KATHMANDU, Feb 11: Monday was just another day for Nirmala Panta’s mother Durga Devi. She was preparing to come home from work (she is a peon at the Bhimdutta Municipality office) when some media persons came to her and asked if she knew that police headquarters has scrapped the report of the investigations led by AIG Dhiru Basnet into the rape and murder of her daughter.
The media people told her that Dilip Singh Bista, against whom she had filed a court case, is likely to be behind bars now as the final police report seems to clinch the issue. They pressed her for her reaction. But the implications would take time to sink in. She spoke little. “Will I really get justice? Will the guilty really be behind bars? Will things change for me and my daughters?”, she said. Such are the thoughts that have gnawed at her for so long.
When Republica contacted her by phone in the evening, she said life for her and her two surviving daughters had been a dead weight ever since Nirmala’s demise. Their patience had been tested beyond what words could express. If at all she gets justice at last, as she has now been led to believe, she will become a different person, she said.
“It was a huge tragedy for us to overcome. We were at the mercy of allegations, innuendo and mental torture by some people. Even now we cannot speak our mind in the community. There are many who show no compassion,” said Durga Devi. “If tomorrow they find my daughter’s murderer and jail the culprit, I will find the courage to speak.I will be able to speak the truth fearlessly: do it even for other poor people like me,” she added.
“Will I really get justice? Will the guilty really be behind bars? Will things change for me and my daughters?”
Some locals and others on social media even alleged that she ‘sold out for money’. That left her feeling shattered. According to Maya Negi, a Kanchanpur local and social activist, people there only ran after rumors. “She was a victim of crime, and rumors in the beginning victimized her further. There were very few who stood up for her,” said Negi, who is now visiting Kathmandu. “If justice does get done she will indeed bounce back.”
Thirteen-year-old Nirmala Panta’s dead body was found in a sugarcane field near her home in Bhimdutta Municipality on July 27, 2018. On August 20, police produced Dilip Singh Bista as the prime suspect. However, there were allegations and counter-allegations and locals including Nirmala’s father Yagya Raj took to the streets. The protests rippled across the country. The custodians of the law looked increasingly feckless.
“When IGP Sarbendra Khanal came to my house and assured me of justice, I felt that he was being sincere. I also met the prime minister in the capital and he said Nirmala was like his own daughter. I again felt it was sincere. I pinned my hopes on the government. But there was no progress at all, and I started having doubts,” said Durga Devi. “Meanwhile, people talked and said things that really hurt.”
Durga and her daughters feel more upbeat now. According to Nirmala’s elder sister, once the guilty is booked there would be no need to fear the people around them any more. “It may take time, but I want the truth to come out finally. I hope there will be justice,” she said.
Meanwhile, DSP Angur GC, the official who had presented Dilip Singh Bista as the one and only guilty and is now facing a court case over those developments, stated that he is happy the police leadership has finally owned his investigation. “Unfair things happened with us, so many committees were formed but things only got derailed; but now things are on the right track,” he said.
GC added that the scrapping of the Dhiru Banset committee report, according to which there were blunders in the investigations and Dilip Singh Bista was framed, was a great relief for all police officials who have also been facing court cases in this connection.
Half a dozen different committees of experts were formed to tackle the Nirmala Panta case. However, the recommendations of two committees were crucial while the others only helped snag the whole process, according to GC. “The DNA findings and now the scrapping of the Basnet report have opened the doors for the pursuit of justice,” he claimed.