoritarian impulses, at times through his administration’s moves of centralising power while other times through some of the bills, including the Media Council Bill and Information Technology Bill.
“This by far is the most absurd and sickening step taken! If you are NOT ALLOWED to question but ALLOWED mass gathering then yes, throw this current government headed by PM Oli out,” tweeted another user after the seven people were arrested in Dhangadhi.
People who attended Friday’s programme said the organisers, who were members of the Oli-led Nepal Communist Party, did not allow them even to wear anything black, including caps, masks and shawls.
“I did not understand why people were not even allowed to wear a Bhadgaule cap,” said Siddaraj Bhathha. “A cap can be of any colour. I don’t understand why the government is afraid of black caps.”
Harka Kala Saud of Dhangadhi-5, who attended the programme, said she was even asked to remove her black shawl.
“I didn’t see the need for such actions,” she said.