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Mainstream, VOL LX No 7, New Delhi, February 5, 2022

Nepal Uprising Against the Ranas: GB Yakthumba - Valour Unlimited | Mandeep Lama

Friday 4 February 2022

by Mandeep Lama

We conclude the story of unerring vision, despite some hiccups on the way, and the ‘stop-me-if-you-can’ daring of Yakthumba, who even got two cannons and an armoured vehicle innovatively structured in the war field itself, to get rid of the terrible Ranas of Nepal [See Part 1 here]

(Part 2)

Attack On Birgunj

The three Commanders, Yakthumba, Malla, and Gurung, had prepared a foolproof sort of plan for attacking the National Army barracks in Birgunj. They would attack the National Army from three sides. Yakthumba’s contingent would be the main strike force which would attack the army barracks from the front.

The contingent commanded by Buddha Singh Gurung would launch attack from the southern flank, whereas the fighters under Thirbhum Malla would zero-in on the security posts at the residential office of the Badahakim or the District Chief.

As per this plan, the Commanders along with their men had to reach their designated positions and simultaneously launch the attack exactly at 11 pm on 11th of November, 1950. But their plan goes horribly wrong!

The Commanders and their fighters are to come from across the border with India. But once they are inside the Nepal territory, it would hardly take thirty minutes or so for them to reach their respective locations by taking the predetermined short-cut routes.

But, in the darkness of the night and possibly due to nervousness, their guide happens to miss out on the short-cut route, as a result of which they are left to fumble in the dark! When their repeated attempts fail to put them on to the right course, they decide to stay put and move only when dawn started breaking on the eastern horizon.

It is almost daylight when Yakthumba and his men reach the front portion of the garrison. Sentries of the National Army get wind of the Janamukti Sena and start firing immediately. But it is sort of a hasty and random shooting mostly done in a state of panic.

Yakthumba also gives orders to his troop to open a rather controlled, targeted firing. In comparison to the National Army, the group of freedom fighters is not as well equipped. As such, they had to adroitly make use of their guns, mostly local made varieties or deshi types, and explosives, which also included especially designed firecrackers to impress their enemy that they too are in possession of modern weaponry!

At times, they also used 303 rifles which they possessed in limited numbers, which lead the National Army into believing that the Janamukti Sena had really come prepared! In the opening hours of the battle, one Tej Bahadur Chhetri is killed.

This cadet becomes the first martyr of the armed revolution.

On the other flank of the battlefield Buddha Singh Gurung’s contingent also fights courageously. As per the plan, they try hard to push forward from the southern edge of the barrack for coming closer to their target.

However, they come under heavy fire from an assorted arsenal of sten guns, Bren guns, shot guns, and such other firearms. In the heated exchange, one enemy bullet hits the grenade hanging from Buddha Singh’s belt causing it to explode. The blast costs Gurung one of his arms and a leg, but he survives.

Meanwhile, Puran Singh dashes towards Thirbhum Malla’s segment of the battlefield amidst a barrage of whistling bullets. He has received news that Badahakim Som Shumsher has been taken into custody and wants to see for himself if it was really so.

The report turns out to be correct. Thirbhum’s men had defeated the Badahakim’s security forces and had put the District Chief under arrest. In the melee, however, Commander Malla is hit by a bullet from one of Shumsher’s bodyguards.

The two wounded Commanders are immediately rushed to Duncan Hospital at Raxual. Khawas is much saddened by the injuries sustained by his friends. He decides to stay in the hospital for the day and look after them.

The Battle at Birgunj had not concluded with the arrest of the Badahakim. As such, Puran Singh gives responsibility of continuing with the battle to Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba.

Yakthumba decides on a sustained, daylong firing to tire the enemy out and, when it starts getting dark in the evening, swarm the barracks and do the needful.

As the battle is furiously underway, an airplane is seen flying in circles over Birgunj and dropping pamphlets that warn the personnel of the National Army that if they didn’t surrender the plane would bombard and obliterate them before the day was done for!

Much puzzled, the National Army regress into deep confusion.

