Fourteen human rights activists have returned to Kathmandu from Nepalgunj seeking justice for Nankuni Dhobi of Banke, who was allegedly murdered, and Nirmala Kurmi, who disappeared.

The activists arrived in Kathmandu after staging a sit-in at Nepalgunj for 11 days. They have demanded that authorities concerned arrest and punish former lawmaker Badshah Kurmi, stating that he is the main suspect in Nirmala’s disappearance.

Police had detained seven persons for their involvement in the incident on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the Banke District Court on October 7.

The arrested were Krishna Murari Singh, Urmila Kanounia, Amar Lal Kurmi, Birendra Singh, Ramesh Kumar Thapa, Parbati Bista and Kunwar Baban Singh. Baban was later released as he has reached the age of 80.

However, rights activists say that the authorities had not arrested the main culprit Badshah Kurmi. Ruby Khan, who is leading the protest campaign, said the movement would now intensify as other convicts were also released on bail on Sunday.

Ruby had earlier staged a hunger strike for 12 days in Kathmandu demanding that authorities conduct an impartial investigation into both the incidents. She said that attempts were made to prevent the main accused. “Now even other accused have been released. This shows the state of our justice system,” said Khan.

“The release of all accused has added to the challenges facing single women. Impunity to those with influence and power has created more fear for women,” she said.

According to Khan, Badshah Kurmi was involved in Nirmala’s disappearance and he has grabbed as well as rented out her land. “Badshah Kurmi had eyes on Nirmala’s land, so they kidnapped her and held her hostage. She was later killed,” she said.

Nankunni, 38, was found dead under suspicious circumstances at her home on July 20 in Ward 2 of Janaki Rural Municipality in Banke. Nirmala, 52, had gone missing in January 2010 from the same rural municipality. Her disappearance came just two years after her two teenage sons were murdered within a span of a week. Neighbors and villagers say Nirmala owned a great deal of property, making her disappearance and the murder of her two sons suspicious. But police allegedly never took the case of her disappearance seriously.

“The families of both the women took the matter to the District Police Office, but the police sided with the accused. So we were forced to come Kathmandu to seek justice,” Ruby said.

On September 17, a total of 17 people left Nepalgunj for Kathmandu, on foot, demanding justice for Kurmi and Nankunni. They later returned from Kathmandu after the government promised to conduct an impartial investigation into the incidents and book those guilty.

Days later, an investigation committee was formed under the coordination of Home Ministry Joint Secretary Hiralal Regmi to probe into the said deaths. The committee submitted its report to Home Minister Bal Krishna Khan on October 14.

Ruby said that lack of action against former lawmaker Badshah and the release of other accused would send a message that people with political power cannot be held accountable in Nepal and this will further establish impunity in the society.