The drawn-out investigation into the rape and murder of 13-year-old Nirmala Panta in Kanchanpur district has stoked public rumour that the authorities are deliberately delaying the probe to protect the perpetrators.

The suspicion has gained ground as the case has already led to suspension of the district police chief and transfer of chief district officer for allegedly mishandling the investigation in the wake of the July 26 incident. Police have been saying that the investigation is ongoing. But it is hard to trust them due to all the controversies surrounding the event. Who knows, they could still be conspiring to protect the real perpetrators?” said Nirmala’s mother Durga Devi.

Nirmala’s family and many people in Kanchanpur suspect that the authorities are trying to frame Dilip Singh Bista, a mentally ill man whom police have presented as the main suspect behind the crime—the claim that Kanchanpur residents have vociferously dismissed.

After the protests over Nirmala’s gruesome killing and police allegedly framing an innocent man turned violent in the weeks following the incident a teenage boy was shot dead and scores of people were injured when police opened fire at a rally on August 24, the Home Ministry formed a five-member probe team to revisit the case. The newly appointed police chief of Kanchanpur, SP Kuber Kadayat, also vowed to catch the perpetrators.Neither the probe team nor the district police under a new leadership have achieved a significant progress in the case.SP Kadayat said the investigation is in progress.

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