The rape and murder case of 13-year old Nirmala Panta has become a national shame. Forty eight days have passed since this horrendous crime was reported and demands for justice were raised across the country. And yet, there is no sign of the murderers being brought to book. This has disgraced Nepali state and the government and has given extremely negative message that the government and police authorities themselves could be protecting the criminals. Such impression will cost a lot to the public legitimacy of K P Sharma Oli’s government which is already seen as failing to establish law and order and curbing corruption. This is no time for the government to sit back and watch, for the family of the victims and the people are slowly giving up their hope on justice and are becoming furious.
A lot has happened after Nirmala Panta was raped and murdered. The police authority in Kanchanpur declined to take up the case immediately. Only when the public rose in protest, the police rose to action and “framed” a mentally ill person as the perpetrator. Only when the call for justice for Nirmala started to ring across the country, the government showed some initiatives: formed a high-level probe panel, replaced chief district officer of the district, Kumar Bahadur Khadka and SP Dilli Raj Bista. In between, various news reports have indicated the complicity of police personnel themselves in hiding the evidence from the ground. It has been found that a police personnel herself took off trousers from Nirmala’s dead body and washed it off. Why did she do that? During the interaction with editors of mainstream media on August 27, Prime Minister Oli assured action against the guilty. Even the Inspector General of Police Sarbendra Khanal vowed to take action against culprit. Human rights activists and various rights organizations have drawn the government’s attention. But nothing happens on the ground. How long does it take to arrest the rapists and murderers? How long should the people fight for justice? This is nothing but grave negligence of government and police authorities toward the victims.
Meanwhile, there has been a new twist in the investigation of the case. Birendra KC, a member of the high-level probe committee formed by Ministry of Home Affairs, has resigned citing threat to his life. KC publicly claimed that he has received “death threats” for trying to uncover the truth. He says the culprits have strong backing from powerful people and probe is not heading toward the right direction. Why is investigating official receiving threats? Who are all those providing protection to the rapists? Why is the government not being able to do the basic job of arresting the rapists and the murderers? The government’s inability to prosecute rapists and murderers of Nirmala has raised several difficult questions. The government needs to flex its muscle to jail the rapists. If the government cannot punish the rapists and ensure safety of girls and women, it cannot be called anything but inefficient, incompetent and irresponsible. We sincerely hope this is not how the most powerful government with a two-thirds majority wants to be characterized.