Incident Reports

When Sita Rai occupied Baluwatar


KASHISH DAS SHRESTHA Nepal’s political parties have been in a deadlock for months, trying to negotiate which Party gets to “occupy” the Prime Minister’s residence in Baluwatar. While that political wrangling continues, on Friday a peaceful gathering dubbed “Occupy Baluwatar” began quite organically outside the Prime Minister’s residence. It’s demand? Sita Rai was robbed by immigration officers and then raped by a police constable. Deliver her justice. Yesterday was Day 4 of Occupy Baluwatar and its largest gathering yet. Yesterday, the Home Ministry also formally charged the Director and Director General of Immigration Department for corruption. A LETTER The hope was simple: if there are enough public requests, maybe the PM will act. A letter to the PM was drafted and posted on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday. People were urged to print it, sign it, and then deliver it to PM’s residence on Friday starting 9AM, and email it to his office too. The letter’s intent: “Dear Prime Minister, I request your office and the Home Ministry to exercise all its power to make sure this case is an example of the system working for the people of Nepal. We urge you to use the vast resources at your disposal to call on every Government and Non-Governmental bodies working on women’s rights issues to find out just what happened to Sita Rai at TIA and pursue justice as required, and to the full extent of the law… make the system work for a single person, so that “we the people” can have some hope it may work for us all one day.” On Friday morning about 100 signed letters were submitted at the PM’s residence where a staff assured response from PM who at the time happened to be in Pokhara. However, when the police tried to remove about 20 people from standing quietly across the PM’s residence, the quiet gathering turned into a protest expressing the letter’s intent. So began Occupy Baluwatar. By mid-day, two other cases had been added to the cause: the alleged murder of Saraswati Subedi and disappearance of Chorimaiya Maharjan. By Sunday evening, even the State TV’s 8PM news bulletin dedicated about five-minutes to Occupy Baluwatar and the meeting hosted by the Prime Minister on the issues raised by it. At the meeting, the PM was clear: the state must deliver justice to Sita and others like her, and if the concerned authorities fail to pursue these cases they would have them investigated too. Within 24 hours, as news came out that Sita’s robbers would be charged with corruption cases, it was also reported three people were arrested in relation to the investigations into Saraswati’s death. Her family’s attempts to file a First Information Report about her death had been previously deferred for over 14 days by the police.