Even as police claim they have narrowed down the investigation to a few suspects in the Nirmala Pant rape and murder case, activists and civil society members continue protests, questioning police over the authenticity of the new suspects.
After the arrest and interrogation of Pradip Rawal, one of the key suspects in the case, Nepal Police has taken two more individuals—Dinesh Chaudhary and Sandip Chaudhary—in custody for further investigation. Kanchanpur police is also searching for four other individuals for their dubious roles in the case.
“Two out of the three suspects have confessed to the rape and murder of Nirmala. However, we are investigating all the ‘technical aspects’ and evidence before reaching a conclusion,” said a high-level police source.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokharel has also said that the culprits had been identified. “We will make them public soon,” said Pokharel, while addressing a programme in Lalitpur on Saturday.
However, those who have gathered at Maitighar Mandala, demanding justice for the 13-year old Nirmala Pant and pressurise the government are still not convinced with the latest claim of the Nepal Police.
“It is not the first time that police have arrested suspects in the case. We have gone through it and have seen the consequences. How can we believe that the latest suspects are the real perpetrators?” Ranju Darshana, central committee member of the Bibeksheel Sajha Party who participated in the rally, told the Post.
On August 19, police had detained mentally ill 41-year-old Dilip Singh Bista, a resident of Bhimdutta Municipality-19, and paraded him as the major culprit. The move had a major backlash, triggering a wave of violent protests as the victim’s family and residents accused police of framing an innocent person in a bid to protect the real culprits involved in the heinous crime.
Bista was released on September 11 after his DNA results tested negative with that of the vaginal swab of the victim. Bista later accused police of subjecting him to severe torture in custody to extract a bugged confession.
“Police need to make public the perpetrator(s) soon with concrete evidence. Since they have tampered with the evidence once, it’s difficult to trust them. The protest will continue until justice is served,” said another activist Pritam Subedi.
Similar protests and rallies were organised in more than a dozen places across the country, including Bhaktapur, Chitwan, Jhapa, and Morang, demanding justice for Nirmala.
In Kanchanpur, people were seen plastering posters of Nirmala on public vehicles. Locals also staged a sit-in outside the District Administration Office with a balance and national flag on Sunday.
In Sindhupalchok, poets recited their poems on Nirmala in various parts of the district.