- By Uttam B. Khatri
The unification of modern Nepal was started by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Great, in 1744 A.D. Ancient Nepal has hundreds, perhaps thousands of years old history. The young King of a small Kingdom of Gorkha began the unification campaign when the colonization of small kingdoms by the Westerners was taking momentum, during the eighteenth century. There were a total of 46 small states in Gandaki and Karnali provinces, many more hilly states in east of Kathmandu valley as well as three kingdoms of Makwanpur, Bijayapur and Chaudandi in the South-Eastern Tarai. Prithvi Narayan Shah brought most of the tiny kingdoms together and had them unified with a minimum loss of life and properties. He used force only against those who refused to come under his domain. The states that accepted theamalgamation with Gorkha kingdom were treated fairly. The people did not have to bear the pain of the vanquished as it used to be the case in olden period. He rather submerged himself with the people who accepted him as their new ruler. Prithvi Narayan Shah’s assimilation with the people of Kathmandu and his immediate adoption of Newari culture of bowing down to Goddess Kumari was a glaring example of his acceptability and adoptability.
During the unification process he did not indulge in atrocities as fear tactics except some “alleged cutting off of nose and lips” meted out to the people of Kirtipur. This could well be the rumor spread out in retaliation by the western missionaries who were defeated and then expelled out of the kingdom by Prithvi Narayan Shah. Because no proof of the said mutilation have been found except some story based on rumors.
The Gorkha king started the campaign with a conviction that if he did not unify the numerous states into one strong Nation, the aggressive colonial power would conquer all the small states and turn them as part of the colony like the rest of kingdoms in the south. By and large, Prithvi Narayan’s campaign for unification was for “survival of the fittest” during the ruthless colonial era.
After the untimely demise of Prithvi Narayan Shah at an early age of fifty two. Prince Bahadur Shah, an able son of the deceased King, continued his father’s mission in the unification process. During his short period of leadership, the Prince brought so many other small kingdoms together that were scattered as far as Sutlej river in the west, Nagarkatta, about seventy kilometers beyond Mechi river in the east and almost as far as Ganga and Bramhaputra rivers at most places in the south. There was no” India” at that time. No offence to present day India, but that is the historical truth. The British gave the name India after they consolidated the colonies in present shape.
During the unification, Prince Bahadur Shah ruled as a regent of the infant Crown Prince Rana Bahadur Shah for about ten years. Unfortunately, the intrigues, power struggle and he conspiracies caused the untimely death of Prince Bahadur Shah in 1797. After Bahadur Shah’s death, the power vacuum grew further and the unification stopped. The Prince had unified Nepal into a big and a powerful Nation with a huge geography from east to west and from north to south having more than 300,000 square kilometer area. None of the kingdoms that were unified under the Greater Nepal had ever been a part of today’s India. They were just like any other kingdoms that came under Greater Nepal during the unification process. Therefore, India has no right to occupy Nepal’s land that was looted by the British well before India was created.
After the demise of Bahadur Shah, a power struggle caused a lot of political confusion and instability in the country. In the meantime, Bhimsen Thapa rose to power as Prime minister. The cunning Britts of the East India Company took advantage of Nepal’s internal conflicts and taking advantage of the situation, declared war on Nepal on November 1, 1814. Financially depleted by Tibet-Nepal war and politically divided Nepal was probably not prepared to fight the British. Bhimsen Thapa, although considered a nationalist who was an ardent adversary of the colonial power could not prove himself capable of conducting the war and lead the country into victory.
After the war, the East India Company tricked to annex about half of Nepal's territory and merged them into the colony. In fact, the colonialist coerced Nepal into the status of a semi-independent country after the so-called treaty of Sugauli. One of the important terms of the treaty prohibited Nepal from having foreign relations with overseas countries such as France, America and other Europeans. Nepal became landlocked on three sides from the colony. On the north, lay the formidable Himalayan mountain range and Tibet. Thus Nepal became isolated and landlocked from rest of the World.