That was actually not a military aircraft but a civilian passenger plane belonging to the “Himalayan Airlines”! The owner of the Airline was one Mahabir Shumsher, who was also up against the autocratic Rana rule and was actively involved in the revolution.

Janamukti Sena’s relentless firing proves to be decisive. At 6 O’clock in the evening, soldiers of the National Army surrender to Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba. They deposit with the Sena a huge amount of money and weapons that include Bren gun (1), Sten guns (29), 303 rifles (80), revolvers (9) and a large cache of ammunition.

For further securing the area, Yakthumba immediately establishes security posts at vulnerable locations in the city.

By 9 pm on the 12th of November, 1950, Janamukti Sena is in complete control of the entire Birgunj sector.

Attack on Kathmandu

After registering victory in Birgunj, Janamukti Sena had to immediately reach the top of Chandragiri Hill south of Thankot at the outskirt of Kathmandu.

They had to take rest on the top of the Hill the whole day where they would be receiving necessary information from the Intelligence Network regarding the situation in Kathmandu. For the purpose of attacking Kathmandu, the Sena is divided into four groups with the following specifics:

1) The group under C. B. Rai would attack the Central Jail and free all the political prisoners and the members of Janamukti Sena;

2) The group under Buddha Singh Gurung would bring the armoury under its control;

3) The group under Birgunj Ghaley would bring the munitions store under its control, and

4) The group under Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba would set up a temporary encampment in Pratap Bikram Shah’s residence at Gyaneswar for encircling Singha Durbar, the residence of the Prime Minister.

This was a major plan prepared by Janamukti Sena for liberating Kathmandu from under the Ranas’ yoke.

At an opportune moment, all the four groups were to descend upon Kathmandu with lightning speed, attack the National Army, besiege their barracks and bring the city under their control. Yakthumba was not so much worried about the National Army in Kathmandu.

Pioneered by Badri Bikram Thapa, the force had already been infiltrated by members of the Intelligence Network, as a result of which a section of the army was ready to rise in rebellion whenever called for!

The news, rather a potent rumour most certainly planted by agents of the Intelligence Network, was abuzz among the rebel soldiers that whichever rank they happened to fell amongst their officers, they would be decorated with the same rank later on!

As such, the morale of the rebels in the National Army was on a high.

However, the plan to attack Kathmandu had gone awry because they had false-footed the short-cut route due to the sloppiness of their guide, and had been unable to launch attack on Birgunj on schedule.

As such, a rethink on the plan to attack Kathmandu had become necessary.

Kali Bahadur Battalion

Meanwhile, as the news of the fall of Birgunj reaches Kathmandu, the Rana administration immediately dispatches the Kali Bahadur Battalion ─ its most elite force commanded by Ekraj Shumsher Rana ─ to Birgunj for restoring the regime’s authority in the city.

On hearing the news of Kali Bahadur Battalion’s march toward Birgunj, senior freedom fighters of the Janamukti Sena hold an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.

The meeting comes to the conclusion that it would not be wise to confront the highly trained and well equipped Kali Bahadur Battalion in a face-to-face conventional battle. As such, the Sena decides to abandon Birgunj temporarily for the sake of waylaying Ekraj Shumsher’s force at Thori, which lay farther west of the city.

The logic behind this decision is that it would be much better if they tackled the superior force of the enemy through deceit, ambushes, and tactics of guerilla warfare rather than resorting to a full frontal engagement.

As decided, the fighters of the Janamukti Sena set out for Thori on the 20th of November, 1950, for the purpose of waylaying the Kali Bahadur Battalion at the place of their choosing.

The plan is to reach Thori and dig their heels on an advantageous location for the encounter with the enemy. The Sena even plans for the situation post the encounter and defeat of the Ekraj’s force.

This plan entails that, once Kali Bahadur Battalion is defeated, the fighters would be divide into two groups. The first group would move further west towards Bhairawa and join the troop under K. I. Singh’s command.

The second group would move towards the Upperdang Gadi, which lay further west of Chitwan, and bring it under their control.

The plan further entails that after overturning the Rana authority in the Upperdang Fort, the fighters would quickly move to Biratnagar as reinforcement to the forces under the Koirala brothers.

Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba is to command the second group because it was more arduous an operation in which to gain victory over the Upperdang Gadi and, then, rush towards Biratnagar.

Moreover, the Koirala brothers had been repeatedly beseeching Yakthumba to reach Biratnagar as quickly as he could. Everyone engaged in the Biratnagar campaign seemed to feel that it was only Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba who would be able to turn the fortunes of the Janamukti Sena in Biratnagar.

Janamukti Sena sets up its camp on a strategic hillock at Thori, from where combatants are able to observe the terrain over a long distance. They begin logging in the daily movements of the National Army troops on the highway.

Astutely deducing that the arrival of the Kali Bahadur Battalion in Thori is eight to ten days away, Puran Singh and Yakthumba decide that the latter should make a dash for the Upperdang Gadi, bring it under their control, and hurry back to take their position on the hillock before the enemy troops arrived.

The Upperdang campaign should take about a week to complete. Yakthumba picks up a small but very potent group of forty fighters for the Upperdang operation. The rest of his men is to stay on the hillock alongside Puran Singh’s fighters.

Upperdang Gadi

Accordingly, on the 23rd of November, 1950, Yakthumba and his forty fighters move towards the Upperdang Fort. At about 8 O’clock in the evening they reach Hattisar in Chitwan, where they board elephants so that they could reach their destination at a faster pace.

Riding on eleven elephants, the raiding party traverses through the dense Chitwan jungle and soon crosses the Rapti River. Finally, they arrive at the base of the Upperdang Gadi, where Narendra Lama and the mahouts are asked to stay guard and wait for their return.

Yakthumba and his fighters immediately begin negotiating the uphill track. It is almost eleven in the night when they enter the small hamlet of Shikharpur on the way to the fort. The next day being the full moon day, the night was lit with a near perfect moon making it easy for the fighters to move on swiftly.

Since they didn’t want the villagers to know about their movement, they push forward utterly stealthily. But the raiding party was in for a huge shock. The villagers had prior knowledge of their plans and were waiting for them in the darkness for quite some time now!

As soon as the fighters reach the centre of the village, dark silhouetted figures silently start materialising all around them! The fighters hurriedly fall into defensive positions, with guns ready to spit fire.

Yakthumba quickly ascertains the situation for taking appropriate action. However, there is no threatening move from the dark figures that surround them. And, just as Yakthumba starts murmuring to his men to hold their fire when, suddenly, the villagers begin chanting in a low, subdued voice: Shri Panch Maharajko Jai . . . Nepali Kangressko Jai (Hail, te Panch Maharaja… Hail Nepali Congress).

The fighters sigh in huge relief. Yakthumba quickly inquires about the current status of the National Army troops at the Upperdang Fort. Fortified with the information, he briskly moves forward with his men in tow.

It is midnight when they first sight the fort at some distance away perched on an ancient hilltop in surreal vagueness. Swathed in silvery moonlight, the dark grey contour of the fort looks like some medieval castle lost in time. It is a forbidding sight.

Bracing themselves up and with all their senses primed for signs of the slightest danger, Yakthumba and his men push forward cautiously. Strangely enough, they do not encounter anyone on the long winding path leading to the fort.

It was rather surprising that there were no signs of soldiers manning the outposts or guarding the entrance of the fort! Except for the bitter chill, the night was rather tender and very tranquil.

The eerie silence of the night was punctured only by a persistent shrill of the cicada. There was a real danger though. Looks could be deadly deceptive. It could be a smart ploy on the part of the enemy to lead them into a deadly trap! The raiding party, therefore, is extra vigilant.

As Yakthumba and his men cautiously enter the fort, they see a lone sentry wrapped in a blanket and holding the gun rather clumsily, slouched upon a chair by the door. A close look reveals that the guard is fast asleep!

A little distance away behind him, thirty other army personnel are also in their deep sleep. One of the fighters carefully removes the gun from the sleeping sentry’s hand, while others get busy securing the cache of arms and ammunition of the sleeping men.

Those blissfully slumbering soldiers had no way of knowing that they were being taken prisoners.

When the raiding party feels confident that they are on top of the situation, the soldiers are awakened and curtly informed that they are the prisoners of the Janamukti Sena!

