Dena’s father and grandfather are in prison unable to pay a private moneylender
Mother says RBP Thimphu did not send any personnel to search for her girl on the first day despite an official complaint
Geeta Maya Adhikari, 33, the mother of the deceased Dena Koirala, not only threw more light on events surrounding the disappearance of her nine-year-old daughter on 9th December, but also the series of tragedies and hardships that the family faced in the last four years that drove them to live in a PWD colony in Dechencholing from where her daughter disappeared.
Geeta who is a cleaner with Thimphu Thromde said that on the fateful day of Monday 9th December morning she had left her house with her daughter Dena Koirala, her four-year-old son and one-year-old son for her cleaning work.
Dena, who was in class two in Dechencholing School was on a winter break after her exams, and she accompanied her mother to baby sit her two younger brothers, while the mother cleaned the drains and a local children park.
On the way to the work site the mother realized that she had left her bank card at home and so would not be able to withdraw money that she needed. She gave the house key in the hands of her daughter at around 10.30 am in the morning and asked her to go get the bank card.
This was the last that Geeta saw of her daughter who never turned up.
Geeta after waiting for a while went to the house looking for her daughter. On the way she asked a local guy who sells Doma if he saw her but he said he did not.
“When I reached the house the door was still locked. I broke the lock and entered inside to find that the bank card was still there in its place,” said Geeta.
She then asked around about her daughter but nobody had seen her.
By 12.30 pm realizing that something was seriously amiss the mother said she called 113 where she was advised to file a written complaint in the Police Station.
With a one-year-old son and four-year-old son under her sole care it was not easy looking for her lost daughter by herself.
Panicked Geeta headed to the Taba Community Police Center (CPC) by around 1.15 pm where she told the local police about her daughter who had gone missing.
Geeta said, “The community police said that my daughter may have gone to play with her friends and I was asked to look for her once again. The police even said she might turn up on her own.”
Geeta then went back and looked high and low for her around the place calling out her name but with no luck.
She called the Taba CPC around 2.30 after that and she was told that she would have to file a report in the Thimphu police station.
She said she reached the Thimphu PS by around 5.30 pm and filed a written report. She then said that the Thimphu PS told her that it is already late and dark and it would not be possible to search for her daughter and that in addition to that police personnel were on National Day duty too.
The PS said that it could have sent some people if she had come earlier.
Geeta went back hoping that her daughter would be back by evening but even that hope vanished when her daughter did not come by nightfall.
By around 8.30 pm, Geeta went and informed Dena’s teachers who lived nearby and requested them to put up her missing person’s picture on Facebook which they did.
She and her friends in the PWD colony then launched a search for her in the dark till midnight with no luck.
Next day, around 10.30 am, Geeta again called the Thimphu PS asking them to send personnel for searching her daughter. She was asked to contact a senior officer at the station to make the request which she did. She said that the police personnel came only around 2 pm to 3 pm on the 10th December to help look for her daughter.
“The police also came on the 11th and helped a lot in searching for her,” she said.
Geeta said that when the police checked the CCTV camera of a private house it showed her daughter heading towards the house. There was a slightly older girl behind her but at a distance but there was nothing suspicious in the video.
Geeta said that on the morning of the 11th she heard cries that her daughter had been found and she ran full of hope and also fear along with the other people to the area, but she was shattered to see only the body of her daughter there. She broke down as she said this and recounted the memory of her dead child.
The RBP and Forest on 13th December said that in all probability a feline animal, probably a leopard, killed Dena. Forensic evidence ruled out rape.
While still deep in grief, there was some relief in the mother’s voice that her daughter atleast did not suffer rape in the end.
Meanwhile, the Thimphu PS OC Major Nima said that when Geeta reached the PS on the evening of the 9th they followed standard protocol and after registering her complaint took the picture and details of the girl and shared it through Telegram with all the police patrol parties that do their normal rounds in the city including at the check posts.
He said that it is not true that manpower cannot be spared due to National Day as there are separate personnel deputed for National Day. He said that he is trying to find out who said this to Geeta and so far all the dealing clerks and other officers have denied saying this.
Geeta was the sole bread earner for her two young sons and daughter as her husband or Dena’s father and grandfather were locked up by the Dorokha Dungkhag court for not being able to pay a private moneylender.
Geeta said that her husband was earlier a city bus driver earning Nu 12,000 a month and she was a housewife and they somehow managed.
However, in February 2019 her husband Yaganand Koirala, 33, was sentenced to five years and three months for not being able to pay Nu 250,000 along with her husband’s father Setu Lal Koirala who got two years and two months for a smaller amount. They had paid off the larger loan to the private moneylender but only a smaller remaining amount led them to be prosecuted in court and put behind bars.
