Around 200 people gather on the road that leads to the Prime Minister’s residence, in the northern suburbs of Kathmandu. Activists have called the campaign “Occupy Baluwatar”, referring to the up-market neighbourhood where the PM lives. A big banner, displaying thousands of signatures reads "Why do we remain silent about violence against women?”
Khadka Adhikari and his wife are holding a banner. Last month their daughter’s dead body was found at her work place. Police said it was suicide, but it’s clear to Khadka she was murdered.
"They said my daughter first took poison and then hanged herself in the shower. How can someone do that? My little grand daughter was saying that mummy is coming in half an hour but I was shown my daughter's dead body. I am a poor uneducated person. I don't know how the investigation works, but I am sure she was killed. And I want justice.”
Khadka has been standing in front of the Prime Minister’s residence for two hours a day since the protest started on December 28. Many students, activists, and local entrepreneurs have joined him in support of the protest.
Sushmita Basnet is holding a mic and chanting ‘we want justice’. She’s a nurse at a government hospital but now she’s leading a group of 100 people.
"Honestly, I have never felt insecure in my surroundings. But as I came to notice that during these two three months, there are number cases of human rights and they were targeted especially to women. And I felt like if she can be a victim, I can be victim. And I felt insecure about myself. It gave me energy and I felt I am obliged to fight against this injustice.
During the last two months of 2012, 16 women were murdered in different parts of the country and dozens of cases of rape were reported. But the case of migrant worker Sita Rae was the one that brought people out onto the streets.
Dr Renu Rajbhandari is the co-coordinator of the Women Human Rights Alliance.
"She was back from her work from Saudi Arabia but she got looted in immigration officers and she got raped by the police who was posted at the immigration department detention center. The way how the investigation was going on that case was fishy. We didn't like that one. There was another case where she was burnt alive in one of Terai district where 18 year old girl's body was found in burnt situation. So all those things demanded justice, but Government things were lingering. This is neither by the women human rights defender, activists. There are people who believe that women should get justice, without any political flag or without any organizational flags.”
The protestors are hoping that if enough people voice their anger, the PM will be forced to listen. A letter has been drafted and circulated on Facebook and Twitter and people are being urged to print, sign and send it to the PM. The campaign has spread to all local districts. Ujwal
Thapa is an IT entrepreneur.
" It's a stark fact that I don't want to live in a society where half of the population is victimized by the other half. It's against the basic human rights and the principle of peaceful country. I feel ashamed by the fact that Nepal's leadership does not take this issue very prominently. I feel as citizen, we are not being responsible because we are sitting silent, when crime against humanity is happening right under our doorstep.”
The United States said that recent widespread publicity of cases of rape, murder and the disappearance of Nepalese women has created a momentum for a real change. After immense pressure, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai agreed to form a special committee to reinvestigate the latest cases of violence against women.
Dr Renu Rajbhandari was appointed as a member of the committee.
"We want structural change. We know that present kind of system is not going to do the justice. First thing, the government has to come forward to end the impunity. Government has to be committed to say that no matter who commits the crime, we are accountable for. What is happening is criminals are very clearly protected by the political parties. Then this kind of Government faulty system protects them. This requires a long term struggle, collective effort to end that. If we all people get united, then we can challenge this criminalization of politics. Lot of pain we need to bear, but we will win. One day we will get the thing what we want.”
But the next morning, Dr Renu resigned. Referring to Sita Rae’s case, she questioned the government’s commitment to providing real justice for women.
"Especially in one case in Immigration case, a woman has been raped by the Government officer and Prime Minister apologizes in front of the people. And the Director of the Immigration Office is not charged. What is this? They need to be suspended otherwise their position in the home ministry, they can hide all the filed. And I am sure already things are manipulated.”
The protest continues... Protesters say that they won’t stop until they are assured that the government will take action. Every morning hundreds of people stand in front of the PM’s residence with banners displaying the same message: “Justice”