After securing the prisoners, some members of the raiding party go further in looking for the Chief of the fort. The Chief and his wife are peacefully sleeping in the attic that is enveloped in a hue of dim pale light indolently emanating from a flickering kerosene lamp on the bedside table.

Yakthumba, along with Shyam Tamang, enters the attic through a narrow window and pokes the Chief with his revolver. The Chief and his wife wake up with a start almost simultaneously.

No sooner the Chief sees the two resolute and grim looking men with revolvers pointing at them the he realises the kind of danger he and his wife were in. With trembling hands, he slowly takes out a bunch of keys from under the pillow and, pleading for his and his wife’s lives, hands it over to Yakthumba.

Pointing towards a cupboard in one corner, he incoherently blabbers that there is considerable amount of money which is theirs for the taking!

It is rather amazing that the Upperdang Gadi, a strategic fort, is subjugated without a single shot being fired! The mission is completed absolutely speedily. The cache of arms and ammunition captured at the fort further strengthens the Janamukti Sena, and the cash in mohar-rupiya found in the cupboard further enriches the coffers of the Sena.

But when the prisoners plead that they have not been paid their salary for the month, Yakthumba gives them their dues as per the record books found in the fort office. He packs the remaining currency in leather bags. Yakthumba is to deliver the money to the Nepali Congress through his Chief Commander Puran Singh Khawas.

After accomplishing the task of bringing the Upperdang Fort under their control, Yakthumba and his fighters start their journey back to the base of the fort where Narendra Lama and the mahouts are waiting.

They hastily consume their morning meal prepared by the waiting party. When the meal is over, they start their journey back to Thori on their elephants.

Encounter With Kali Bahadur Battalion

Meanwhile, Puran Singh and his men are waiting for Ekraj Shumsher’s Kali Bahadur Battalion on the hillock at Thori. They have laid ambushes at strategic places likely to be tread upon by the enemy. Unaware of the Janamukti Sena’s presence and their level of preparedness, Kali Bahadur Battalion is pretty confident about defeating a bunch of ragtag militia without much of a sweat!

Finally, Ekraj’s battalion makes its appearance at the far end of the highway. Janmukti Sena waits for it to come still closer. As the enemy troops come within the range of fire, Puran Singh shoots from his revolver signaling his fighters to start showering bullets and explosives on the enemy.

At first, the enemy soldiers dive for cover in utter panic. Soon after, though, they too start firing in retaliation. A bloody battle ensues between the National Army and the Janamukti Sena, shaking up the otherwise quiet and complacent Thori.

At this very juncture, Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba and his fighters reach Thori. They hastily dismount from their elephants. Yakthumba quickly pays the mahouts from the money in the leather bag and sends them away.

As the elephants and mahouts retreat, Yakthumba and his men rush towards the battlefield in order to join Puran Singh and his men.

The reinforced Janamukti Sena unleashes havoc on Ekraj Shumsher’s Kali Bahadur Battalion. As the battle progresses into close combat, Ekraj is pulled off from his horse, but he manages to escape with help from some of his soldiers.

Before the sun sets for the day, Ekraj Shumsher’s battalion is routed at Thori.

A motivating event takes place that evening at the Janamukti camp. Puran Singh removes his watch from his wrist and presents it to the fighter who had snatched the Bren gun from the hands of the enemy soldier.

Likewise, Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba also gives away his watch to the fighter who had courageously snatched the two-inch mortar from the enemy, as well as his gold chain to one Chandrabir, who had pulled Ekraj Shumsher from his horse onto the ground! There are cheers all around.

After defeating the Kali Bahadur Battalion, the fighters are divided into two groups as was planned earlier. One group is to move further west to Bhairawa, whereas the other is to head for Biratnagar.

According to the plan, Puran Singh and Yakthumba are to reach Jogbani by travelling in a train through northern Bihar and begin their attack on Biratnagar with the strength of one hundred fighters.

Battle For Biratnagar

As soon as they reach the Katihar Railway Station, Yakthumba receives information that he and Puran Singh are to go to Farbesgunj together with their men. They are required to meet the Nepali Congress leaders in Farbesgunj before proceeding towards Jogbani.

