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JUSTICE DELAYED JUSTICE DENIED
As we approach 150 days since the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta, the question of who killed Nirmala remains unanswered. The human cost of sexual violence, police impunity, corruption, political agenda and accountability are at the forefront of this tragedy.
Thirteen year old Nirmala Panta didn’t come home on the evening of July 26. Her lifeless naked body was found in a waterlogged field.
Police investigations continue today with twists and turns but truth yet to see light of the day. Aakriti Maya of WOW has compiled a timeline through the rape and murder investigation of Nirmala Panta with a question: Is this a case of Justice Delayed Or Justice Denied?
Thirteen year old Nirmala Panta went to her friends Roshani and Babita Bam’s house to do homework together.
Nirmala Panta was raped, then murdered.
Nirmala’s family went to the police station to report their missing daughter and were told to return in the morning.
Nirmala’s lifeless, naked body was found on a water logged sugar cane field, 500 meters away from the house of the Bam sisters.
Students aligned with the Nepal Student Union first began demonstrations in Mahendranagar, students and police officers were minorly injured when clash ensued.
Nirmala’s relatives, community, political and women’s rights groups demonstrated in Mahendranagar Bazaar, demanding strong punitive action against the rapist and compensation for Nirmala’s family at a police beat in Nimbukheda, Kanchanpur.
Protests continue in Mahendranagar. Post mortem report still in process. Police do not find evidence at site because of the pool of water in the sugar cane field. Nirmala’s father, Yagya Raj refuses to receive Nirmala’s body before the perpetrators are prosecuted.
Nirmala’s body is cremated. Yagya Raj says that he was coerced into the hasty cremation. CDO of Bhimdutta Municipality claims family agreed after the police assured them that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
CIB (Central Investigation Bureau) launches investigation into Nirmala’s case. A three-member CIB team under DSP Angur GC leaves for Kanchanpur to coordinate with the local police in the investigation.
Hemanti Bhatta’s – a twelfth grader at Jyoti Bhahumukhi Campus and acquaintance of Nirmala – interrogation by police begins, on grounds of her owing a suspicious 12 sim cards and romantic exchanges with multiple men. Investigation shows that she promised to set up a man with Nirmala. Her interrogation lasted days and concluded with police discovering that the set up was for another Nirmala Dhami not Panta.
Post mortem report details that Nirmala was strangled to death, sperm samples are found in Nirmala’s vagina and uterus. Protests grow amongst allegations that the police are protecting the perpetrators and that evidence in the post mortem report pointed point to supposed two VIP’s.
Chakra Dev Badu (local resident) is taken for interrogation by the police following information from a nearby source that placed him at the road leading to the sugarcane fields. Badu was accused of misleading the police and offering conflicting stories of his activities on the day of Nirmala’s death.
#RAGEAGAINSTRAPE begins in Kathmandu. Hemanti Bista attempts to lodge a complaint against the police for use of brute force and torture in interrogation which she decides to rescind following an apology from SP Dilli Raj Bista.
Chakra Dev Badu is released on bail and lack of evidence, citing multiple instances of torture at the hands of police. His DNA does not match the sample found in Nirmala’s body.
Mentally ill Dilip Bista is arrested for Nirmala’s rape and murder. Bista recently finished a nine year prison sentence for the murder of his brother in law. Locals claim that Dillip Bista is being framed. Anger grows and protestors demand the arrest of the real perpetrators and end of impunity. Superintendent Dilli Raj Bista, head officer of Nirmala’s case is accused of protecting the perpetrator.
Kanchanpur society is on strike. Protest is staged in larger numbers. Police open fire into crowd injuring six civilians and two officers. 12 hour curfew is imposed. High level committee is formed by the Home Ministry to investigate further.
Protests erupt again. Police fire live rounds and a 14 year old protestor, Sani Khuna is killed. Five others are gravely injured.
