Nepal: Long March To Justice
A group of 14 persons mostly women, arrived in Kathmandu from the Nepalgunj District. They walked all the way which is almost over 500 kilometres. The group started their long march for justice on 14 September 2021. After being denied justice by the local Authorities, the group decided to march to the capital, Kathmandu, on foot, to bring home justice. The march presents a clear picture of the Nepali Justice System, and exposes how the STATE IS FAILING ITS CITIZENS.
Their only demand is the fair investigation into the death of Nakunni Dhobi and the disappearance of Nirmala Kurmi. One of the women was killed and another remains missing since 2010.
Nakunni Dhobi was found dead under suspicious circumstances at her home on 20 July 2021 in Ward 2 of Janaki Rural Municipality in the Banke District. Nirmala Kurmi, on the other hand, had gone missing in January 2010 from the same rural municipality. Nirmala Kurmi’s disappearance came just two years after her two teenage sons were both murdered within the period of one week. Neighbours and villagers say that Nirmala Kurmi used to own a good deal of property before her disappearance. It makes her disappearance and the murder of her two sons even more suspicious. But the Police never took the case of her disappearance seriously.
On 1 December 2020, when local residents and Human Rights Advocates requested the Police to investigate Nirmala Kurmi’s whereabouts, the Banke District Police Office turned them away saying there was no point investigating the matter as Nirmala was already dead.
When the relatives and neighbours of Nakunni and Nirmala tried to lodge complaints with the district Police with the support of the Banke Chapter of the National Women Rights Forum in August 2021, Police once again refused to investigate these cases. The relatives and neighbours of the two women say Authorities refused to listen to their calls for justice despite a 19-day protest (from August 29 to September 16 2021) in front of the District Administration Office. The District Administration Office instead presented a post-mortem report of Nakunni, saying she died by suicide. The relatives do not trust the post-mortem report. So, they then decided to continue their protest.
When nobody was interested in their issues, the relatives and Human Rights Activists decided to walk to Kathmandu after losing hope for justice from the local Authorities. With the hope that justice will be delivered, as the power centers are in Kathmandu, it only exposed how the marginalized continue to remain marginalized when it comes to justice. THE STATE IS FAILING ITS CITIZENS.
It was after the local Government and Authorities had long ignored their demands for justice for the victims that they started a sit-in at Maitighar in the Kathmandu District from October 8. The Government’s attempt to dismiss the protest started the same day when 16 of the protesters started the sit-in. The Police arrested 13 of them on October 8 while they were having their dinner at Maitighar. Although 12 of them were released within a few hours, Ruby Khan, who was leading the protest, was held in secret detention.
The Metropolitan Police Circle, Sorhakhutte - Kathmandu had first arrested Ruby Khan along with fellow protesters. She was then transferred to the Metropolitan Police Circle, Singha Durbar - Kathmandu. She was flown to Nepalgunj on October 10 on a pretext that a Polyandry Case was lodged against her. This Bollywood-style kidnapping by the Police and treatment of Ruby Khan like a dangerous criminal was an attempt to weaken the protest.
Mohna Ansari, advocate and former member of the National Human Rights Commission, filed a Habeas Corpus Petition at the Supreme Court, demanding her immediate release on 10 October. The Court ordered the Nepal Police and the Attorney General’s Office to produce Ruby Khan before the Court by 11 a.m. on October 14. Following the Court’s order, Ruby Khan was presented before the Court and released the same day.
Ruby Khan launched her fast-unto-death on the very day of her arrest and has said she will not eat anything until the alleged perpetrators and the Police Officials who are trying to protect them are punished. She was taken to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu on 16 October as her health condition worsened.
Finally, the Government discussed this issue and have agreed to address their concerns. The Government has formed a team to investigate the two issues and compile a report within a week.
The rights to Freedom of Assembly and Speech of victims, their families and the Human Rights Defenders, have been trampled upon. This incident exposes the true natures of the Nepal Government, the Police, the District Administration Offices and the Office of Chief Ministers. ALL are working in tandem with each other to DENY justice to poor, uneducated victims and their families from minority communities like Muslims and Dalits. Until we add voice to the voiceless and end this Culture of Silence, and support ground level citizens, INJUSTICE WILL CONTINUE TO PREVAIL.