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Dec 27, 2015- Kishunjee would have been ninety-two the other day.

At times, he s
poke of his wish to live beyond hundred. But then he had an attitude towards lif
e. He accepted and welcomed death as an integral part of life itself. Death for
him was the final stage of growth. His last years were not very healthy physical
ly. But he never showed any annoyance on that ground. In essence, he took his li
fe as it was handed out to him.
I had quite a long association with him. I first met him when I was in my early
twenties, when I was imprisoned in Nakkhu jail in November 1968 to share its mis
eries with him. He was languishing there for the eighth year of imprisionment. H
e had spent earlier years in the company of BP Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh in S
undarijal jail. The two stalwarts of Nepali Congress were released from there af
ter an equivocal undertaking as per the Panchayat System. Kishunjee had refused
to abide and was consequently sent to Nakkhu jail to be incarcerated further. S
uch was the background to our meeting.
Personally speaking, I was completely mesmerised by the charismatic personality
of BP Koirala as of then.
So I was not inclined to look upon the historic defiance of Kishunjee favourably
. Yet, I had to share the jail with him then.
Prisoner of the year
Kishunjee s lonesome nature made our association difficult to begin with. In perso
nal life, he had always been a loner. The years of solitary confinement had take
n a toll on him further. By the time I met him, he was already settled in his ja
il life and maintained a regular routine. He used to get up by five in the morni
ng. After ablutions he would chant some Sanskrit slokas rather loudly. These cha
nts disturbed my slumber in the most uncomely manner and irritated me greatly. B
ut as I gradually started to know him better, I took many of his idiosyncrasies,
including the chants, in my stride, though a little grudgingly.
Now that I had become franker with him, one day I questioned him about his relig
ious beliefs and the worth of the chants with rude skepticism. Kishunji smiled a
way. Later he told me that he acquired the chanting ritual from his family. Unli
ke many other leaders, he never boasted of his family background. In fact, he ev
en made fun of himself on this score. He let me know modestly that he had to ear
n his college fees by conducting such rituals with such non-intelligible mantras
during his student days in Benaras. His ancestors were preceptors to the Shah K
ings. His grandfather Bishwanath Bhattarai had gone to Beneras in the retinue of
Maharani Laxmi Devi, the redoubtable queen of the infamous Kot Massacre. By the
time Kishunjee happened to go to school, the patronage of the queen had already
become a thing of the past. And the family had to earn its living through pujapaath and chores in Beneras. Now that Kishunjee had to face the ordeals of the P
anchayat jails, the chants seemed to have acquired new meaning. They provided hi
m strength and resilience invoking divine dispensation. Besides, Kishunjee had c
ome to appreciate the literal meaning of the chants with his own interpretations
. A regular reading of the Geeta followed the chants invariably. Later he added
the Batuk-Bhairav Stotra to his repertoire.
Kishunjee was just twenty-one when BP Koriala met him. They remained comrades th
ereafter and played their respective parts in the history of Nepal together as w
ell as separately.
Kishunjee s legacy is yet to be identified and evaluated properly in our country.
No other politician of the 20th century is probably more relevant than him in th
e conflict-ridden atmosphere of Nepali society today. Kishunjee was thoroughly c
ommitted to non-violence as a political means. But for the youthful involvement
in the 1950 insurrection, he always remained committed to the Gandhian example o
f Satyagraha. That way he was an inheritor of the Buddha-marga too. Most of his

colleagues, chiefly his leader BP Koirala after the release from Sundarijal jail
, went to India to launch an armed struggle from the security of the Indian base
. Kishunjee instead chose to suffer the police atrocities in Nepal in his attemp
ts to further the Satyagraha style of struggle. To pursue this end, he repeatedl
y attempted to contact common people peacefully through his tours. But he was re
peatedly prevented from doing this. Besides, he was again made to spend more tha
n five years in the most inhospitable jails of Nepal. In his last bout of impris
onment, he was nominated as the prisoner of the year by Amnesty International. A
fter one of his relatively longer imprisonment, he chose to go to meet BP Koiral
a, then in self-exile in Benaras, in the summer of 1976. By that time BP Koirala s
call for an armed-struggle had failed tragically. The gruesome Okhaldhunga kand
had taken a toll on some of the finest young cadres of the Nepali Congress. BP
Koirala was chastened, but then being the big man that he was, he was ready to a
ccept responsibility as well. Kishunjee did his best to persuade BP Koirala to r
eturn to Nepal. That was the genesis of the historic National Reconciliation as
enunciated by BP Koirala on 31st December 1976. Rest is history.
Reluctant politician
But Kishunjee was more than just a politician. He was never mired in power poli
tics. He was a politician with his eyes firmly set on the moral firmament. Polit
ics was but a means of serving people for him. But he was too modest to ever men
tion his service to people. Borrowing from Gandhi he would generously describe h
is politics as the means of self-purification. In fact, if and when there was un
manageable acrimony in the party, he would offer to resign from the exalted posi
tion of party-president. That way, he let everybody know what a reluctant politi
cian he was. One may say the reluctance did prove his undoing on the one hand, b
ut on the other, he was lovingly called the saint politician by all and sundry.
He always wanted to be faithful to his commitment to his self.
He often very loudly stated that he wanted to see god face to face. I was often
in his company when he uttered such words. I was simply embarrassed at times. I
remember vividly having accompanied him to a South-Asian political conference in
Kathmandu in 1991. A number of former prime ministers and presidents were in th
e audience. Kishunjee was to make the inaugural speech of the day. He started hi
s speech with what he called was his primary desire to see god face to face! He pu
t aside the prepared text for his speech which I had had the misfortune of draftin
g and started rambling about god. My suggestions about the attainment of peace in
South Asia as contained in the draft was discarded. Kishunjee was very categoric
al that humans simply could not attain peace in the world by themselves. Only go
d could do so. Kishunjee was not a Christian, but he came close to saying that t
he original sin made it impossible for mankind to achieve peace through its own ef
forts. Binod Chaudhry, being the convener and organiser of the programme, looked
askance at me as he expected Kishunjee to read the regular sort of insipid spee
ch. But Kishunjee was just not that.
The reluctant politician that Kishunjee was made him an apparent failure on many
such occasions. But he never bothered about such kinds of failure.
Nepal has been governed and led by so-called practical and successful leaders al
l these years. But wherever our country has reached is here for everybody to see
and experience. It is common knowledge what motivates our leaders and rulers. I
t is anything but hankering for personal power. Power has always been one of the
most important motive forces in history. There is nothing wrong with politician
s looking for power as such. But then power for what?
Sooner or later, such a question is bound to arise in Nepal too. The rulers must
justify themselves in terms of popular well-being. Even the ruthless Junga Baha
dur could not escape the scrutiny of the populace. He did prove his worth by int
roducing a number of popular measures other than providing the much awaited law
and order and stability. Napoleon was the first dictator of modern times. But wh
at a dictator he was! No nation state of our times can speak of its administrati

