DHANGADHI, Nov 26: Yagyaraj Pant, the father of rape and murder victim Nirmala, was brought to Kathmandu on Sunday for treatment after he showed signs of 'mental illness' within days of starting an indefinite sit-in, demanding justice for his daughter. However, the journey to bring him to the capital was fraught with difficulties and struggles.
The District Administration Office (DAO) of Kanchanpur provided four air tickets of Buddha Air to airlift him to Kathmandu. They reached the Dhangadhi Airport at around 4 on Saturday afternoon. It was the beginning of a difficult journey.
At the airport, Yagyaraj tried to kick at the parked vehicles, shouted at and scolded the people around him and attempted to beat other passengers in the waiting room. He was almost uncontrollable.
Buddha Air staff who saw Yagyaraj's 'abnormal behavior with their own eyes cancelled the four tickets issued to him and the people accompanying him to to the capital. They argued that Yagyaraj could threaten the safety and convenience of all other passengers - something they could not allow.
Family members and government officials then tried to take him to Kathmandu in an ambulance. But no ambulance was available. Then Sudurpaschim Chief Minister took initiatives to find a vehicle to transport Yagyaraj and they finally got a Scorpio jeep at around Saturday midnight to take them to Kathmandu.
Yagyaraj was accompanied by his wife Durga Devi and other relatives as well as two policemen in mufti and a medical person. His cousin Ishwar Joshi said they had to stop the jeep on multiple occasions to calm him down and provide some rest.
“It was a very difficult journey. He showed many abnormal behaviors during the trip, making it very difficult for us and also prolonged the travel time,” said Ishwar. “We left Dhangadhi on Saturday evening and reached Kathmandu on Sunday evening.”
Nirmala's mother also recounted the arduous journey. “He was uncontrollable at times. We faced lots of difficulties on the way to Kathmandu due to his severe mental condition,” she said.
Yagyaraj has now been admitted at the Maharajgunj-based Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH). The Panta couple, which is still mourning the loss of their teenage daughter Nirmala, has left behind their two daughters – Manisha, 15, and Saraswati, 11, – alone at their home in Kanchanpur.
“My husband's condition has given me lots of stress. They told me I had to accompany him to Kathmandu. So, I had to leave my two daughters alone at home,” said Durga Devi. “I'm very worried thinking how they are getting by all alone. They are scared since their sister Nirmala was raped and murdered in broad daylight.”
Yagyaraj's mental breakdown could be the result of stress caused by the protest. Durga Devi said he has become restless and distraught as hundreds of people keep asking him the same kind of questions every day.
Indefinite sit-in continues in Kanchanpur
Just two weeks after the Panta couple started their sit-in 'for an indefinite period' in front of the Kanchanpur DAO, Yagyaraj had to be taken to the capital for treatment and his wife had to accompany him. Although the couple is in Kathmandu now, the sit-in continues back in Kanchanpur.
In the absence of Nirmala's parents, her stepmother Laxmi Devi Pant has participated in the sit-in to give it continuity. A group led by women rights activist Meena Bhandari, the coordinator of a struggle committee formed to pressurize the government to deliver justice to Nirmala, has supported the family in their sit-in.
Interestingly, the sit-in has courted controversy as another struggle committee led by Helen Shrestha has criticized the Bhandari-led committee. They accused Bhandari of forcing Nirmala's parents to stage a sit-in, 'adding to the troubles of the family which is still mourning the loss of their daughter'.
“It is not sensible to force Nirmala's parents to participate in a sit-in and give them additional troubles,” said Shrestha.