National Democracy Day:
On this day in 2007 B.S. (1951 A.D.), the efforts of countless Nepalis was realised, and Nepal became a democratic nation.
Amidst a formal ceremony held at Narayanhiti Durbar (now museum), then King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah Dev via an official proclamation canceled the Panja Patra (palm-print letter) issued by King Surendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in 1903 B.S. The Panja Patra of 1903 B.S. was a royal decree which allowed descendants of Jung Bahadur to become successive Prime Ministers of Nepal – its cancelation effectively ended the 104 year long Rana rule over Nepal.
In his proclamation, King Tribhuvan had announced that from the date, the people of Nepal would be allowed to exercise their democratic rights to elect a government. He also announced a list of ministers who were entrusted with the task of working towards the successful execution of a general election.
Mohan Shumsher’s attachment with Singha Durbar:
Continuing our Democracy Series, the newly appointed ministers are at Singha Durbar – for an informal meeting.
A major subject of discussion was the arrangement of offices for all ministries. Because Singha Durbar, the official residence of Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher seemed like the best option for placing all ministerial offices within close proximity, Congress Ministers requested Mohan Shumsher to vacate his residence.
However, Mohan Shumsher did not agree to leave.
“The reason I do not want to leave Singha Durbar is because I have sentimental attachments to the building”, Mohan Shumsher said to the cabinet.
Singha Durbar was commissioned to be built by Chandra Shumsher JBR – father of Mohan Shumsher.
Singh, who was listening silently until then, responded:
“How can you bring the subject of sentimentality when a government owned building is needed by the government? We may consider your sentiment, but that does not address the need for a ministerial office. Sentiment and settlement are two different things – haven’t we come upon a settlement? Where will the ministers work from? Being the Prime Minister, it is your responsibility to the people of Nepal to vacate Singha Durbar”.
It is important to note Chandra Shumsher had sold Singha Durbar to the Government of Nepal.
Singh’s notoriety to speak against Rana rulers was not something new – in the past he had gotten in trouble for retorting sharply to Rana rulers.
However, this was not the old Nepal, it was a new Nepal – and Singh could no longer be punished for speaking the truth.
After a brief period of silence, B P Koirala suggested Mohan Shumsher should move to his other home at Maharajgunj.
To which Mohan Shumsher replied:
“Yes, I do not have any problems for accommodation. However, Singha Durbar is dear to me because when my father was on his death bed, he had entrusted me with the building’s wellbeing. I do not want to be a hindrance in the path of democracy – I have even, on my own accord, explained to my brothers the need for reform. However, I cannot let my attachment go away”.
Because the meeting was of an informal nature, they let the subject be – and moved to other topics.
Singh’s friends at his residence:
The further the provision of a ministerial office prolonged – Singh’s problems did so too. For example, it wasn’t enough that Singh’s living room had been converted to a temporary ministerial office, he also had house guests living in his home.
“At the time, Kathmandu did not have modern day hotels like we do now. Therefore, friends, most of them from the party, who did not own a house in Kathmandu, would stay at the residences of their party friends”, Singh told Mathbar Singh.
“For my part, it was Ram Hari Joshi and Kisunji (Krishna Prasad Bhattarai) – with house guests, a ministerial office, and my own family – our house was always overcrowded. However, somehow we managed, and eventually even started enjoying the craziness”, Singh added.
“My living room would convert into an office during the day time and at nighttime Kisunji and Ram Hari Ji would sleep there”, Singh said with much amusement.
“In the morning Kisunji would want to practice his yoga, and there just wasn’t enough space for that. Eventually Kisunji found a place to rent”, Singh added.
“Even my ministerial office members had learn to adapt to the situation”, Singh said before moving away from the topic of having his friends, family, and office under the same roof.