Sushila (25) and Sudha (23) have been at the vanguard of the Occupy Baluwatar movement since its inception 13 days ago. They are two of the three daughters of Chhori Maiya Maharjan, who has been missing since Feb. 28, 2012. In the past 10 months, Sushila and Sudha have knocked every door for justice, including that of the prime minister. But no headway has been made in locating their missing mother. Biswas Baral caught up with the two on the sidelines of Occupy Baluwatar (Day 12) to get a sense of what these women have had to go through since their mother went missing, and their expectations from the ongoing Occupy movement.
First of all, what are the two of you doing at the moment? Do you study?
Both of us have completed our graduation. We would like to start our masters. But since our mother went missing 10 months ago, we have not been able to give continuity to our studies.
In the 10 months, what are the important steps you have taken to locate your mother?
The evening our mother went missing, we lodged a complaint with the police. The next day, we filed a written complaint at Hanumandhoka. But nothing happened. For the first 11 days, the police sent us on a goose chase: an inspector would say that a particular DSP was looking into the case, when we went to that DSP he informed us that it was another DSP who was handling it. But when pressure from our relatives started to increase, the Crime Division of Nepal Police took up the case. On the 15th day, we met Home Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar, who called up the IGP right in front of us, and asked him to apprehend the chief suspect in our mother’s disappearance. Even so, nothing happened. We later learned that the police was trying to hush up investigations due to political pressure. Even the police officials who had earlier accepted that Nikki Singh was the person responsible for the disappearance of our mother later denied having said so.
PHOTO: KESHAB THOKER
As we understand it, the case is being hushed up because of Singh’s connection with the home minister. In the meantime, we have held various sit-ins, signature campaigns and protests asking for justice. We even met the prime minister, who assured that there would be a breakthrough within three days. But nothing came of it. We then held a relay hunger strike, which prompted the government to put together an investigation team under a joint secretary at the home ministry. It’s been five months since, and the investigation team is yet to make its findings public. Whenever we inquire, they say they are following up, but nothing concrete comes out.
You have been a part of the Occupy Baluwatar campaign for the last 12 days. Has it in any way made a difference to your case?
We are more positive about a favorable outcome now that we have joined hands with other victims who are also waiting for justice. The movement has raised our hope that we will soon find our mother. Due to the pressure from the Occupy Baluwatar movement, the prime minister himself has asked the IGP to inquire about investigations into the disappearance of our mother. Acting on our written complaint, the court has directed the police to find out the mobile set from which we were sent a text message on the night of our mother’s disappearance, implying that our mother was in Manakamana on the day. This should help shed light on the case.
Do you have any specific demand from the government?
Since the day our mother went missing, our only demand has been that we should know what happened to our mother, to find out where she is. Once we meet our mother, everything else will be clear. Our sole demand is that wherever she is, she should be returned to us.
You two have had to deal with Nepal’s justice delivery system for the past 10 months. How effective is it?
On the basis of what we have had to go through, we have come to the conclusion that only those with ‘connections’ have the right to enjoy life. For the rest, their pain and suffering seem to hold no meaning. We visited many NGOs/INGOs, but all of them said they could offer us no more than moral support. We believe that commoners in this country are not even counted as human beings. Even during legal proceedings, we were not allowed inside the court. There were hundreds of police personnel deployed to stop us. But all those connected with the defense side were allowed easy access.
You said you are more hopeful that you will find your mother now. What makes you more hopeful?
Since joining Occupy Baluwatar, we have learned that there is vast difference between a single voice and a collective voice. We have received a great deal of social, moral and individual support, which has strengthened our case.
Both of you said that your studies have been interrupted for the last 10 months. What are your future plans?
Look, our mother is our life. Without her, it is very difficult to think about the next step in our lives. This mental torture we have had to endure for the last 10 months will end only when we get to see our mother again. Only then will our future course be clear. Right now, finding our mother is our one and only focus.
You said the prime minister has personally reviewed your case. Has he given you any specific timeline?
He said he would get to the heart of the issue by 15 days, of which 12 have already passed (on Tuesday). Let’s see what happens in the next three days. He has said that investigations into the case will be made public within the timeline and possible lapses in the case investigated.
Is there anything that you would like to get across to the general public?
We all know that the world is a selfish place. But since what happened to us can happen to anyone, we would like to call on the general public to understand our pain and help us get justice. I honestly believe that if the public supports our cause, not only will we get to the bottom of this case but we as a society will also have made big strides towards combating violence against women.