Thursday, 6 May, 2021

A Glorious Saga Of Sacrifices


Parmeshwar Devkota

In the book, 'Conversation with Goethe,' Johann Peter Eckermann quotes Johanna Wolfgang von Goethe, as saying, "A great revolution is never the fault of the people, but the government."
Goethe's statement well applies to the revolution of 1951 that swept away the 104-year long Rana regime. The people made huge sacrifices on the altar of revolution to liberate their motherland from the clutches of the Rana oligarchy.
They worked secretly or openly against the autocracy with the full knowledge that they would be tortured, punished, banished or killed for their revolt. They were committed to their cause and formed organisations to prepare the compatriots for the revolution.

Appeal for revolution
In 1936, Mahabir School was established in Kathmandu to spread awareness among students as well as their guardians about the ruthlessness of the Rana regime. Similarly, 'Nepali Nagrik Adhikar Samiti' came into being in 1937 for the same purpose. Samiti used to recite lines from Hindu texts like Geeta and Mahabharata and contextualised them to appeal to the locals to fight against the family rule of Ranas.
Similarly, there was a considerable number of people and organisations devoted to overthrowing the hereditary rule through confrontations. Laxman Singh Thapa of Kahule Bhangar in Gorkha was one of those people. An Indian ex-army man, Thapa formed his group of about 1,500 armed individuals to end Jung Bahadur's rule in 1927-33 B.S., taking inspiration from the charismatic priest of Manakamana Temple LakhanThapa Magar.
Thapa was captured and tortured before his skin was scalded and killed along with his several friends. Similar is the history of Baldev Shah of Achham. Shah had defied death and fought against Ranas. In his ‘Baisi Rajyako Itihas,’ Gopinath Sharma recounts that as the army stationed in Achham started terrorising the local people immediately after Jung Bahadur captured power in Kathmandu, Shah wrote a letter to the former for ending the terror, but his request fell on the deaf ears of new rulers. Then, Shah started a campaign against Jung Bahadur in 1846 AD.

Squad against rebels
As Jung Bahadur visited Mahakali in 1850 AD for hunting, he knew about Baldev Shah and formed a three-man squad under the supervision of Colonel Khadga Bahadur Kunwar Rana to kill Shah. He ordered the secret team to bring the head of Shah to Kathmandu. It included Bhawani Singh Swar, Kalu Singh Swar and Rudrabir Swar.
Rudrabir impersonated as a supporter of Shah and started the door-to-door campaign with him for the uprising. But, one evening, when Shah was washing his head bowing down to a stone spout at Kaphalkhet in Achham, Rudrabir cut off his head with a sword. Shah should be considered as the first martyr of Nepal. There were a number of unsung heroes who laid their lives to end the despotic Rana rule.
In a similar manner, politically enlightened people also formed organisations to overthrow the Rana rule. Established in 1931, Prachanda Gorkha was first organisations involving politically conscious people. But, Ranas knew about the design of this organisation and arrested all of its members. Many of them were tortured, left hungry for days and killed brutally.
Nepal Praja Parishad was another political organisation set up at Ombahal in Kathmandu in 1938 with the support of late King Tribhuvan. It sought to end the Rana regime and establish a liberal democracy. Ranas learnt its secret activities and started arresting its members. The government published an arrest notice in Gorkhapatra on October 18, 1940, putting a bounty of Rs 5, 000 on the head of every member.
An ardent member of Nepal Praja Parishad, Shukraraj Shatri was hung at Teku at the night of January 23, 1941. On January 25, Dharmabhakta Mathema was hung at Sifal and Dasharath Chanda and Gangalal Shrestha were shot dead at Shobha Bhagawati on the same day.
Nepali Rastriya Congress, another strong political organisation, was established in India in presence of the leaders of Indian Congress and Muslim League of India on June 16, 1946. BP Koirala, son of dissenter Krishna Prasad Koirala, issued a statement stressing the importance of public awareness of the establishment of 'Jana-Rajya' (people's rule in Nepal). His appeal created a big political ripple in Nepal.
In 1950, the Nepali Congress was formed by the merger of Nepali National Congress and Nepal Democratic Congress. It staged a labour strike at Biratnagar Jute Mill Ltd on March 4, 1947. It declared armed struggle against the Ranas from April 13, 1947.
Many Nepalis sacrificed their lives for the cause of the revolution. In December of 1950, about 30, 000 miles of land had come under the control of Nepali Congress and the uprising engulfed the Kathmandu Valley as well as other parts of the country. King Tribhuvan, Nepali Congress and the representatives of Mohan Shumsher sit for dialogue in New Delhi to bring an end to the revolt against Ranas under the aegis of Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Three sides agreed on an agreement known as the Delhi Accord. As per this, the ten-member joint cabinet of Nepali Congress and Ranas was formed. The portfolios of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Defence, Minister for Forest and Health went to Ranas. BP Koirala was appointed Home Minister, Subarna Shumsher Minister of Finance and Ganeshman Singh Minister for Industry and Commerce respectively.
In a general sense, a revolution brings a large-scale change in political leadership and gets rid of the old establishment to introduce a new system of governance. It restructures the industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors of society. Above all, it changes peoples' perception and thoughts. But, the 1951 revolution failed to bring about drastic changes to the Nepali society if the achievements were weighed against the number of sacrifices of lives and struggles against the despotic rule.

Tribute to martyrs
Immediately after the tripartite consensus was forged in New Delhi, it fell into controversy. Revolutionary leaders like Dr KI Singh and Bhim Dutta Panta outright rejected it. Panta refused to put down arms and he led a peasant uprising. But later he was captured and in Dadeldhura. Chiniya Kaji was shot dead while protesting in the streets of Kathmandu. Nepal saw similar political uprisings in 1990 and 2006 revolutions as well. Whatever the outcome of these ‘revolutions’, we must pay tribute to all known and unknown martyrs for their great sacrifices for democracy and wellbeing of people on the 70th Democracy Day being marked across the country today.

(Devkota is the Managing Editor of this daily)