Availing this opportunity of a break from fighting, Yakthumba decides to stay in Farbesgunj for a few days more in order to get better prepared for the assault on Biratnagar.

While they are stationed at Farbesgunj, Yakthumba makes a reconnaissance tour of Biratnagar incognito. On the strength of Yakthumba’s survey of the city, as well as on the basis of inputs from their intelligence agents, Janamukti Sena evaluates the situation in Biratnagar.

Accordingly, they come to the conclusion that the arms they have brought from Thori are pretty much insufficient for the Biratnagar campaign. As such, the number of fighters and that of the weapons were to be considerably improved over the next few days.

Their unscheduled halt at Farbesgunj was, after all, proving to be extremely beneficial.

The actual reason why Yakthumba and his contingent were required to make the unscheduled halt at Farbesgunj was related to one specific purpose concerning the command structure of the Janamukti Sena.

With the consent of and suggestions from Nepali Congress, Janamukti Sena constitutes a Command Committee with veterans like Puran Singh Khawas, Pahal Singh Lama, Rom Bahadur Thapa–Magar, P. B. Basnet, N. Tamang, Narayan Singh Shah, and Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba as its core members.

This Command Committee appoints Yakthumba as the General Officer-in-Command for entire Eastern Nepal as well as the leader of the impending attack on Biratnagar. Yakthumba’s command office is set up in Farbesgunj.

If the Janamukti Sena was upgrading its battle plan, its adversary, the National Army at Biratnagar, under Uttam Bikram Rana, had also been preparing for a tough fight ahead. They were well equipped and quite ready.

Their ranks were divided into several platoons and were deployed at strategic locations in the city to fortify it against any sort of attack. They had put up a number of security posts and barricades, and had also buttressed and increased the height of the wall surrounding the residential office of the Badahakim.

Not only this, they had also dug up trenches that were deep up to the chest, which would be impossible to breach on a terrain that was an open ground! Anyone approaching the District Chief’s residential office would be instantly pulverised with a hail of bullets from soldiers concealed in the trench and other vantage locations behind the wall!

On top of that, being an astute person, Uttam Bikram Rana had stockpiled enough foodstuff which would sustain him and his army for about three months!

Badahakim was also not particularly worried because he was expecting Ekraj Shumsher’s refurbished contingent to arrive in the city anytime soon.

No sooner the Janamukti Sena learns about the impending arrival of Ekraj Shumsher’s contingent to Biratnagar, they figure out the consequences of such an eventuality. If Ekraj’s enforcement reaches Biratnagar it could spell disaster for them.

As such, Yakthumba decides to act fast and attack Biratnagar right away. Accordingly, they shift their base camp to a jute mill in Jogbani on the night of the 7th of December, 1950. After the initial preparation, attack on Biratnagar commences in right earnest.

The Sena remains in action all night through trying to establish their control over the city. In their efforts to siege the office of the Badahakim and compel him and his army to surrender, the Sena resorts to a relentless firing.

The exchange of fire continues all through the night and spills over to the next day. Dal Bahadur Thapa–Magar attains martyrdom in the initial stage of the battle.

Early in the morning of the 9th of December, Yakthumba and some leaders of the Nepali Congress climb a tower on the eastside of the Badahakim’s office, and shout through a funnel shaped handmade voice amplifier.

Yakthumba informs Uttam Bikram that his army elsewhere in the city has been defeated and entire Biratnagar has fallen to the Janamukti Sena. He further says that the Badahakim and his army guarding the barracks as well as him and his residential office have been surrounded, and there was not a single route for them to make their escape good.

The only way out for him and his men was to act upon an immediate and unconditional surrender. If he surrendered without any delay his life as well as that of his men would be spared.

Soon enough, a piece of white cloth appears on the top of the Badahakim’s residential office. Almost immediately, Uttam Bikram Rana’s voice comes through a loudspeaker. He yells that if Janamukti Sena guarantees safety of his life and those of his men, they are quite ready to surrender.

