EDITORIAL: State of failure

If a government cannot protect its citizens and ensure justice to them, it loses its legitimacy to govern

Police have failed to solve Nirmala Pant’s rape and murder even after more than a month and a half. The body of the 13-year-old girl was found in a sugarcane field in Bhimdattanagar of Kanchanpur on July 26. A young man died during protests when police opened fire on demonstrators who were demanding justice for Nirmala. It took the government around a month to form a panel to investigate into the incident. The government in the meantime had claimed as many as 20 investigating teams were working in the case. Then on Monday, a member of the probe panel dropped a bombshell, as he announced his resignation expressing his displeasure with the government decision to extend the panel’s term by 15 days. Birendra Bahadur KC, under-secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Law of Province 7, went on to say that his “life is at risk”. He even feared the decision to extend the probe panel’s term could jeopardise the entire investigation and that the perpetrators would never be brought to book.

These are worrying signs. While police have botched the investigation, the government has maintained an extremely blasé attitude about such a heinous crime. Locals of Kanchanpur have claimed that police were trying to cover up the incident, suspecting involvement of some individuals with political patronage. KC’s statement at a press conference in Kathmandu that “I am at risk of being murdered at any time by the powerful perpetrators” does carry a message that there is something seriously wrong. A 41-year-old man who was arrested by police who suspected him to be the perpetrator was released on Tuesday after DNA test showed negative results. Two girls arrested by police on suspicion of their involvement in the crime were also released on Tuesday. This further proves how police have made a bungle of the case.

Law enforcement agency is an extension of the state, and when it fails in its duty, it is the failure of the state. A month after Nirmala’s rape and murder, Prime Minister KP Oli during a meeting with lawmakers from Kailali and Kanchanpur on August 25 had said the “government will leave no stone unturned to bring the culprits to the book”. But justice continues to elude Nirmala. PM Oli, who has an uncanny habit of making blithe comments on a wide range of issues, must speak up and exhibit some seriousness in an incident where a teenager girl was brutally raped and murdered. Oli leads the most powerful government now, but what purpose it will serve when it cannot ensure justice to Nirmala. If a government cannot protect its citizens and ensure justice to them, it loses its legitimacy to govern. PM Oli may claim that his government is backed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament, but lest he forget, legitimacy comes not from the numbers but from its accountability towards its people and actions to protect its citizens, guarantee their safety and security and deliver justice to them. It’s a shame that heinous crimes like rape are getting lost in the din of Oli’s grandiose promises of prosperity, rail and ship. Oli must get out of his coterie of an obsequious group of people and face the reality. It’s high time Oli himself took the lead and bring all the agencies together to ensure justice to Nirmala.

Saving wildlife

The Chitwan National Park (CNP), which is famous for one-horned rhino, elephant and Royal Bengal tiger, has started construction of a wild animal rescue centre in the Barandabhar jungle area near Devnagar Range Post in Chitwan. Spread over 16 hectares of land, the centre will rescue injured and disabled wild animals before their rehabilitation in their habitats. According to CNP Conservation Officer Narendra Aryal, the government has already allocated Rs 8 million for the construction of the centre.

This initiative will greatly help save the injured and disabled wild animals. According to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, most of the small wild animals get killed or severely wounded in road accidents as the busiest East-West Highway passes through nine national parks, one wildlife reserve and one conservation area. The department said 133 wild animals were killed in road accidents in the last fiscal. Many injured wild animals can be rescued and saved if we set up such centres in all national parks through which the highway passes. The government should strictly impose a speed-limit rule on vehicles passing through the parks and reserves.