Transfer of Power

Text by Anil Chitrakar / Photo: ECS Media

The timely and peaceful transfer of power is a prerequisite for Nepal to move towards economic prosperity. Many Nepalis are still skeptical about this because we look back at history and then try to predict the future. Nepali history is full of stories of violent and sudden transfers of power. One such event that changed the course of history, and is a contribution to the state of Nepal today, is the Kot Massacre. At the north-western corner of the Malla period Hanumandhoka Palace complex is the Kot - a military compound, where on the night of September 14, 1846, most of the high ranking officials of the then Nepali court were massacred.

This resulted in a Rana family rule of Nepal that lasted for 104 years till 1950. Under this system, power was transferred from the elder brother to the younger one. The male members of the Rana family were subsequently classified as A, B, and C class to accommodate as many of them as possible in this sequence. This naturally led to so many unhappy Ranas that they began to plot against each other, resulting in many changes being made to this “role call” and then, leading to the end of the Rana rule altogether. For over four years now, the Nepali political parties have been trying to write a constitution that will enable Nepal to witness a timely and peaceful transfer of power.

On the night of September 14, 1846 at around 10 pm the then powerful man and close confidant to the powerful junior queen, Gagan Singh was murdered. The Junior Queen Laxmi Devi was shocked and angry and decided to avenge Gagan’s death. The queen consulted Jung Bahadur as to the best course of action to find and punish the guilty. Jung suggested that all the courtiers with any power and position be immediately summoned to the Kot. As was the system in those days, the buglers were given orders. All those who hurried to the kot that night were disarmed by Jung Bahadur, his close allies, and his brothers. The compound was then sealed off.

Historians are divided on what transpired next; but what we do know is that on September 15, 1846 all opposition to Jung Bahadur had been massacred giving him absolute power. Prime Minister Jung Bahadur who was only twenty nine years of age at the time, began to set the stage for the 104 years of rule by the Ranas in Nepal. Depending on which history book you read, thirty to fifty high ranking officials were killed that night. In the days that followed, any person who could be seen as opposition were sent out of the valley, their entire property confiscated, some just ran away to escape death or humiliation. The king and his family were placed under house arrest. For eight days Kathmandu was under curfew enforced by the military.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Let us hope that in the near future the Kot (military complex) where the massacre took place on the night of September 14, 1846, will also be open for the public. It is exactly for the purpose of not wanting to see the repetition of this violent history that we need a constitution that will make the timely and peaceful transfer of power a non – negotiable.