BP's 107th Birth Anniversary
Ram Chandra Pokhrel
Even amidst the Coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic , Bishweshore Prasad (BP) Koirala was remembered throughout the country and elsewhere with the same sentiment that Nepalese people have cherished from the days of the revolution in 1951. On the occasion of his 107th birth anniversary that falls on September 8, 2020, people recalled him this time too with a fond memory of his sentiment attached to the downtrodden section of people that makes a real rural and vast Nepal.
Some academics and political leaders of this country often remember the then prime minister BP’s concern regarding the photos hanging on the wall of the Planning Commission. In his speeches he used to ask officers concerned to put one another picture of a peasant ploughing the field with oxen.
A Rare Leader
But BP Koirala was a rare leader who from his core of his heart had a place for the peasant-workers that were striving hard for their daily needs, mainly for salt and foodgrains. In the 1950, the Manifesto of Nepali Congress that was drafted by himself and issued after the merger of Nepal Democratic Congress with Nepali Rastriya Congress( led by BP), had focused enough on the issue. As he had mentioned people of “Nepal had been exploited so mercilessly through the century by the Rana rulers that only two classes were left in society- one, the rulers which had the treasury in their hands ,and the second, the vast poor mass which was being looted everyday.”
BP Koirala the helmsman of Nepalese democratic movement and a charismatic leader of Nepal was a rare personality of dedication and sacrifice. An unparalleled stature in the country’s politics, he is also remembered through his literary works, and books mostly written in Sundarijal Military Jail where he was kept for eight years. Scholars too have placed him as one of the rare asset of the nation even in this regard.
Besides the literary aspect, the multidimensional personality of BP had emerged of course not only through the academic knowledge but because of the dedication and sacrifice to the country which was still a medieval subsistence level economy with no literacy among the 90 per cent of the people.
Koirala was determined for a change, a drastic change in society. For it, he greatly felt the need of a revolution, first to overthrow the century old Rana family oligarchy, and the second,a system of democratic governance. To make the dream a success, first, he made a call for the Nepalese people to be united under one banner of democracy, in September 1946 that is remembered as “Nepal Aahwan”. It was published in "Searchlight" published from Patna ,India.
Call For Revolution
“Nepal is in bad way in every respect. There is no any liberty of any kind. The rulers are above the law .and people are steeped to ignorance and squalor," said in his appeal; and called for the spirited Nepalese friends both in India and Nepal to be united together and form a broad based party for a change in the country. It was the beginning of the foundation of the revolution.
Based on the principles and fundamentals of democracy, the Nepali National Congress was formed in January 1947 at a conference held in Calcutta where Ganesh Man Singh had reached to participate from within the country who had escaped from the heavily guarded central jail in Kathmandu. Since the days of the inception of the party, he went ahead with his fight against the Rana dictatorship and opposition against exploitation of the peasants and workers.
Even the revolutionary forces that had just broken the clutches of Rana rule in different districts in the country had introduced reforms. They did not delay to introduce tenants rights in ploughing fields and started green revolution, established schools instead of the traditional education at Pathshalaa, and classes were opened even for the dalits students and girl students of all communities. Undue labor and excessive interest on loans were strictly prohibited and frauds in measuring goods and grains were punished.
Those were the progressive steps taken by the provisional governments but all these reforms continued even after the declaration of democracy on February 18, 1951 (Falgun 7 Gate). We should not forget that those reforms were the reflections of the sentiments close to the principle of socialism deeply attached to the party led by him. Yet the party had not officially declared socialism as its guiding principle.
Despite grudges in some quarters, Nepali Congress at its sixth convention held at historic town of Birgunj in 1955 adopted the resolution of ‘democratic socialism’ unanimously as its guiding principle. Many socialist leaders in India, Burma, and Indonesia and other parts of Asia hailed it .The Asian Socialist Conference (ASC) expressed its happiness over the historic decision taken by the party. The news of NC’s commitment to socialism reached as a fresh wave to the Socialist International headquarters in London and many social democrats congratulated over it. They might have thought that the wave of the ideals and principle touched even ‘the land of Yeti and the Everest’.
Though BP was one of the founder members of ASC that was established in 1953, yet his party had resolution passed only in 1955. It paved the way to participate as a socialist party in the Second Conference of ASC held in Bombay in 1956. The delegation from NC was led by BP and other delegates were Subarna Shumshere, Ganesh Man Singh , Surya Prasad Upadhyay, Dr Tribeni Prasad Pradhan and Dr.Tulsi Giri. The Bombay Conference was historic for NC for two reasons – first , the conference at its resolution adopted recognition of NC as a socialist party and awarded it with full membership; and the second, it decided to hold its bureau meeting in Kathmandu after one year.