ve achievements without acknowledging his debt. His detractors have often admitt
ed to his rule as having futhered the mandate of the French revolution. So a pol
itician worth his salt must have something more than personal ambition. This is
where our politicians seem to fail today.
Kisunjee is fondly remembered for having ushered in constitutional democracy in
2047 BS absolutely peacefully. He also got the first general election held withi
n the stipulated time under the newly promulgated constitution. The general elec
tion saw him lose his parliamentary seat. It was as though he was hell-bent on p
roving how impartial a sitting prime minister could be while holding a competiti
ve election.
Osho connection
Kishunjee had unbelievable strength of conviction. He was never deterred by the
lure of office or wealth. His worst detractors will also grudgingly accept this
much. Where did he get such disposition from? Why are our politicians bereft of
such traits today? Psychologists from Freud to Abraham Maslow have put forward v
arious theories as the root of good and evil in man. Professional biographers of
great leaders have pondered much over the question. The religious tradition has
always spoken of the role of spiritual discipline to maintain the serenity of a
ny individual irrespective of his station in life. The Geeta speaks of sthithpra
gya famously. Dhammapada is primarily an exercise in samata. Kishunjee was conve
rsant wih this tradition and appreciated it greatly. His childhood training migh
t have given him the irritating rituals and the chants, but the trials and tribula
tions of his life led him through the strait gate to his ultimate meaning of lif
e. The sadhus and seers were always welcomed by him.
In his later years, his caretaker Amita Kapali was an influence on him. She seem
ed to dote on every saffron-clad passerby. Kisunjee regaled on that. Besides, th
e quest for god often took him to visit various temples and ashrams throughout h
is life. In later years, he was more prone to it. In Kathmandu, Osho Tapoban was
one of his favorite haunts. In fact, he had laid the founding stone of the comm
une himself. The founder of Osho Tapoban, Swami Anand Arun, was ever solicitous
of him. He gifted him audiocassettes of Osho to listen to. Kishunjee could often
be seen listening to them raptly. Swami Arun must have been amused that there w
ere so many similarities in the worldview of Osho and Kishunjee. It may sound pr
eposterous to the followers of either, but three points stand out in this connec
tion: firstly, both believed in spirituality without any reference to organised
religion; they talked of the fundamental religion above all the religions. Secon
dly, their attitude to love, life and sex was similar as well. Kishunjee s persona
l life was subject to a number of criticisms, as was Osho s. Kishunjee happily own
ed up to most of the censures. The devotees of Osho have seen to it that his per
sonal life is not known to the public at large in the proper perspective. There
are two extreme views about his personal life. For some he was a libertine; for
others he was a celibate saint. Thirdly, Osho advocated community living through
out his life. Kisunjee too did not have any family of his own. More than that, h
e made fun of the family as an institution. Now and then, he openly discouraged
young men from getting married. In a way, his party was his family, which again
was a belief in some kind of a commune system.
Kathmandu seems to have forgotten Kishunjee completely but for poor Amita and he
r small coterie. Sher Bahadur Deuba, during his last prime ministerial tenure, w
as considerate enough to set up an ashram for him to put up. The ashram at Bodeg
aun is being maintained and looked after by Amita. The other day, Prime Minister
Oli went there to unveil a life-size statue of Kisunjee. The statue was sent by
an Indian Yogi Amarjyoti as a tribute to Kisunjee s memory. Nothing could be more
appropriate to the memory of the saint politician than the gift at this junctur
e of Indo-Nepal impasse.
Giri is a Nepali Congress leader and lawmaker

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