Pant couple stage sit-in for justice

  • Kanchanpur rape and murder
- BHAWANI BHATTA, KANCHANPUR

Nov 12, 2018-

Frustrated by months of inaction and a lack of progress on identifying the perpetrators, the parents of Nirmala Pant, who was raped and murdered in Kanchanpur, began an indefinite sit-in before the Kanchanpur District Administration Office (DAO) on Sunday.

The protest is their only remaining alternative, said the Pant family. “We have no other option but to stage a sit-in,” said Yagya Raj, Nirmala’s father.

On Sunday, Nirmala’s parents, sisters, relatives, friends, women rights activists, civil society leaders and locals marched from Madanchowk to the Mahendranagar bazaar area, chanting slogans against the home minister. The protest began at 1pm.

The 13-year-old was found raped and murdered on July 27, a day after she disappeared. The brutal crime sparked mass protests across the country, but there has been little progress in more than a hundred days since. Despite changes in investigative Nepal Police teams, an independent commission and a National Human Rights Commission investigation, the authorities are still far from identifying the persons responsible.

The sit-in has therefore been started to press the authorities to identify and arrest the perpetrators, said Yagya Raj. Despite protests by locals and rights activists demanding justice, the authorities concerned were not serious about properly investigating the crime, said the family. Durga Devi, Nirmala’s mother, said that the 109 days since the rape and murder of her daughter had passed without any progress. “We’ve met the chief district officer, the prime minister and many others,” she said. “But we haven’t received justice.”

Yagya Raj and Durga Devi announced their protest plan before Tihar, with rights activists pledging tents, quilts, bedding and water for the sit-in. With the onset of the festival season, women rights activists had suspended all protest programmes until Chhath.

“Our protest will now be a decisive one,” said Janaki Bam, a member of the Citizen Struggle Committee, adding that they would launch a strong protest after the festival this week.

The Pant family is also demanding legal action against then district police chief SP Dilliraj Bista and Inspector Jagadish Prasad Bhatta, both of whom have already been sacked for mishandling the initial probe into the crime.

On September 11, police presented 41-year-old Dilip Singh Bista, a mentally challenged person, as the primary suspect. Bista was freed after DNA tests exonerated him. Under pressure, the police conducted DNA tests on other suspects, including the sacked superintendent of police, his son Kiran and Ayush Bista, and the nephew of Bhimdutta Municipality Mayor Surendra Bista. All the results were reported negative. DNA samples from four more suspects have been sent to the Nepal Police Forensic Laboratory.

“We are in need of more DNA tests. The investigation is ongoing,” said SP Kuber Kadayat of the District Police Office. Although there were no new leads, the Ministry of Home Affairs had been apprised of all the relevant information provided by the family, said Chief District Officer Taranath Adhikari.

The sit-in will continue until the investigation is pursued seriously and with diligence, and the perpetrators are brought to justice, said the family. “I am ready to sacrifice my life if the government does not disclose my daughter’s killers,” said Yagya Raj.

Published: 12-11-2018 08:03

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