Thursday, 18 July, 2024

Tribute To Krantiyoddha Prem Krishna Pathak

Namrata Sharma

In 1975 as a 6th grader, I witnessed one of the hidden underground meetings where the Nepali Congress (NC) founder Bisheshwor Prasad Koirala was holding a secret meeting organised in by Prem Krishna Pathak in his residence at Old Baneshwor. At that time Prem Krishna Pathak, my father, was one of BP’s most favoured and trusted NC party workers. I have vivid memories of my secondary and high school periods when I used to welcome unexpected visitors, mostly hungry and disheveled people, who needed a place to meet and eat, after staging several phases of revolution against the absolute monarchy.

I also remember those were the days when my mother, brother and myself automatically learned to welcome all who came and forgo several meals ourselves, to feed people who had spent several days without proper meals. It was one of those days when Pathakji had organised a secret meeting for BP. As usual, my mother had prepared hasty meals with whatever was available at home for about 20 people who were planning a revolution in the country. I was of course my mother’s help and my father’s fan.

Deeply engrossed
During 1979/80, the years when I was studying for my SLC exams - I remember innumerable times when I had to wake up as early as 5 am in the morning and put a huge kettle on the stove to serve tea to the hungry people who had gathered at our house. One of those days when I was deeply engrossed in my studies, there was a knock on the door, and without my knowledge, a group of plain-clothed Panchayat policemen were standing at the door and asking for Pathakji. Thinking they were among the hungry revolutionaries I innocently offered them tea and told them he might come any time.

What I missed was someone beckoning me to keep quite. That day he was caught and put in the Central jail for staging revolution against the Panchayat system. He was one of the first persons to be caught during the BS 2036 revolution as a right hand of BP. During the 1970s and 1980s, a series of weekly meetings used to happen in the Old Baneshwor residence of Prem Krishna Pathak where NC leader Krishna Prasad Bhattarai used to come.

When Kishunji was the PM of the Interim Government after the restoration of democracy in 1990 and had the reputation of not taking independent decisions, I was then an intern with the BBC South Asia, Bush House, London. They were trying to line up an interview with Kishunji but he refused. I was entrusted the task of contacting him. When I called him initially it was difficult, but he recognized my voice and asked if I was “his Pathakji’s daughter” Pathak was also a favourite of Kishunji. I said yes. He then agreed to give an interview, but when I was critical in my questioning he told me that I was exactly like my father!

When Kishunji became the PM, he had called Prem Krishna Pathak and offered him to take the responsibility of the Supreme Court as the Chief Judge. Pathakji - who was one of the key leaders of 1990 movement- refused as he wanted a party ticket to run for the elections. When the NC party refused that, he left NC and founded the Janabadi Morcha. He also contested in the elections. Later on, Ramraja Prasad Singh merged with Prem Krishna Pathak’s Janawadi Morcha. Pathakji always said that he never entered politics to get salaried positions or perks. He wanted to lead his country with a pure and honest leadership. Unfortunately, leaders like him serve their nation with unconditional love but get sidelined during elections.

Later he joined the UML party, but again as his principles clashed, he was one of the few members to leave with Ashok Rai to form the Samajwadi Party. He was given the position of the krantiyoddha – the Revolutionary Leader- in the Central Working Committee, which continued in the Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) later. Pathakji passed away on the auspicious day of Basant Panchami, 6th February 2022. JSP organised a respectful farewell outside of the Pashupati Electric Crematorium gate by covering his body with the party flag and announcing that the party would fly their flag at half-mast for three days in his honour. They also read out a touching obituary highlighting the service he had given to the nation. But where is the NC and UML’s acknowledgement of his work? Mainly NC where he spent most of his political career?

Fiery speaker
I remember a scene during the Panchayat days when there was an outpouring of rains and the crowds of people came with umbrellas to the open Tundikhel ground to listen to Prem Krishna Pathak’s fiery speech. But of course, just as he spoke, he was caught and imprisoned to the disappointment of the people gathered there. His speech and articles were very popular and radical.

Prem Krishna Pathak was the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association during 2034-35 BS. His law firm was at Dillibazaar. He started his law practice since early 1960s. I remember several scenes both in the Kathmandu valley and Nepalgunj where he used to be carried by the public after the cases he advocated were won. There have been several historical political and civil cases he took up and won. He took up cases of several underprivileged people of Nepal free of cost. I remember that during those days our household did not have money but we had a lot of vegetables and milk products that the farmers brought to the lawyer- wakil sab- and his family as a show of respect for him in taking up their cases for free and ensuring their rights.

Krantiyoddha- the revolutionary- Prem Krishna Pathak has created history as a warrior in the political and legal arenas of this country. It is important now how the state, several political parties and the nation in general record his contribution and contributions of several other honest leaders like him who never craved for wealth or power, but only focused on serving the nation!

(Namrata Sharma is a journalist and women rights advocate Twitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)