The report of the high-level investigation committee formed to look into the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta actually states the obvious. And there is where the big problem lies. The Home Ministry unveiled the report on Sunday, 13 days after the investigation committee submitted it to the Ministry, and it reads like compilation of various facts and events reported by mainstream and online media over the last 70 days since this horrendous crime was committed. First, it provides no clues on how the investigation is progressing. Many had expected that the much-awaited report would provide a guideline for the investigating agencies to carry forward their work and nab the culprits. But as is the case, it reiterates the same doubts, confusions and culpability of some of the actors about whom a lot has been written in the last two months and 10 days.
The report mentions that police authority based in Kanchanpur committed were negligent while dealing with the case. That was obvious. Police authority there had not shown readiness to register the case in the first place. And only when the locals erupted in protest, they feigned to take some action, which was again flawed, for police arrested the wrong person and “framed” him as the culprit. The failure to arrest Bam sisters (Anita Bam and Banita Bam), about which the report has raised some concerns, immediately after the locals suspected their involvement in the murder, has also become an open secret. So has the complicity of then chief of the District Police Office of Kanchanpur, SP Dilli Raj Bista in destroying evidences and not initiating proper investigation. Most egregiously, the 37-page-long report has not identified suspects, apart from raising suspicions over some of the names already under public scrutiny.
We still believe that the rapists and murderers would have been identified and jailed if the police authorities had sincerely started the investigation, by protecting every bit of evidence (trousers Nirmala was wearing, the guavas she was carrying at the time and even the guava tree have been destroyed and no credible investigation has been carried out as to who did this) and consulting forensic experts. More than 70 days after the murder and rape, the police authorities are still clueless about the murderers. Thus the report has further raised public suspicion on Nepal Police. The entire police administration, its officials, home ministry and even the prime minister have been criticized as being complicit in protecting the rapists and murderers. Needless to say, this case has literally destroyed the credibility of police and the government. Nirmala’s rape and murder has now become an international issue. Thus failure to punish the perpetrators will defame the government nationally and internationally. The government and Nepal Police, apart from taking strong action against those involved in destroying the evidence and those not initiating the investigation on time, should use all expertise and resources in digging out the truth. Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli should intervene if necessary. Rage against rape and call for justice for Nirmala will rage on unless the criminals are identified and prosecuted.