EDITORIAL: Dereliction of duty

Police have made enough bungling in Nirmala Panta rape and murder and the state has been apathetic, much to the chagrin of public

Two months into the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta, police on Sunday said the DNA samples of suspended SP Dill Raj Bista, his son Kiran Bista and Aayush Bista did not match with the vaginal swab of the 13-year-old girl from Kanchanpur. And it was largely expected, for there had already been a lot of tampering with the evidence immediately after the victim’s body was found in a sugarcane field on July 26. Videos that have surfaced so far clearly show police personnel who had arrived to carry out the deed of inquiry had cleaned the girl’s body parts and even washed her clothes before putting them back on her. While the police department now does not know what its next move will be, its line agency, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), is sitting on a report prepared by a probe panel, refraining from making it public. For the general public, there is more than one reason to be furious at police’s failure and the state’s apathy towards investigation into such a heinous crime.

By now it has become as clear as day that the law enforcement agency made a bungle of investigation from the very beginning. It’s an utter failure on the part of Nepal Police that it has yet to find even a promising lead in the case. Actions taken by MoHA and Nepal Police are enough to prove that there never was an earnest intent to find the culprit(s), rather both the agencies seem to be working hand in glove to protect the guilty. The government-instituted probe panel in its report has said there were serious lapses by police personnel during initial investigation. Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa has not said anything about the action his ministry is going to initiate against the police officials in question. Instead, Home Minister Thapa last week made extremely irresponsible remarks

before a parliamentary committee, attributing the rising cases of rape and sexual violence to capitalism, which was nothing but a farrago of vague political hyperbole. These are reactionary remarks and diversionary tactic, which will only give rise to state of impunity.

Never before had the image of Nepal Police hit the nadir like it has today. The general public has lost its faith in the country’s apex law enforcement agency that prides on its slogan of “truth, service and protection”. Who does Nepal Police serve? The general public, or those in power? It looks like Nepal Police is using its investigative prowess, if it has any, to protect the guilty. But at whose behest? People are tired of verbal assurances the government, MoHA and police have given so far. All their promises to pin down the culprits have turned out to be false. Investigations so far have been proved to be a sham, a charade. Just because the DNA sample of SP Bista did not match with the vaginal swab of the victim does not mean he can be exonerated, for under his leadership mishandling of the case had started. Home Minister Thapa on his part has also made too much of bungling. The government has lost the moral ground to make any more promises. People have had enough of promises. They want result now. The state and police owe a duty to protect its citizens.

Abandoned people

Most of the elderly people take refuge in Dharmashalas when their sons and daughters fail to take care of them towards the end of their lives for various reasons. Parents toil their entire lives bringing up their children with better education and healthcare hoping they would also get the same treatment from their kith and kin when they grow older and when they need their support. However, all old people are not so lucky to get such support from their children. They end up spending tasteless lives in poorly managed old-age homes where they lack family environment.

Recently, the National Human Right Commission has published a report marking the 18th International Day of Older Persons. The report has highlighted the sorry state of all elderly homes where the old people are deprived of suitable shelters, enough food, healthcare and nursing facility and sanitation. The government has allocated Rs 291.9 million for this fiscal to improve living conditions of elderly people in old-age homes. The local levels can play a vital role in this regard. A strong mechanism is a must to monitor such homes and proper utilisation of the fund channelised to them through various ministries.