After the Kot massacre of 1846, Jung Bahadur became the de facto ruler, with the Kings just like a ceremonial Monarch. Almost thirty years had elapsed since the war, the East India Company had grown much organized and militarily more advanced and stronger than Nepal. During the interim,
British colonialist had defeated most of the small kingdoms of the area and had created a much bigger colony of India. Under those circumstances,
Jung Bahadur knew that it would be suicidal for Nepal to fight the British in an attempt to regain the land that was lost to them. As such, Jung Bahadur did not plan to wage war against the British to get back the lost territories. Instead, he decided to protect Nepal which had already been reduced to the length within Mechi and Mahakali rivers. Jung Bahadur was smart enough to change Nepal's foreign policy towards British India. The relation withBritish India was changed from an adversarial one to that of friendly neighbors. As a result, Jung Bahadur tactfully regained some of the lost territories of western Tarai districts of Banke, Bardia, Kailali, and Kanchanpur from the British.
Although Jung Bahadur is responsible for the establishment of 104 years long autocratic Rana rule, he maintained political stability in the country. If the Ranas had not developed a friendly and mutual relationship with the British, and if the political condition had remained fluid and unstable, the British would actively play in Nepali politics, influence the then politics of Nepal, pursue their famous divide and rule policy and eventually merge rest of Nepal into their Empire. The Rana regime probably stopped this kind of tragedy from happening. However, they did not make serious efforts in developing the country. During the British raj in India, the Ranas could not dare to raise question on Nepal’s occupied land with the British either .
Some points to ponder
Nepal had the best opportunity to claim the rest of the lost land that the British had kept and merged in India since the conclusion of Anglo-Nepal War. The British should have returned Nepal’s land before they divided the colony of India in two countries, India and Pakistan. If there had been a strong National leadership at the time of partition, Nepal would have a very strong and legitimate ground in claiming the lost territories back. Because, If the British had the full authority and power to create a separate country, Pakistan out of the colony, why would not they decolonize Nepal's land and return them to its previous owner? This is a timid and dishonest act on the part of the British colonialism and a shameful decision on the part of Indian leaders. What an irony, the so-called freedom fighters, who fought for decolonization of their land and conspired to keep occupying Nepal’s land. One of the main reason why the question was not raised officially by Nepal was, there were no strong representative to fight who could stand and speak up for Nepal.
Unfortunately, everyone from Nepal at that time had their own vested interest. The then PM of Nepal, Mohan Shumsher Rana and his cronies were only interested to save their regime at the cost of National interest. The Ranas would not speak out because they were afraid of Indian leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel etc. for fear of retaliation. Mohan Shumsherapparently wanted to cling to power rather than negotiate with the British and later with Indian leadership. Besides, the Ranas were worried about the potential activities down the road by dissident Nepalis who were educated and smart and who could instigate and lead Nepali people for democracy. Those people had already seen the taste of freedom while in exile in India. Those Nepali leaders exiled in India were a direct threat to the Rana regime.
Furthermore, the Ranas had foreseen the end of their regime along with the end of British rule in India. And also, they knew that they had to please the Indian leaders by all means in order to stay in power. Therefore, they would rather sacrifice the claim for Nepal's lost territories for their own interest. They had to bring their wealth to India because they knew that they eventually would be driven out of power. More than likely, the Ranas could not afford to antagonize the Indian leadership for the fear of losing privileges for transfer of wealth and the eventual residence in India.
On the other hand, Bisweshor P. Koirala, Subarna S. Rana and some other political leaders of Nepali origin who were living in India at that time had their own interest. They were looking at the opportunities of taking advantage of the political changes that was taking shape in Nepal. During that period, those Nepalis were just the followers of Indian independence leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, and others. They were supporting the Indian freedom fighters. Later, as situation began to change, they saw the opportunities in Nepali politics and sought to take the leadership in Nepal. The Nepali Congress Party was born in India just about the same time that India gained independence from the British. BP Koirala, Subarna Shumsher and few others did not dare to raise the question for the lost land. Again, their self-interest was greater than the National interest of Nepal. If they had spoken for the restoration of Nepal 's Indian occupied land from Tista to Sutlej, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel etc. would stood against the idea and they obviously thought that they would be deprived of the assistance they would seek from Indian leaders in overthrowing the regime in Nepal. They knew that without the support and assistances from the Indian leadership they could not come into power after the Ranas were gone. The self-centered Nepali leaders were simply overcome by their own interest over the National interest of Nepal. Naturally, they could not dare to claim Nepal’s lost territories because of the fear from their Indian political mentors.