A sense of jubilation ripples through the rank and file of the Janamukti Sena. At this favourable turn of event, Yakthumba deputes Donald Grangden and two of his friends, Ang Tsering Lama and Tilak Subba, to immediately go to the Badahakim’s residence and formalise the surrender.

But no sooner Grangden and his two companions reach halfway to the District Chief’s residence, the white flag is abruptly pulled off. Almost simultaneously a salvo of gunfire greets the three Janamukti personnel instantly dropping them onto the ground in motionless sprawl.

A pall of gloom descends upon the entire Janamukti Sena.

Yakthumba mutters to himself that Uttam Bikram Rana would soon face the inevitable punishment for his wily trick. The bodies of the three men remain unattended because any attempt at retrieving them in broad daylight would be extremely perilous.

After the daylong encounter with the National Army, senior Commanders of the Janamukti Sena get together at the camp in the evening to discuss battle strategies for the next day. Dusk had already matured into an early night which, in turn, was starting to spread its dark reign all over.

As Yakthumba and his senior officers are engaged in the grim discussion, a sudden cheer of jubilation erupts from the guards posted outside the room, startling all of them. In the next instant, Donald Grangden and his two comrades, whom everybody had given up for dead, enter the room surrounded by the cheerful soldiers! The truth comes out rapidly.

On the instant they heard the sound of gunfire, Grangden and his two comrades had flung themselves onto the ground and remained immobile, pretending to be dead! Any movement on their part would have been an open invitation to death!

Fortunately, the Badahakim’s men had also taken them for the dead and chose not to waste anymore bullets. But as soon as it was dark, they jumped onto their feet and ran as fast as they could in order to be out of the enemy’s firing range.

Upon this story being narrated, the sombre mood in the room magically changes into that of cheerful jubilation! However, the meeting has to continue, and the discussion that evening centres on how to bring the District Chief and the National Army, which was well entrenched in their barracks around his residence, under their control.

The extensive discussion entails finding appropriate ways to breach the enemy barracks and the residential office of the District Chief. Four options are discussed: 1) fasten gelatin sticks on the walls around Badahakim’s residence-cum-office compound and explode those, 2) use an aircraft to bombard the compound, 3) use an armoured tank to bring down the wall or, 4) destroy the wall using a powerful cannon.

In the end they decide to merge options number three and four, that is ─ a tank with the cannon! But they had neither.

So it a measure of Yakthumba’s daring vision and unlimited valour that since he needed them, he decided to get them made in the battle front itself!

Innovating War Machines

Biratnagar Jute Mill is found to be a suitable place for making the cannon. Yakthumba assigns the task of casting the cannon to one Phatte Bahadur Nepali who was experience in such a task. Bhola and Tarapad Chatterjee, two experts in making bombs, are brought in from Calcutta. Phatte Bahadur devotes himself to his assigned task and is soon able to give shape not just to one but to two cannons!

The cannons are promptly named Tej Bahadur Cannon and Dal Bahadur Cannon after the two fighters who had achieved martyrdom in Birgunj and Biratnagar respectively. Both the cannons are successfully test-fired on the eastern side of the Raghupati Jute Mill.

Meanwhile, Bhola and Tarapad Chatterjee are working round the clock churning out gunpowder for the two cannons. But one sad day, one of the bombs accidentally falls to the ground from the table. The resultant explosion instantly kills both the bomb makers.

There was yet another problem for Yakthumba: to find a vehicle on which to mount the cannons! For such a purpose, he and the other Commanders decide to make use of a bulldozer belonging to one Ishwori Chandra Marwari!

Ishwori was an old man with a long beard, as such, he was also known as Dariwala Budo or the “bearded old-man”! Marwari had brought the dozer from Imphal in North-East India after an American Engineering Corps had completed constructing a highway between Imphal and the northern part of Burma during World War II.

He had been using the dozer as a mechanised hoe to plough his field! But now the heavy machine is scheduled to be converted into yet another utility van ─ an armoured vehicle!

Consequently, within a short span of time, Phatte Bahadur accomplishes the task of transforming the dozer into a serviceable war tank!

Thick iron plates are wielded onto its body for the purpose of deflecting bullets. Iron plates in front bore small holes through which the driver and the gunners could peep out and observe the enemy.

