1 December 2018: An activist closely watching and involved in the emotion-charged Justice for Nirmala campaign says Nepalese people would like the 13-year-old rape and murder victim’s DNA to be sent abroad so that it could be examined at an independent and world-class forensic lab.
This, Milan Pandey believes, is crucial so that the public trusts the outcome of the ongoing investigation into the brutal murder of Nirmala Pant.
“How can we find out (who raped and killed Nirmala) when the very people who may potentially be involved are carrying out the investigation?,” he questioned. If a proper and professional investigation is executed then the murderers can easily be caught because the perpetrators are believed to be local and not some international criminals expert at evading justice, he pointed out.
On July 26, police found the ninth grader’s body at a sugarcane field not far from her home in the Western Nepal township of Bhimdatta Nagar. Police immediately suspected that the victim might have been raped and then killed.
Nirmala had been missing from the previous day when she left home, having dutifully obtained permission from her mother, to fetch her notebook from a schoolmate’s place. She did not return and her mother Durga Devi Pant stayed at the local police station late into the night hoping assistance in locating her missing daughter.
Although rape is not an uncommon crime in Nepal, Nirmala’s case has become what was Nirbhaya to India back in 2012. It has since turned into a case of reckoning threatening to divide the Himalayan nation into camps – government officials on one side and the public on the other (irrespective of political affiliations).
Asked what evidence was there for the public to suspect foul play, Mr Pandey argued that the very fact that SP Dilli Raj Bista and Inspector Jagadish Bhatta of Nepal Police were suspended due to their mishandling of the initial investigation speaks volume about how local authorities conducted themselves.
“The way government should act, with a sense of urgency, they have not,” he lamented and added that the “body language, expressions” of government ministers clearly suggest that they are not serious in finding facts behind the murder of Nirmala Pant.
If the prime minister himself, although in a different context, could make comments like “it may take even twelve years to catch a murderer” then it does indicate an intention to cover up and hush the matter.
The Justice for Nirmala Campaign has become a truly national level movement with increasing number of people from across the political spectrum are joining in.
Government’s recent interference into the peaceful demonstrations is adding fuel to the fire.