Last but not the least, King Tribhuvan could not raise the question of lost land either. The King must have felt obliged to Prime Minister Nehru and his fellow political colleagues for helping him. In fact, the Indians were the main instigators for the forthcoming political changes in Nepal. King Tribhuvan was probably forced to keep quite on the matter of Nepal’s lost land. The king wanted to get rid of the Ranas and take his throne back. He was looking for Indian assistance on his plan. The king as well could not afford to displease the Indian leadership.
Moreover, if the Nepali political leaders that were living in exile in India during the partition period, the then ruling Rana regime and King Tribhuvan himself had come together and negotiated with the British Government for returning the territories lost by Nepal after the treaty of Sugauli, they would be obliged to listen to the request seriously. Nepal would have a strong and legitimate case. More than likely, the British would have supported the idea and probably would have agreed to return the land, if not all, at least the areas like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Doars etc. Even Pakistan would have supported and endorsed this move because they would prefer Nepal benefit from the land deal rather than India. Thus, Nepal lost a golden opportunity to regain the lost land.
After the Indian Independence in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, other Indian leadership and the administration influenced the politics of Nepal to a great extent. The Indians took advantage of King Tribhuvan's exile and his will to overthrow the Rana regime. The king wanted his power back. The Indians assisted the King and Nepali Congress leaders to unseat Mohan Shumsher Rana and his regime from the power. King Tribhuvan returned to Nepal from exile in India in1951. Nepal was declared a democratic country under the monarchy, once again. However, India in a way, blackmailed the King, the Rana regime and the newly formed Nepali congress leaders. None of the negotiating parties could dare raise the question of returning Nepal’s colonized land for the restoration of Greater Nepal.
Furthermore, a new political chapter began in Nepal in 1951. Ever since the political change, Nepal has seen numerous political upheavals from transitional democracy, Panchayat democracy, a multi-party system of democracy, direct rule of the King to so-called communist rule under the Federal system of the current Government. Ironically, however, Nepal has been suffering from unstable Government, rampant all-round corruption and violence. Since the first non-Rana Prime minister, Matrika Prasad Koirala down to the Prime Minister KP Oli, Nepal has seen more than twenty Prime Minister. By and large, India remotely plays a major role in installing and dismantling the Government. Hardly any Prime Minister or any political leader can challenge the Indian leadership. Most of the political leaders are bought by India. No wonder, any leader could not show the courage to talk about Nepal’s lost land. None of them have proved to have become a successful leader with good governance.
Many major rivers of Nepal like Kosi, Gandaki, Karnali, Mahakali, Arun and many others have been sold to India or leased them out on India’s terms, conditions and interest, one after another. Many major changes took place in Nepal. The Maoist, apparently were instigated, trained and financed by India in order to do away with the Monarchy. The insurgency caused tremendous loss of infrastructure, economy, and industries. They have pushed back the country decades away. The country is facing the biggest balance of trade deficit, millions of productive youth population is out of the country and working for others. The state of economy of the is in shambles. The rampant corruption in the Government, such as Gold smuggling, Melamchi water project, syndicate in the transportation system, purchase of the wide-body, narrow body plane, N cell, shameful security system, to name a few are some of the examples towards a failed State. The current Communist Government of PM Oli is in accomplish on the rampant corruption in the country, can do nothing except defend and save their cadres and party workers for their crimes.
Why no Government can function in Nepal? Because every Government, no matter which party comes to power have failed miserably. They are remotely controlled by outsiders, mostly from the southern neighbor. Without the blessings from the foreigners and especially from India, no PM of Nepal seems to be able to function on his own. They seem to have two choices, either do what India wants or lose the position of the PM. It seems the PMs and the ministers opt to stay in power and enrich themselves rather than disobey the outside powerhouse and lose the position. The vicious cycle goes on with each and every PM and administration of Nepal. The Indian plans are for making Nepal a bankrupt and failed State and eventually bring the country in its control. This kind of situation has become more prevalent especially after signing of the 12 point agreement that took place in New Delhi some twelve years ago.
