18th February, 1990: Dawn
On the morning of 18th February, 1990, Singh was restless, jubilant, euphoric, and ecstatic at the same time. The historic day had finally arrived. Years of struggle, planning and strategizing would show results in these final days. He felt as if he was at the final steps of climbing Mt Everest itself.
On 17th February, 1990, a day ahead of the planned People’s Movement, he was placed under home-arrest by the government, but he did not care about it much. Instead, he sent a heartwarming message to all Nepalis asking for their support towards the cause on the eve of the movement itself. In it, he assured the people that the government would indeed pay heed to the people’s movement if they sent the right message.
The right message, according to Singh was withdrawing their support to the government, and to become uncooperative with the authorities – in essence, “Civil Disobedience”.
“This is a people’s movement – if every citizen becomes uncooperative with the government, they will pay heed. We shall not resort to violence at any cost. We have to paralyse the government with our lack of cooperation. Then the government will realize that the people do not want the ongoing system.
It is unfortunate that I, and several other leaders have been placed under home arrest at this historic conjunction. However, these autocratic moves only serve as fuel in the minds of the people – that indeed, this system is anti-democratic”, he said.
18th February, 1990: Noon:
18th February, or Falgun 7 gatey is historically observed as Nepal’s Democracy Day. It was on this day the century long Rana rule had ended in Nepal, more than 3 decades ago. On this day, the government would observe several festivities, and was also remembered as King Tribhuvan Day. The same festivities were planned in 1990 as well – at Dashrath Rangasala. Similarly, on the same day King Birendra was also set to officially inaugurate the new building of Tribhuvan International Airport.
While pro-Panchayat government supporters observed the government festivities, pro-democracy protesters launched their own movement. Several protests erupted from several parts of the city – mainly in New Road and surrounding areas. At several junctions, pro-democracy protesters clashed with the police, and pro-monarchy supporters. The protests and clashes continued through the day – at several places, the pro-democracy activists were able to thwart the efforts of the police, while at several junctions, police and pro-monarchy supporters were able to chase the protesters away. Similarly, senior leader of the United Left Front, Man Mohan Adhikari was arrested from Ratna Park.
Eventually, by evening, as the numbers of pro-democracy protesters increased, they were able to outnumber the security forces and pro-monarchy protesters.
18th February, 1990: Dusk:
Pro-democracy protesters, encouraged by their victory, took to the streets. They gathered at public areas and chanted pro-democracy slogans through the night.
The air in Kathmandu that evening was crisp – thousands of people observed and celebrated the power of unity, without fear of authorities, after a very long time.
Meanwhile, leaders took stock of the status of the movement throughout the nation. In Narayanghat and Chitwan areas tens of thousands of protesters gathered. Sadly, two protesters lost their lives. In Pokhara, protesters clashed with the police throughout the day. In Biratnagar, police had to fire several rounds of tear gas to disperse the crowd. Altogether, five protesters and one police personnel lost their lives.
Altogether, an estimated 3,500 arrests were made.