Lalitpur, February 17
A teacher of a Lalitpur-based community school who has been accused of sexually molesting 26 girls of grades III, IV and V is likely to get off scot-free as the school management committee is undecided whether or not to formally press charges against him.
Nanda Prasad Niraula, a social studies teacher at Shree Narayan Basic School in Mahalaxmi Municipality of Lalitpur, was taken into police custody on Saturday evening after an unidentified person gave a tip-off about his deplorable behaviour. The tip-off was given based on a letter signed jointly by 26 students, who accused their teacher of molesting them in the school. But by Sunday evening Niraula was released from the police custody as no one had lodged a formal complaint.
“Without formal complaint, court will not give us permission to keep the accused in custody for more than 24 hours. Since neither the school administration nor the girls’ parents have filed a complaint we are in a limbo,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Mitra Bandhu Sharma.
Niraula was released yesterday on condition that he present himself at Metropolitan Police Circle, Satdobato, on Monday. When he arrived at the police station today, he was again rounded up. But he may be released tomorrow, as no one is likely to formally lodge a complaint.
Yesterday, Sabita Silwal, the school’s principal, had told THT that she would file a first information report against Niraula today. This morning she told THT that she was heading towards the police station, but after attending a meeting called by the school management committee she changed her mind.
She then told THT, “I can no longer talk about this issue, as the school management committee has decided to resolve this issue internally and has kept me away from the case.”
Nakul Thapa, a member of the school management committee and also the ward chair, said a decision on whether to engage police in this case would be taken after conducting an internal investigation. He, however, did not say how long it would take to complete the investigation.
Parents of a few students that THT talked to, on the other hand, said they were yet to come to grips with the issue.
Girls, who have accused Niraula of sexual molestation, are aged nine to 13. They all live in Tikathali area of Lalitpur. THT has obtained a copy of the letter written by them to the principal. Initially, THT had said only 19 girls had signed the letter based on the number of signatures seen on the front side of the letter. Today, the girls told THT that seven girls had put their signatures on the back of the page.
The girls had written the letter after one of the girls of Grade III remained absent from the school for a day after facing sexual harassment from Niraula. The Grade III girl told her sister enrolled in Grade V about the incident.
“Then one day during lunch break all the victims of sexual molestation met and drafted the letter. We rewrote the letter two or three times before finalising it. We dropped it in the school letter box. But no one picked the letter from the box for hours. So we handed it over to the student council head, who gave it the principal,” said an 11-year-old girl, who was also victimised by Niraula.
These girls had mustered courage to speak up against their teacher as they were told about ‘good touch and bad touch’ during a social awareness programme in their municipality on February 10.
“Nandu sir used to sit close and caress our bodies, especially our chest and legs, on the pretext of teaching us how to write properly,” a Grade V student told THT. Niraula, according to students, never scolded or raised his voice at female students. But they were even more afraid of him than teachers who were strict disciplinarians. “His touch would send a tingling sensation down the spine, which felt very uncomfortable,” said another 11-year-old girl.
A version of this article appears in print on February 18, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.