AHRC-UAC-136-2014-5Pancha Bir Lama and his wife Shaili Maya Lama have been on hunger strike, demanding impartial investigation into the murder of their 21-year-old daughter Sushila Tamang since 14 June 2014.

They are permanent residents of Belkot Village Development Committee (VDC), Ward-6 of Nuwakot District, where they were once living content with their two sons and one daughter, named Sushila. In April 2009, Sushila appeared in her School Living Certificates (SLC) examination. Following this, she stayed at home, as the family did not have the financial resources to support her higher education.

Mr. Raghubarman Shrestha, a former government officer, who was Ex-Chief District Officer (CDO), and his wife Nirmala Shrestha, from Kathmandu,met the Lama couple. They asked the Lama couple that Sushila be sent to live with them. They sought to employ Sushila to take care of their pregnant daughter Smriti, and their soon-to-be grandchild. They also assured the Lama family better education would be provided to their daughter they agreed to send Sushila along with them. Firstly, the Lama couple refused. However, in time, they relented, and agreed to send Sushila to the capital in early 2012.

Sushila was happy to get a chance to partake in higher education, and was admitted at the Gamvir Samundra Higher Secondary School, Imadole, Lalitpur in Grade 11. Her initial work Nirmala’s daughter Smriti during Smriti’s pregnancy was regular and uneventful.

However, one day Sushila complained of headache. Smriti’s mother-in-law gave Sushila some medicine without a doctor’s prescription. Subsequently, Sushila developed an eye infection. The Lama couple came to Kathmandu to look into Sushila’s health and admitted her to the Alka Hospital, Lalitpur. This took place around mid-2012. A month later Sushila desired to go back to Nuwakot with her parents. Smriti agreed to release Sushila from work. The Lama Couple returned to Nuwakot with Sushila.

Prior to the Dashain festival in 2012, Nirmala telephoned Sushila and told her that Nirmala’s grandchildren were looking for her. Sushila returned to Kathmandu to continue her work in that household. Sushila was in regular communication with her parents. Smriti and her husband started caring well for Sushila. Sushila used to comparatively get less work than before. During this period Sushila completed Grade 12, and began classes to attain a Bachelors’ Degree in Education at the Ratna Public Campus, Koteshwor, Kathmandu.

On 5 February 2013, Sushila’s parents got a call from an unknown person. This unknown caller asked them to have a talk with Smriti. Following this, they called Smriti and learned that the unknown caller was from the police. Smriti asked the Lama couple to come to Kathmandu immediately. Smriti even asked if she could send a white colored vehicle for them. Smriti insisted that they not bring anyone else. The Lama couple was in the dark. They did not know what had happened.

The Lama couple reached Smriti’s house at Koteshwor-35, Kathmandu at 9 p.m. on 5 February 2013. There, they saw a throng of police personnel. They were taken inside a room – Smriti’s father-in-law’s bedroom – where they saw their daughter Sushila’s body hanging from a window. One of Sushila’s legs was folded over the bed while the other was touching the bed. A shawl, tied to the grill of the window was knotted around her neck.

Despite their grief, the Lama couple immediately raised questions on how a person could commit suicide in this manner? They stressed that this appeared to them to be a case of murder. Smriti and her husband held Pancha Bir Lama’s hands and legs and expressed their love for Sushila, and asked the couple to recall the good relationship that had existed between the families. The police personnel who had arrived by 3 p.m. that day had already prepared a case report (Muchulka), which had detailed documentation of the scene of the crime. The police asked to Mr. Lama to sign a paper. However, Mr. Lama refused to sign the paper. The Police lied to Mr. Lama that it was a paper related to the postmortem. The father signed the paper and the police took the corpse for postmortem.

On 9 February 2013, the parents received a call from Raghubarman, Smriti’s father, who insisted that the Lama couple come back. Raghubarman told them not to listen to others or else they will get in trouble. Panchabir replied, “You have already killed my daughter, what further trouble would we be in now?”

On 13 February 2013, the postmortem was conducted at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), Maharajgunj. The doctor called Mr. Lama and informed him that his daughter had a two-and-half-months old infant inside her when she died. The doctor suggested to the father that they should not reveal this fact to anyone, as this would put the family prestige at stake. But the family requested the doctor to reveal everything in the report and also asked for a DNA check-up of the infant and Smriti’s husband Bijayaman, but doctor said it was negative. The couple was not allowed to see the report of the DNA check. The Lama family does not believe the report provided by the doctor. But police have said that Mr. Lama had already signed the Muchulka. The Police went on to stage a drama that someone named Gajbir Lama had signed the postmortem report as Sushila’s uncle, stating that Sushila had committed suicide. The Lama family does not know who is this person named Gajbir Lama.

The police claims to have found a suicide note written by Sushila. But her parents are not ready to accept that their daughter wrote the note.

The Shrestha family has, in turn, gone one to claim that Sushila had a relationship with an old driver. However, a doctor has found that this old driver had vasectomy 20 years ago.

Seven days after the incident, the Lama family finally carried out the traditional rites for their daughter at Swoyambhu. The Lama family then returned to Nuwakot.

However, Raghubarman soon asked them to return to Kathmandu again. On their arrival, Bijayaman, who is Raghubarman’s son and Sushila’s husband, asked the Lama family to take money and stop their demand for further investigation into the case.

Ms. Tara Tamang, who happens to be the niece of Mr. Pancha Bir Lama, used to rent a room in the same house. She has informed the Lama family that Sushila had told her that Bijayaman had been frequently raping Sushila during his wife’s pregnancy.

On 17 February 2013, the Lama family went to lodge an FIR against Smriti Shrestha and her husband Bijayman Shrestha at the Metropolitan Police Circle, Baneshwor. Initially, the police refused to register the complaint. After pressure from different organizations, they finally relented, registered the FIR, and arrested the Shrestha couple. The couple was kept in prison for 24 days. However, subsequently they were freed, without any kind of investigation having been conducted.

As a result of inaction, since 14 June 2014the Lama couple has been on hunger strike. They protest at Bhadrakali in Kathmandu from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, no one from the government has responded to the demands. The couple demands a fair investigation and punishment for the perpetrators found guilty.

The AHRC is concerned about the hunger strike of the Lama couple, which demands impartial investigation into their daughter’s murder. The AHRC urges the Government of Nepal to intervene immediately, conduct an investigation, and take immediate action. If Smriti Shrestha and her husband committed a crime, they should be punished, and the Lama family should be provided justice.

Additionally, the police officers involved in stalling and delaying investigations must be punished.

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