The Indians have continued to practice neo-colonialism in Nepal
Since India was decolonized 1n 1947. They still want to look at Nepal as their colony as the British treated them. If the leaders of Nepal hesitate to carry out their order, they indirectly threaten to cause hardship in Nepal. The examples are the economic blockade India imposed on Nepal from time to time. Therefore, Nepal has to get out of the Indian hegemony by all means. One of the most important steps Nepal should take is to bring out “The Greater Nepal” issue effectively and forcefully. As long as Nepal is fully dependent on Indian mercy in trade and transit, Nepal can never be independent and develop. When Nepal gets back the lost territory from India, Nepal will share a common border with Bangladesh.
India has fought border territorial war with Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh. Formerly a colony itself, India has encroached Nepali borders at more than seventy places and has occupied thousands of hectors of land at Susta, Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiadhura. .
In seventy years history, after the Indian independence, the present Government of Oli finally raised the question of Indian occupation of Nepali territories. Last year in November, India blatantly published a political map showing Nepali land inside India. The Nepali people whole heartedly supported the Oli’s Government and rallied against the Indian move. Unfortunately, however the Government seems to have accomplished nothing on the border issue. Instead, Prime minister Oli, publicly made the statement that India had been trying to oust him and dismantle his Government by by using other top leaders such as Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal etc from his own ruling communist party CPN. What a shame for the Prime minister of a country.
Homage to the Great King
On Push 27 (January 11), Nepal will celebrate the 298th Birth Anniversary of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Great. If Prithvi Naryan Shah had not envisioned the colonial threat to the small kingdoms across the south of the Himalayan range some 250 years back, probably there would no country which we are proud to call Nepal, today. After the gradual fall of the Moghul Empire in the south, the European colonialist entered the South East Asia in huge numbers as traders and then colonization of hundreds of kingdoms began.
Nepal had shrunk and had been limited to Kathmandu valley with some surrounding hill areas. There were several dozen kingdoms spread east to west and north to south from Assam in the east to Kashmir in the west and also Ganga river and Bramhaputra river in the south. Somewhere in the vast Himalayan region, a king of a tiny Kingdom of Gorkha realized that the threat of the foreign invaders. Prithvi Narayan Shah at an early age of twenty started the campaign of unifying dozens of dozens of small Kingdoms in order to create a strong and powerful Nation to fight the enemies. Prithvi Narayan spend 33 years of his prime life in creating and unifiying Nepal. If Prithvi Nararayan had not risked his entire life and saved Nepal from the British Colonialist, more than likely there would be no Nepal and we would not speaking Nepali today. The British would have merged all the small kingdoms into the colony of India and all the Nepali, languages, culture and traditions would have been swallowed and wiped out by thevast population from the south. Therefore, all the people whether inside the present day Nepal or outside and anywhere in the world should be thankful and pay homage to Prithvi Narayan Shah, the creator of “The Greater Nepal. “
In seventy years history since 1951 Nepal saw many political changes. Unfortunately, India has played a major role in those changes. The Indian role in Nepali politics occurs due to the Geographic situation of Nepal. After the Anglo War of 1614-1616, the British colonialist looted about half of Nepali land of unified Greater Nepal. The British merged the looted land into their newly created colony India. After the so-called treaty of Sugauli, Nepal happened to be land locked by India from all three sides east, west and south. India instead of returning the colonized Nepali land has continued to occupy them. On top of that India has encroached on Nepali borders at more than seventy places. And India has occupied Nepali territories, in Kalapani, Lipulekh, Limpiadhura and Susta as well.
India has been treating Nepal as if she its colony. It has been taking advantage of Nepal’s landlocked position. India wants to control all the water and natural resources of Nepal. Whenever Nepali Government disagrees on Indian orders, India retaliates with Economic blockades. Nepal has already endured three major Blockades in the past few decades. Landlocked by India is the major reason why India behaves so inhumanly on Nepal. Now time has come, Nepal must claim the” Greater Nepal”s lands that the British merged into the colony of India. Unified Greater Nepal’s territories never belonged to India. Because there was no India some two hundred years ago in the present shape and size. Once Greater is restored, Nepal will have a common border with Bangladesh and Nepal will not be India locked any more. After that Nepal will start development.