KATHMANDU, Feb 21: Nirmala's mother Durga Devi has been closely watching the rape and murder case of Bhagarathi Bhatta. 'The accused denied attempts to rape, but he later confessed to the crime'. Subsequently, Bhagarathi's brother Shankar Bhatta filed a case against the suspect-- a minor. The investigation is on the right track it seems, she said, while adding that she is, however, hopeless about justice for her daughter Nirmala Panta, who was raped and murdered in 2018, 'as the government has not taken her complaint seriously'.
"I also filed a case against Dilip Singh Bista after watching his videos which convinced me that it was him. He has also confessed and denied the crime on and off. But isn't it the duty of the government to look into the case seriously? I don't know why they are so apathetic regarding Nirmala's case," she said over the phone on Sunday morning.
The police made a number of wrong moves at the beginning, giving space for several groups to meddle in the case. Dilip Singh Bista had confessed to the crime. But due to activists' allegations that 'an innocent was being framed', police went on to test his DNA. He was later let go and the police started to search for the culprit elsewhere. However, Bista has not stopped boasting of raping and killing Nirmala. Videos recorded by independent journalists and available on the internet also reveal his confession.
"In my daughter's case, I cannot put the blame only on the government. Nirmala's father is not serious either. In one of the videos, he is standing with activists from Kathmandu and speaking all nonsense. He hasn't demanded further investigation against Dilip Singh Bista. As a father, Bista’s videos should disturb him, but he doesn't feel that way," she stated.
The government had formed high level probe committees--one under the coordination of the joint secretary of the Home Ministry Hari Prasad Mainali and another led by AIG Dhiru Basnet) to look into the case. But those committees only recommended action against the investigating police teams, citing flaws and lacked in-depth and multi-dimensional ground reporting. Later, then police chief Sarbendra Khanal scrapped the reports and formed another investigation committee under DIG Suraj KC. Then Dilip Singh Bista came to the police scrutiny one more time. Some police officers had then told Republica that the culprit would soon be behind the bar as 'Khanal himself had flown to Kanchanpur to grab him'. However, some had reported that 'chief cannot do anything unless the government lawyer is ready.'
Khem Bhandari, a local journalist, who has taken an extraordinary interest in Nirmala's case and his social media and his news portal Manaskhanda, warned police and the judiciary to produce physical evidence or else not to touch the case.
According to some police officials, every new team that lands in Kanchanpur to look into the case likes to avoid it as physical evidence is not available. "Too much has happened in Nirmala's case, it's not easy to fix now. Only bold and politically unbiased local police and lawyers can address it," an officer said, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, Nirmala's elder sister, who's taking 12th grade examinations, demanded that the government do 'whatever it takes to deliver justice.'
Thirteen-year-old Nirmala's dead body was found in a sugarcane field near her home in Bhimdatta Municipality of Kanchanpur on July 27, 2018.