Amongst growing outrage from the community, SP Dilli Raj Bista is suspended. Along with him, Deputy Superintendent of Police Gyan Bahadur Sethi and Inspector Ekendra Khadka are recalled to Police Headquarters. Government compensates Nirmala’s family and Sani Khuna’s family with Rs 10 lakhs.
Arrest warrant is issued for Roshani and Babita Bam. The sisters were held for further interrogation and deny involvement in the crime. Rumors of the Bam sisters relationship with SP Dilli Bista’s son were not substantiated by social media, phone or messaging records.
Government decides to compensate Rs ten lakhs to Nirmala Panta’s and Sahi Khuna’s family.
Prime Minister KP Oli calls protests efforts by opposition to weaken his government on Janata Sanga Pradhanmantri, a fortnight television show. KP Oli also emphasises that culprits must be identified through the process of law, defending the Bam sisters from public scrutiny.
Member of high level committee, Birendra KC quits panel due to threats by those “actively trying to undermine the probe”. KC cited that he was worried that he and his family members would be murdered if he remained on the committee.
Accused rapist/murderer Dillip Bista is released from jail as his DNA does not match with Nirmala’s post mortem file. Bam sisters were also released on lack of ground for arrest. Roshani is released on condition of presenting herself if the court requires it. Babita freed on a bail of Rs 30,000.
Birendra KC withdraws resignation from probe committee after meeting with Home Minister, Ram Bahadur Thapa.
Nirmala’s parents Durga Devi and Yagya Raj travel to Kathmandu to hold a press conference and meet National Leaders. A candlelight vigil and peaceful rally is held in the capital city.
Nepali Congress, the main opposition party of the incumbent Communist Party obstructs House of Representatives meeting asserting that Nirmala’s case is starting to become a “state protected crime”.
Samples are collected from SP Dilli Raj Bista, his son Kiran Bista and nephew of Bhimdutta Municipality Mayor Surendra Bista for DNA profiling following public and internal allegations.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari breaks her silence, calling on stakeholders to bring perpetrators to justice.
New investigation committee was set up by Nepal Police under DIG Dhiru Basnyat to take over former investigation committee lead by Uttam Subedi. DIG Dhiru Basnyat states intention to begin investigation from a new perspective.
Nirmala’s parents meet Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who assures them that perpetrator will be punished and caught.
Nine police officials, including former Kanchanpur SP Dilli Raj Bista were interrogated for their connections in the investigation of Nirmala’s case.
Kanchanpur SP Kuber Kathayat reveals that there is no new concrete evidence, and the investigation is ongoing.
Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa reveals that Nirmala’s clothes were burnt after her body was found, and that the fingerprints of her father were forged in the field report prepared by the police.
Home Minister assures guilty party will be booked within the week.
Efforts by police to recover CCTV footage from 17 cameras installed around Bhimdutta fail. National Human Rights Council presses government to conduct a fair and scientific probe with an eight point directive with a spokesperson asserting that there have been serious lapses from the very beginning.
Government bans porn sites to combat the rise of sexual assault in the country.
Home Ministry fire suspended officials SP Dilli Raj Bista and Inspector Jagdish Bhatta. SP Bista claims innocence and dismissal due to political pressure.
Nirmala’s parents begin indefinite sit in at the District Administration Office in Kanchanpur.
Nirmala’s father, Yagya Raj is brought to Kathmandu for medical treatment following unstable behaviour to be examined for mental illness.
Activists launch poster campaign, a peaceful demonstration taping posters on utility poles in Maitighar area. Police were photographed taking down such posters throughout the city.
Pradeep Rawal and Bishal Chaudhary from Bhimdutta are arrested as prime suspects in Nirmala Panta’s rape and murder. Both allegedly confess to the crimes. DNA results are pending.
Family and community of Pradeep Rawal and Bishal Chaudary protest in Mahendranagar, asserting that their conviction is another attempt of the police to scapegoat poor, innocent people.