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Indian freedom fighters behind Nepal revolution?
Kathmandu | May 28, 2006 2:15:06 PM IST
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Ruled with an iron hand for over three centuries by hereditary Rana prime ministers and Shah kings, did Nepal have the first seeds of an armed revolution sown by two prominent freedom fighters from India? Yes, says a Nepali leader.

Ram Raja Prasad Singh, whose party was the first to demand the abolition of monarchy and wage attacks against the palace and the army, traces the genesis of Nepal's revolution to Indian leaders Jayprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia, who came to Nepal in 1942 to muster support for the "Quit India" movement against British rulers.

Singh was only seven years old when Narayan and Lohia arrived secretly in eastern Nepal to raise the Azad Hind Dasta, an organisation of guerrilla soldiers.

They planned to train the soldiers and join Subhash Chandra Bose, the Indian revolutionary leader who had formed the Indian National Army in Southeast Asia to fight the British.

The two leaders were sheltered in Saptari district by Singh's father Jai Mangal Prasad Singh, a Nepali landlord of Indian origin.

"While they were training in the forests, Nepali police discovered their cache of rifles, became alerted and arrested five, including Lohia and Narayan," says Singh, now in his 70s.

"Alarmed at the slur this would cast on his hospitality, my father and the newly trained guerrillas attacked the detention camps and freed the men. During the operation, my father killed two soldiers and was arrested and imprisoned. My younger brother Laxman and I were also made to stay with him. We were released after India became independent."

The chain of dramatic incidents in his childhood changed Singh's life. The final catalyst was meeting legendary South American revolutionary Che Guevara while studying in Delhi University.

Che advised him to start a revolution in Nepal, and Singh returned to Kathmandu to form the Nepal Janabadi Morcha, an organisation that planned to abolish monarchy through an armed revolution.

"But we had no arms," Singh reminisces.

"I contacted the Tamil guerrillas and assassinated Bangladesh prime minister Mujibur Rahman's nephew Tiger Siddiqui but both refused. So I went to Chambal, the bandit-infested forest region in India's Uttar Pradesh state, to buy guns from the gangs."

A woman bandit advised him to use explosives instead of firearms as they were more effective. He heeded her advice and roped in retired soldiers from the Nepal army to train his cadres.

Then in 1985, Nepal was rocked by a series of blasts in the capital and cities in the west and east, all of them occurring on the same day - June 20. At least eight people were killed, including a member of parliament.

In the capital, the blasts went off near the royal palace, at the deluxe Hotel de l'Annapurna owned by the royal family, Singh Durbar, the prime minister's office, and parliament.

Bombs also went off at the Bhairahawa airport, Nepalganj and Mahendranagar in the west as well as Birgunj, Janakpur, Biratnagar and Jhapa in the east.

Hundreds were arrested and Singh, Laxman and general secretary of the organisation, Khema Raj Mayalu, were sentenced to death in absentia. While they went underground, five more leaders were arrested and disappeared while in custody.

However, after the first spectacular attacks, the outfit was unable to continue due to lack of leaders as well as funds.

Now, two decades after the first armed revolt, Singh's dream of overthrowing monarchy is close to being fulfilled.

After a series of dramatic changes last month, Nepal's reinstated parliament decided to clip the powers of the king and pledged to hold an election that would enable people to choose between monarchy and a republic.

"When we wanted to end monarchy in the 70s, people laughed at us," Singh said, returning to Kathmandu this week after a long exile in India. "Now we feel vindicated."



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