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Nepal Update No. 17: Terain leader Gajendra Narayan Singh passes away


Note no. 146                         18.02.2002

by Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Gajendra Narayan Singh, President of the Nepal Sadhbahavana Party passed away on January 23, 2002.

His body was taken to Saptari Sewa Ashram at Koiladi in Saptari District in Nepal and cremated with full state honours on 25thJanuary.

Unlike other politicians in the region, G.N.Singh led a very simple and austere life and spent most of his time in the Ashram he created in 1991. In July 2001, he created the "Gajendra Narayan Public Welfare trust" and donated all his property and belongings to the trust. The trust was to look after the poor, helpless and the backward communities in the southern districts of Nepal.

G.N.Singh entered politics in 1947 and joined the Nepali National Congress, (presently the ruling Nepali Congress) but left the party in 1980s to form a cultural forum known as Nepal Sadbhavana Parishad, which was turned later into a political party, the Nepal Sadhbhavana Party (NSP).

G.N.Singh went into exile to Dharbanga when in 1960 King Mahendra seized control of the country after putting into prison the leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress in the brief period when Nepal experienced multi-party democracy between 1959 to 1960. Unable to visit his home, he literally lived a life in penury until he returned to Nepal in 1977.

Unlike many other Terain leaders who came into prominence by espousing the cause of Terains, only to ditch them later in pursuit of personal interests, G. N. Singh continued to champion the cause of Terains throughout his political career. He left the Nepali Congress only when he felt that B.P.Koirala and his party continued to discriminate against the Terains. He contiuned to wear the traditional Dhoti and Kurta in the parliament while the official dress was the "Daura Suruwal". Despite opposition from the Pahadi parliamentarians, G.N.Singh was not ashamed to speak in Hindi in the Parliamentary debates.

This is not the place to discuss the various forms of discrimination being meted out to the Terains who are otherwise called Madhesis. Till the end G.N.Singh’ pet objective was to get full citizenship rights to a majority of Terains who were born and brought up in Terai. From the configuration of electoral districts, regions to recruitment in the army and Police,  the Terains were and continue to be discriminated against in every field. G.N. Singh despite being abused by the media, other political leaders and the bureaucracy continued to fight for the Terain cause.

Unfortunate though, G.N.Singh was widely "perceived" to be Indian both in outlook, character and leanings.  But this could be said of all the Terains who speak Hindi and who have relatives across the border.  Yet he was never liked by the Indian embassy for reasons best known to them but it could  be for his very "Indianness".

G.N.Singh on his return from exile believed that the interests of the Terains would best be served by working within the Panchayat system and accordingly stood for elections in 1980 in Saptari district.  But the royalty and its stooges decided otherwise.  When the counting was going in favour of G.N.Singh, the workers in the counting hall chased away G.N.Singh’s supporters and the results were declared in favour of another least known candidate. Undaunted he continued to stand for elections and won in all but one.

One cannot but recall the sufferings undergone by G.N.Singh in his political career.  He was not a man of violence and he joined politics only being inspired by the Gandhian movement. Yet soon after the bomb blasts by the Janawadi Morcha of Ram Rajya Prasad Singh near the Palace in the eighties, poor G.N.Singh who had nothing to do with the morcha was arrested and kept in chains for many months.  Nepal has produced only two genuine leaders of Terai G.N.Singh and Ram Rajya Prasad Singh.  Though both come from the same village they were at the opposite ends of the pole in their ideology and in their quest to change the political system.  G.N.Singh is dead and Ram Rajya Prasad Singh is said to be extremely sick in Patna.  The Terain cause will certainly suffer.

In spite of unendurable incarceration G.N. Singh held no grudge against Late King Birendra or the monarchy itself.  It was his view that the monarchy was the unifying factor and it was only the King who could help the Terain cause.  Here he was mistaken.

There is no doubt that there is none who has the charisma, courage and the capacity to continue the Terain cause like G.N.Singh.  In the initial stages G.N.Singh had many youngsters who flocked round him and worked genuinely for the cause.  They were never given due encouragement and G.N.Singh like a banyan tree held everyone together but never allowed any leader to come up to take his place.  There are now two main contenders, the current Vice President of Sadhbhavana party Badri Prasad Mandal and the other parliamentarian Hridyesh Tripathi.  It is hoped that the party will break from the past and have an internal election for the post of Presidentship.