Whither The Justice For Nirmala?

Uttam Maharjan

It has been around two months since Nirmala Panta, a 13-year-old girl from Kanchanpur, was raped and murdered on July 26. Her dead body was found in a sugarcane field the next day. Several investigation committees have been formed to investigate the case but none of them has been successful in bringing out the fact so far. Just recently, a new investigation committee has been formed under the coordination of DIG Dhiru Basnyat.

Doubt
Since the rape and murder of the girl came out into the open and the investigation committee led by now suspended SP Dilliram Bista botched up the investigation, the locals have cast doubt on whether the accused in the case would be identified and brought to book. As per the locals, the investigation committee did not investigate the case properly; rather it destroyed the evidence that could lead to the identification of the culprit(s). They recounted how the responsible police removed the trousers from the dead body of Nirmala and rinsed them in the water in the sugarcane field, where the dead body was found. As per the principles of criminology, an incident site needs to be left unaltered and untampered until all the investigation into the site has been completed.
As public outcry intensified, the police tried to implicate some persons. After failing to implicate two persons in the case, the police nabbed Dilip Singh Bista, a mentally disturbed person and took him into custody for days. This enraged the locals, forcing them to stage protests, in which a minor was killed and dozens were injured. One of the injured had to have his leg amputated. This resulted in a further flare-up of the protests and the police were widely sniped at. At last, Dilip Singh Bista was brought to Kathmandu to check his mental disturbance. However, upon matching his DNA profiling with a sample of the vaginal swab of Nirmala, he was declared innocent and released.
This incident has proved that the police are trying to protect the real culprit(s) by trying to frame and implicate one person after another in the case. The probity of the police force has also been questioned.
The parents of Nirmala Panta also came to Kathmandu the other day, seeking justice for their daughter. Protests and rallies have emerged all over the country. Human rights bodies and civil societies, along with the general people, have expressed their unflinching solidarity with the protests and rallies. The parents of Nirmala Panta and the general people surmise that the culprit(s) must be very powerful and so the police are using one stratagem after another to protect the culprit(s).
It is an irony that the investigation teams are still clueless about the case. They do not know where the rape and murder took place and how many people were involved in the heinous crime. The previous investigation teams seemed not to have investigated the case; rather, they seemed to have systematically closed all the doors leading to the identification of the culprit(s).
However, the government has suspended six police officers, including Dilliram Bista, for bungling the investigation. And a new investigation committee headed by DIG Dhiru has been formed. It will not, however, investigate the case to identify the culprit(s); it will investigate the erring police officers. An investigation team lead by SSP Thakur Prasad Gyawali is in Kanchanpur to investigate the case. In fact, it has emerged that the previous investigation committees did not conduct the investigation into the case effectively in a manner to find out the facts surrounding the case. They did not use sniffer dogs. Nor did they take finger prints and collect other evidence, where possible.
Just suspending the erring police officers is not enough; they may be reinstated any time. If found guilty, they should be dismissed and incarcerated so that no police office has the courage to indulge in such gross dereliction of duty in the future. The Nirmala case is just the tip of the iceberg. Several such cases go unreported for various factors. And several such cases are settled clandestinely. An increase in the consciousness level has also resulted in increased reporting of such cases. The state of impunity, together with political connections, has also encouraged the perpetrators to indulge in heinous crimes like rape, abduction and murder.
The locals are of the opinion that if the Bom sisters Roshani and Babita, Kiran Bista, the son of Dilliram Bista and Ayush Bista, the nephew of the Bhimdutta Municipality Mayor are grilled, the fact will come out. The Bom sisters have been released after inquiry, whereas the DNA profiling of the other two is in the process to see whether it matches with the sample of the vaginal swab of Nirmala.
Whether the Gyawali-led investigation team will probe the case impartially is in the womb of time. But the past developments have shown that it is not so easy a task to identify the culprit(s). When the parents of Nirmala went to the police administration to file a case on the day their daughter was found missing, the police simply did not register the case, advising them to come the next day. When the dead body of Nirmala was found in a sugarcane field the next day, the police were busy destroying the evidence rather than sealing off the site. The parents of Nirmala were also bludgeoned by the police into cremating their daughter on the day her dead body was found. The police nabbed one person after another with the ill intention of implicating them in the case, only to be compelled to release them for lack of evidence.

Grilling
The investigations of the previous investigation teams have, no doubt, become futile. The Gyawali-led investigation team has been forced to investigate the case from scratch. The reports of the investigations, if any, of the previous investigation teams cannot be resorted to because they must be faulty. A thorough grilling of the suspended police officers as well as those destroying the evidence in the sugarcane field, together with the grilling of the Bom sisters, Kiran Bista and Ayush Bista, may bring the fact to light.
Now, it has been very exigent to nab the real culprit(s) and deliver justice to the soul of Niramal Panta. This case has put the police administration in a state of disgrace. The sooner the case is settled with the arrest of the real culprit(s), the better.

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