For me the Nepali Congress office at Jamal was the center of the universe back in 80s…. Six months ago was the last time I went NC office (now in Sanepa) and found that NC have transformed into a club of different interest groups.
By Puskar Magar
Magar is a NC supporter and now lives in United Arab Emirate
It was in the mid 80’s, when I started I.A. program in Ranta Rajya Campus, Kathmandu. We had a group of students of about 5 from Chitwan, Nawal Parasi and Tanhaun. Because of our close friendship and same political orientation, we decided to get rooms in the same building in Bag Bazaar behind the old bus park, Ratna Park. Political climate in the campus was always amazingly hot. There was either welcome party for new comers or Nepal Student Union Unit meetings or frequent verbal/physical fights with communist students. And it was our daily routine to go to Nepali Congress (NC) Party Office in Jamal. By the time we were back in our room, it was already 7:30pm. Then, we had to prepare for next day morning class. In a way, our life was busy but exciting.
I learnt so much about politics from NC Jamal Office. For me NC Jamal office was the center of the universe. I wanted to go there every single day. By 1: 00p.m. NC workers started to gather. There was a teashop, next to the office, ran by a NC worker from Sangjha: Bhagbat Dai. He served the best quality tea. Until top trio leaders: Ganesh Man Jee, Kishun Jee and Girija Babu arrived, we spent time inside the teashop. Most of the time NC cadres were either discussing on current political issues or narrating their past political experiences. The environment inside the teashop was like another political science class room.
Normally, Kishun jee used to come first. Then Girija Babu and Ganesh Man jee at the last. When any of these three leaders arrived, we all used to stand up and greet them with “Jay Nepal”. First hour or so, senior leaders used to talk about some serious matters themselves privately. Their room remained closed during that time. Then the room was open for all party workers. Entering that room was always the best feeling. Listening to the top three leaders face to face was equally emotional and rewarding, which I cherish for rest of my life. During that time, we all had easy access to our leaders.
There were only three useable rooms in the office. One was for the top three leaders; another one was for second tier leaders like Basu Dai and Yog Prasad Jee. And the third room was for the students. The student room was always the noisiest room in the building. The topic of the talks varied room to room – from party policies; to where NC workers were beaten up by communist or Mandale; to potential meeting between Girija Babu and King Birendra.
Basu Dai l and Yog Prasad Jee always seemed to be more focused on logistical aspects: communicating with party workers, writing scholarship recommendation for students who wanted to go to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc; tracking who is in hospital; what their needs were; and if party workers had passed away; and what could be done for their family.
I remember a day vividly. A NC worker from Baglung died in Bir Hospital. The family wanted to take his body to their hometown for cremation but the family was financially broke. The wife and 12 years old son were asking the party leaders for transportation arrangements so that they could take the body to Baglung. First, Basu Dai and Yog Prasad jee tried to find a solution but it was on vain. Then Ganesh Man Jee made about 3 phone calls and managed to rent a taxi to Pokhara. I believe Tara Bhatt Dai found a solution for Pokhara to Baglung section. The family had not eaten enough for two days. I had 95 rupees allocated to buy books but wanted to give to the family. The wife burst into tear and replied “Khai Ke Bhanam”. That was one of the best decisions of my life. In those old days NC leaders/cadres had a bond and they really cared for each other. For me that’s the legacy of NC Jamal office.
Later I learnt that the wife of the NC cadre succumbed to jaundice and the son had gone to Lacknow, India for work. I have no further information about him. I still remember their faces fondly and I hope the son is doing ok wherever he is.
During my 6 years stay in Kathmandu and interaction with NC leaders/cadres, I realized that NC was the party of the people from all walks. The large numbers of people were from middle class families. I am still not sure how the party was running financially. When a cadre was hospitalized, or when some one died, leaders had to work really hard to arrange financial support. My impression is that people like Kuber Sharma, Sagar Samsher Rana, Ram Krishna Tamkakar etc. helped NC financially during those difficult days.
I remember another incident. One of my friends was about to have an operation and he needed some blood immediately. I went to NC office. Then the influential student leader Hridaya Ram Thani talked to three students standing by. All three (one from Jhapa and two from Lamjung) were ready to donate the blood. All three went to Teaching Hospital with me. My friend got the blood from the Jhapali student and the operation went well.
Later I came to know that the student, who gave the blood, had already donated blood six times within the last five months. I salute the Jhapali student for his eagerness to help fellow friends and party workers. This is just one example. I met many inspiring NC leaders and cadres like this student in the NC Jamal office.
The word Jay Nepal was a magical word for all of us. If some one greeted you with Jay Nepal, you felt like he/she was part of your family. It did not matter when you met or how long you know him/her personally. The word “jay Nepal” was enough. In those days the word Jay Nepal carried the meaning and the feeling.
Before 1990 was difficult time for NC supporters. People were even scared to go to NC office. We saw the same faces regularly in the party office. I rarely saw many new faces there. Those who came to the office were diehard NC workers. Their number was relatively small. But surely it was a determined group of people. For them, Nepali Congress was their life. They were educated; they had given up carrier and luxury for their political belief. Though they did not have material life, they were happy with what they were doing. You could see the passion for democracy in their eyes. They were optimistic that democracy and rule of law would prevail in Nepal soon.
It has been about 22 years since I entered NC Jamal office. The last time I went NC office (now in Sanepa) was about 6 months back. I have to admit that sadly NC have transformed into a club of different interest groups. You can see the flow of bad money within NC. Then, only Ganesh Man jee had a jeep, which was given by Kuber Sharma. Kishun jee did not have a car – he used to take a taxi. Girija babu did not have a car. Now, most of the central leaders have 60 lakhs Pajero Jeep. How did they get it? God knows.
Before 1990 you could go and talk to leader face to face and put forward your concerns. Now meeting a lowly leader like Sharad Singh Bhandari or Khum Bahadur is a day long difficult task.
The word “Jay Nepal” lost the charm. The quantity of NC workers in Central Office increased by many folds; but the quality of workers went down hill significantly.
My heart was shattered when I heard a senior NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel saying “without party being in the power and without having enough money, we can not win the election”. I realized that NC has transformed from a “revolutionary-disciplined party”, which had won people’s heart by hard work, into a party which is ruled by money and the mobs. What NC adopted in last 20 years are love for money and love for the “chair”. Now NC has been largely the party of Khum Bahadur Khadka and Govinda Raj Joshi, who speak and understand only the language of money.
I deeply miss NC Jamal office. I missed true NC workers, who gave up everything for democracy during difficult times. Most importantly, I miss the inclusiveness of NC for average people like me. What I see today is “true NC workers”, who kept the “light” alive are in minority in their own party. I wish I could turn the time around.