Speaking as the senior leader of the movement, BP Koirala had thanked all for their decisions and said, “In European society the principle of socialism was based on mainly on labourers," but he said , "In Asia , where most of the countries lagged behind industrialization, pillars of the principle are peasants.” Highlighting the problems then facing Asia he underlined the need of sharing the responsibility to solve the deteriorating situations in Indonesia and Middle East as well. He expressed his confidence that “only the ideals of socialism , democracy and tolerance would have the power to solve such problems”.
Thus socialism made NC a prominent party in Asia and a friend of socialist parties of other continents of the world. With this, BP started his preparation for the forth coming bureau meeting to be held in Kathmandu.On March 26, 1958 the bureau meeting of the socialist conference held in Kathmandu at Sital Niwas official guest house ( now Rastrapati Bhawan) amidst a very sentimental atmosphere . Only on the eve of the conference two veteran members of the party who were flying to Kathmandu from the Terai town of Simara to participate in the conference were killed at the plane crash. Paying the high tribute,however, the conference was convened as the yet another historic march towards socialism.
BP Leads Nepali Delegation
Though the bureau meeting of ASC was organised by NC party,yet it was the first international conference in Nepal with the participation of international delegates from the socialist parties of different countries of Asia, Europe and elsewhere of the world. The three-day conference attended by the delegates from India, Pakistan, Japan, West Africa, Burma (Myanmar), Israel, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Nepal was by no means a unique one.
From Nepal in the delegation led by BP Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai (Kishunji) and Surya Prasad Upadhyay were the members.
Even King Mahendra had held a dinner reception in honor of the foreign delegates at Singhdurbar Belaiti Baithak !
During his speech BP Koirala throwing light on the world situation including Indonesia and Middle East, he reminded the responsibility of the socialists laying on their shoulders and said, "the ideals of socialism, democracy and tolerance could have the power to solve such problems.’ Even he emphasised further that ‘If socialists could contribute to create an atmosphere of understanding it would be the matter of great significance and pleasure for us."
The conference not only boosted the high morale of democrats at large , but also put the sovereign and independent existence and the status of Nepal into a lime light that had been preserving since time immemorial. In this part of the great himalayan region the identity of Nepal brightened once again at the heart of the foreign delegates gathered from around the globe.
Moreover, it paved the way to the road to ‘democratic socialism’ that had already been existed in international politics since the beginning of 19th century.
In 1977,Theodore Jacqueney, the Associate Editor of the prestigious ‘World View” has viewed BP's personality as ‘One of the Third World’s leading champions of electoral, pluralistic democracy…' But more than that he was a popular leader and one of the towering personality who advocated ‘democratic socialism’ for the Third World countries particularly under developed countries like Nepal.
Even in the days of his exile in India in 1970’s when he was struggling for restoration democracy and democratic rights of the people in Nepal, he never lagged behind to energise the youths through his inspiring lectures and writings on democratic socialism.
Earlier, his association with the veteran Indian leaders in jail during the days of India’s Independence Movement following Gandhi's launch of the “Quit India Movement’ in
1942, was indeed a rare moment to introduce himself as a truly dedicated democrat and a youth leader.
But his close association with Jaya Prakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia inspired him to be more committed to the ideology. Nehru also was greatly inspired by the ideology during his earlier days of his political career but leaders like JP and Lohia had created a separate socialist group within the Indian National Congress party in which Koirala was associated.
A True Revolutionary
BP Koirala was a revolutionary leader of the category who never compromised to his ideals and principles but preferred arrests and jails throughout his political career.
That was the reason why Socialist International, the international organisation of the social democratic parties of the world, had recognised him as the vice-chairman of the organisation even when his party was outlawed and banned.
In those critical years he had travelled to Europe and had met the prominent leaders and friends. He visited a number of American and European political figures and journalists including the former W. German Chancellor Willy Brandt, the then chairman of the Socialist International of which his party Nepali Congress belongs as a member.
Koirala had also met Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and the chief of the Socialist party of Spain, Felipe Gonzalez.
We should not forget that the Labor Party of Great Britain had issued a public resolution backing Koirala’s ' Struggle for Freedom and Democracy' in Nepal calling for his release. Besides, The Times of London had published its editorial on Koirala’s behalf.
This is just a glimpse of BP Koirala's political career, was largely dedicated gaining democratic socialism by moving to the road to socialism.
(Pokhrel is former member of parliament representing Nepali Congress)
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