Geeta said that with her husband gone, and all their savings and land gone in paying for the loan there was no income for her and her three children.
Geeta said that she and her three children did not even have enough to eat in the first few months when she did not have a job.
She desperately hunted for a job and got a temporary one going in place of a PWD worker whose leg had broken but she got paid only Nu 2,000 for that.
She finally landed up a job as a Thromde cleaner getting Nu 6,000 a month.
“The money was never enough and it was so tough I would even eat less, but I would provide for my children and especially my daughter who was in school,” said Geeta.
She said that apart from managing the meagre food ration she had to ensure that Dena’s school expenses were met.
She said that she dreaded the times that her daughter came home and was asked to bring some semso or donation for the school’s activities.
Dena, was a great help in babysitting her younger brothers and doing chores.
“We had great difficulty making ends meet but what gave me hope was that Dena said she would become a doctor and help her family,” said Geeta as she broke down again into muffled sobs.
Both the father and grandfather who have been temporarily released for Dena’s rituals for 21 and 14 days respectively said that the original amount taken by the grandfather was Nu 1.7 mn to supply oranges. He claimed he still has the legal agreement.
The grandfather, Setu Lal, 61, said, “I took the money as an advance to supply oranges in 2014 from a private money lender cum orange businessman but in the same year my father died and later my wife’s leg broke and so I could not do the business well and could supply only Nu 465,000 worth of oranges.”
In 2015, the private money lender put an interest of 3 percent per month (36% a year) and increased the balance of 1.2 mn to 1.8 mn. “The money lender threatened to put me to court and arrest me right away if I did not agree to the increased amount and so I agreed to it and signed with the additional clause that I would pay the whole amount within three months.”
However, unable to pay the amount within three months Setu Lal was locked up in 2015 itself by the Dorokha court.
He said that his son (Dena’s father) and Geeta paid 10 lakhs in cash after selling their and his wife’s jewelry, valuables and vehicles and the Dena’s father and mother stood as his guarantor to pay the remaining amount to get Setu out of jail.
In 2016 the Dorokha court locked up Dena’s father and mother both for not being able to pay the remaining amount they had guaranteed.
Setu said to get his son and wife out he paid 3 lakhs in cash from. Later, additional amounts were paid in cash from 2016 onwards including handing over a 13 decimal plot in Damphu town to the private moneylender.
Setu, the grandfather, sighed heavily and said that all in all for the 1.7 mn loan he took, they paid back Nu 2.5 mn after selling all the family assets and land.
He said the money lender still said Nu 365,000 was due which the now bankrupt and destitute family did not have. Setu appealed to the moneylender to let them go given that the entire principal had been given back with interest and more.
“But I think the moneylender wanted to hurt us now and so he anyhow put the small amount in court and the court sentenced me and my son,” said Setu.
As if the long prison terms calculated at Nu 125 per day was not enough, the Dorokha court gave both the grandfather and the son six months’ additional sentence each for not appearing for earlier court summons.
Dena’s father and grandfather started their sentence from February 2019 and they only finished their six months’ contempt of court sentence around August 2019 and after that they started serving their actual sentences at three months each with is a total of nine months each so far.
The private moneylender when contacted claimed that he actually lent Nu 2 mn with two installments of Nu 500,000 and Nu 1.5 mn. He said he levied interest and so the amount to be paid back became Nu 2.2 mn of which he did not not get Nu 365,000.
Setu, however, contradicted the moneylender and claimed he has legal agreements to show the original Nu 1.7 mn loan which got inflated to such an extent with interest that he is still behind bars even after paying Nu 2.5 mn.
The family had reached such a desperate point that while Dena’s funeral was done in Thimphu her prayers and rites are being done in the home of her grandfather’s brother.
Setu said that he does not have even one decimal in his name and even his house in the village was burgled and robbed while he was in prison.
However, while Dena was a blessing and source of hope for her mother when she was alive, she was also a blessing in her death for the whole family.
A donation drive of citizens led by a private citizen, Damber Ghimiray until Friday afternoon led to the raising of around Nu 1 mn. This amount which has come as a lifesaver will enable them to use the money for Dina’s rites and also allow Dina’s father and grandfather to pay the Nu 365,000 due and come out of prison too.
Geeta Maya Adhikari’s (Dena’s mother) BoB Bank Account number is 101559918 for those who want to help.
Picture of Dena Koirala used with her mother’s permission to commemorate her memory.