JAN 17 - The arm of the law is quite short and slow in Nepal, and it finds thousands of reasons not to reach the higher seats of power. The continued inaction to punish government employees at the Department of Immigration (DoI) responsible for robbing Sita Rai (name changed) is just an example. The government’s men robbed Rai on November 21, distributing the Rs 218,000 among them. A police constable, Parshuram Basnet, then took her to a hotel, got drunk and proceeded to rape her. It was almost a month later, on December 16, that Rai gathered enough courage to file a complaint at the Home Ministry against the constable and Som Nath Khanal, a non-gazetted officer at the DoI. Two other officials, section officers Tika Pokhrel and Ram Prasad Koirala, wanted in the case, have absconded to avoid arrest.
It has become apparent since the tragedy surfaced that the crime against Rai wasn’t the work of one deviant constable and a few corrupt bureaucrats at the DoI. Evidence suggests that the entire department engages often in extortion, targeting vulnerable migrants. The Post reported on December 22, that the then Director General of DoI, Suresh Adhikari, and the Director, Lekh Nath Pandey, also had roles in the episode. Adhikari has now been found to have demanded Rs 20,000 as collateral to resolve the case of the forged passport that Rai was carrying. The way investigation and prosecutions have proceeded since then, however, make it clear that the “big men”, one of whom belongs to the trade union associated with the Nepali Congress, will not have to face legal action in a court of law.
Even the report submitted Wednesday by the high-level committee to monitor violence against women, set up by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, clearly implicates Director General Adhikari and Director Pandey. However, the committee’s report itself has come under fire and one member, Renu Rajbhandari, even resigned from it, citing a tendency to “hide the misdoings of high-level government officials, and protect them under various pretexts.” Moreover, protestors in Baluwatar, who have been campaigning for justice for victims of violence against women for the past three weeks, burned the report for refusing to make strict recommendations to punish the guilty. It is important at this stage, therefore, for the government to immediately suspend the Director General and Director of the Immigration Department and proceed with legal action against them. The police also needs to step up its efforts to arrest the runaways whose footprints can be traced to the border areas. According to dissenters in the committee, it has also become clear that an AIG is responsible for “derailing” the investigation into Rai’s case. These signals point to a deep malaise not only within the DoI and the police, but also the entire justice system where political parties deploy their power and influence to protect their own. There is no doubt today that until the deep links between the police, politicians and criminals are severed, the dream of a just Nepali society will remain a far cry.
Posted on: 2013-01-18 09:12