KANCHANPUR, Sept 14: Local women rights activists have expressed serious concerns over the Nirmala Panta rape case after the parents of the raped and murdered teenager moved to Kathmandu instead of mounting pressure on local investigators. They have warned that this move could cause a serious backlash to the campaign aimed at holding the real rapist and murderer accountable.
Rights activists who have been standing with the victim's family from the very beginning of the rape case worry that the move to go to Kathmandu instead of continuing the protests locally could benefit some interest groups instead of taking the case to a logical conclusion.
Both the mother and father of Nirmala who was murdered subsequently after rape have reached Kathmandu without informing the long-protesting rights activists, human rights activists and civil society leaders.
“We have been protesting from day one against the rape and murder. What is the intention behind taking her parents to Kathmandu quietly?” questioned Helan Shrestha, who has been coordinating the protests against the rape.
Soon after Nirmala's father, Yagyaraj, and mother, Durga Devi, reached Kathmandu, their cell phones were switched off. “Why they were taken to Kathmandu? Why their cell phones are switched off?” Shrestha said adding, “This has raised a serious question whether their Kathmandu trip was aimed at serving other interests instead of ensuring justice to Nirmala.”
She complained that none of the rights activists are participating in the local protests after the couple moved to Kathmandu.
“Those who are now busy in television talk shows had joined the protests only 24 days after the rape,” Shrestha said, adding, “We support all moves taken to ensure justice to Nirmala but our worry is that the ongoing activities in Kathmandu could derail the protests.”
Bhawaraj Regmi, chairperson of Kanchanpur Civil Society, said so many things have 'twisted' after the couple moved to Kathmandu. “Fresh twists that were never raised earlier have emerged after they moved to Kathmandu,” said Regmi, adding, “The way the couple moved to Kathmandu without informing the locals protesting against the heinous crime against the 13 years old teenager for weeks now, has raised doubts whether justice will be ensured.”
Regmi sees the couples' visit to Kathmandu meaningless in the context of all locals joining hands against the rape. “Everyone is supporting the protest against the crime. One could consider it if they had gone to Kathmandu holding an all-party meeting that too consulting with all the leaders campaigning against the crime,” said Regmi adding, “One can't deny the prospects of justice being denied when certain people don't think other than using the moment to rise, politicize the issue and serve personal interests.”
The locals believe their protests were headed in the right direction 'i.e. toward holding the culprits accountable. As part of ensuring justice to the raped and murdered girl, Inspector General of Police Sarbendra Khanal had met the parents at their house. Prime Minister KP Oli addressed the parliament and various rights bodies including the National Human Rights Commission took the case seriously. The media was reporting the case with high priority and the issue was already internationalized.
Locals say this is the time to watch the investigation and the investigators 'for they could be influenced by someone when it comes to booking the culprits'. “Since the rape case has already drawn the attention of everyone including the international community, it is the right time to closely watch the investigation,” said INSEC Regional Coordinator Khadakraj Joshi.