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Crime continues unabated during Nepal lockdown

Two young men from Kathmandu Valley were seen on the country’s eastern frontier, Kakarbhitta, inside the car (Ba 6 Cha 7019) on Sunday last week. Dil Kumar Shrestha, 33, of Lalitpur and Ganesh Adhikari, 28, of Kathmandu introduced themselves as medical persons and stated that they had come to Kakarbhitta for a health camp.

But, officials of the local police post say the duo did not look like health workers. Further, their identity cards were blurred.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Rajendra Pokharel says, “As soon as we started inquiring about the health camp in detail, they seemed inconsistent. We had to call another doctor in order to find out the reality.”

The local doctor came to support the police investigation and asked the suspects their registration numbers with the Nepal Medical Council. They were answerless.

Only then, the two admitted their mistake.

Officers involved in the investigation say, “Finally, during the interrogation process, it was revealed that both men were not medical persons, but drug abusers.” They had also confiscated Rs 125,000 cash from them.

As they did not find drugs in the valley, they seem to have gone there seeking the substances. The police have now quarantined them in Mechinagar.

According to Basanta Lama, the acting chief of the Narcotics Control Bureau, addicted drug users are ready to go anywhere to get their drugs. “So despite the lockdown, the drug addicts are running here and there,” SSP Lama tells Onlinekhabar, “But with the lockdown practised even in the neighbouring country (India), the supply of drugs is almost impossible at present.”

“Meanwhile, the bureau is also aware that previously-stocked materials may be traded,” Lama says.

How lockdown served as an opportunity for murder

Due to the lockdown, Urmila Devi Pandit’s family was in the house at Ramnagari, Bahudarmai municipality-8, Parsa. She would have rarely thought that she would breathe her last on April 3 night.

However, as the neighbours were also locked in their houses, her father-in-law Suresh Pandit, mother-in-law Phul Kumari Devi and sister-in-law Malwi Devi murdered 27-year-old Urmila, reveals Ganga Pant, the chief of Parsa District Police Office.

According to police, the family tried to destroy the evidence by burning her body the next day, seizing the chance of the lockdown. However, the police surrounded the ghat and took control on time, before the body was burnt.

Initially, the family claimed that Urmila Devi committed suicide, but in that case also, it was against the law to burn the body without informing the police.

“During the investigation, it is found that they killed her suspecting that she was having an extra-marital affair while her husband was abroad,” SP Pant tells Onlinekhabar, adding, “Further investigation is underway.”

 ‘Big fish’ got arrested

File: Sulav Agarwal

On Tuesday last week, the police arrested businessperson Sulav Agarwal from Naxal on the charge of black-marketeering.

An owner of the Shanker Group, Agarwal was accused of selling infrared thermometers, which cost around Rs 3,000-5,000 per unit, at Rs 15,000 each.

SSP Sahakul Bahadur Thapa of the Metropolitan Police Crime Division says Agarwal, also the honorary consul of Kyrgyzstan in Nepal, was arrested during a covert operation carried on the basis of a tip-off. Thirty-eight thermal guns were confiscated from him.

Meanwhile, he is also found to have misused a vehicle of a diplomatic agency having blue number plate. Police also confiscated the vehicle.

Theft and violence against women

Theft cases have also been reported in the valley during the lockdown. A few days ago, within a couple of hundred metres away from Basundhara Chok, an unidentified gang barged into a house and stole Rs 100,000 in cash.

According to DSP Hobindra Bogati, there was no one in the house during the theft.

According to DSP Rungam Kunwar, chief of the Metropolitan Police Circle in Kalimati, a theft case has been reported in his area also during the lockdown, whose investigation is in progress.

Meanwhile, many verbal complaints have been registered in the Women and Children Cell in Kalimati during this period. As the lockdown got extended, cases of domestic violence may increase, says one official there.

“But the lockdown has made it difficult for many to file a complaint,” she adds, hence the number of written complaints is comparatively low.

“Violence happening in educated families comes out, but most of the problems are in the uneducated class,” she adds, “The class which is in a state of great suffering does not want to come to the police.”

The chief of Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range, Uttam Raj Subedi suggests, telephoning the police control helpline number 100 or contacting the nearest police station in such cases, assuring the police would go to the victim’s doorsteps whenever needed.

Cybercrime on the rise

According to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s Office, Ranipokhari, so many cybercrime complaints have been registered in the valley during the lockdown. Just in Kathmandu district, three incidents of electronic crime have been registered.

Nabendra Aryal, an official of the Central Cybercrime Bureau, says 37 complaints have been received in the bureau in this period. According to him, most of the applications are on issues like social media profile blocking and fake IDs.

“During the lockdown, as most people are at home only, busy on their computers and the internet, the crime has increased,” SSP Aryal tells Onlinekhabar.

He adds, “We also have sent letters to the Facebook office to assist in many cases in the investigation. However, the answer has not come yet. “ Nevertheless, Aryal assures that required and best possible analysis and investigation of the incidents are going on.

According to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bishwa Raj Pokharel, there have been 78 cases registered in various charges throughout the valley from the beginning of lockdown till April 6. Before that, nearly 300 criminal cases used to be registered in just one week.

In the lockdown period, the highest number of cases registered is of accidental deaths (40). Although there has been only one theft case registered, more than 10 such incidents have been made public. Three rape cases and a few drug-related cases have been registered in this period.

SSP Umesh Raj Joshi, the central spokesperson of Nepal Police, however, claims the rate of crime is negligible during this period as the movement of people across the country has slowed down.

International trends in the pandemic and Nepal’s challenges

International media have also reported similar trends across the world. The number of arrests has decreased during the lockdown; however, the number of theft and other property crimes has increased in many places.

Some American media have reported that medical material such as surgical mask has been stolen from clinics. The news of assaulting Chinese citizens in the US has also come out. The number of frauds has increased in different countries.

In some countries, the general public has been found to be abusive to feverish persons. Likewise, other types of abuses including coughing at the side of a person one dislikes or envies or with whom one is angry have been reported.

Retired Nepal Police AIG Devendra Subedi says as the lockdown continues, its byproducts are becoming more visible in the society and it is not surprising at all.

“This is a new experience for everyone. But, as the lockdown goes on, it can lead to a point where a citizen has to choose between hunger and disease,” Subedi tells Onlinekhabar, “Then criminal activities will increase.” However, he says Nepal is not in a dire state now.

According to sociologist Kailash Nath Pyakurel, with the extension of the lockdown, people might suffer from anger, frustration, depression and anxiety. As a result of that, different types of crime will happen.

He adds, “Middle-class families and labourers are making a living by doing small businesses.  They have no alternative to livelihoods during long days of the shutdown which can lead society in the wrong direction.” Hence, it is crucial for all the units of the society along with the government to be aware of this issue, he suggests.

“As of now, the working class is getting support from the local government or other organisations. However, as the situation gets worse, scarier situations, when one fears helping them as well, could come,” says Hemant Malla Thakuri, a retired DIG of Nepal Police, adding, “If such a situation comes, the working class who are starving may become the biggest threat.”

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Pokharel is an Onlinekhabar correspondent covering security and crime.

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