The responsibility of the firearms is assigned to Hem Bahadur Pun and Keshar Bahadur Rai. The driver is also armed with a revolver. All the parts and the engine of the improvised tank are meticulously tested. The war machine is finally declared fit for commissioning.

On the 20th of December, 1950, at 8 O’clock in the morning, Yakthumba orders the tank out for the battle! A little later, a group of fighters of the Janamukti Sena and some enthusiastic local people gather in the compound of the Biratnagar Jute Mill in eager anticipation.

When at last Gaurav Mani slowly rolls the tank out of the Mill, a loud roar of amazed admiration goes up in the air! The armoured vehicle looks formidable! With the battle tank on their side, Puran Singh, Yakthumba and the leaders of the Nepali Congress feel confident of defeating Uttam Bikram Rana’s forces this time around.

Followed by its Commanders and their fighters in column, the tank moves ahead smoothly. The astonished crowd follow suit. But, as the tank barely covers a distance of about three hundred metres, to everybody’s horror, the engine violently gurgles and stops altogether in front of the nearby Kali Mata Temple!

A hasty examination of the engine does not reveal any anomaly with the machine. Panic spreads all around. Nobody exactly knows what was wrong with the monstrous machine or what is to be done the next!

Precisely at this moment the priest of the temple approaches Yakthumba and whispers into his ears that the tank had failed them because they had not prayed to the Goddess Kali for her blessings!

Since there were no other better options available, Yakthumba hurriedly removes his shoes and darts into the temple. He makes obeisance to the Mother Goddess and prays for strength and victory in their mission. As soon as this ritual is over, Yakthumba comes out of the temple and signals Gaurav Mani to restart the engine. Gaurav turns the key of the tank on and, lo! The engine starts to roar again!

At 11 O’clock, the tank enters the open ground from the east flank of the office of the District Chief. Before the enemy is able to figure out what was coming at them, the two Bren guns start belching fire from inside the tank!

Other members of the Sena also open fire. As the tank moves towards the compound with its guns blazing fire and destruction, Badahakim and his soldiers are panic stricken. Overlooking the possibility that the compound wall could be breached from another quarter, the national Army soldiers concentrate their attention only on a single target – the tank!

But bullets are quite ineffective on the armoured vehicle! Guessing his enemy’s bewilderment and confusion, Yakthumba orders his men to charge forward in a bid to storm the compound.

Amidst heavy exchange of fire, Yakthumba’s men slowly start advancing towards the compound.

Meanwhile, constantly spitting fire, the improvised tank keeps moving forward. However, as the driver Gaurav Mani is unable to see properly from inside, the tank suddenly climbs onto the structure of a well that is in the middle of the ground!

Despite valiant effort from the driver the tank neither moves forward nor swerves back. In the meantime the two gunners keep firing from inside the vehicle.

As the tank lies immobile, the enemy guesses it as destroyed. But, at last, Gaurav Mani’s efforts pay off. The tank overcomes the obstacle and it again moves on in its deadly mission. Constantly unleashing salvos of fire, it reaches the compound wall and brings down a portion of it with its brute force.

The tank enters the compound of the District Chief’s office and starts demolishing the remaining portion of the wall like a bull gone berserk. Janamukti Sena is now storming the compound firing at will and at anything that moves.

Clearly, the battle has entered into its final phase. Instead of surrendering, which would have saved many of their lives, most of the soldiers of the National Army choose to run helter–skelter while firing randomly at the same time. They are fired upon by the Janamukti Sena.

Soon after the tank enters the compound, Gyan Bahadur and Shyam Tamang also enter the building along with a handful of their fighters.

There is no one in the hall.

Yakthumba yells at Badahakim that if he does not appear before him within seconds he would reach him in his hiding lair!

Soon enough Uttam Bikram Rana, dressed in an all-white apparel, appears at the top of the staircase. He looks a thoroughly defeated man. With unsteady feet, he slowly comes down the stairs and stands in front of Yakthumba, visibly trembling with fright.

Gyan Bahadur Yakthumba too is trembling, but in rage. Holding a carbine in one hand and a revolver in the other, Yakthumba is seething with anger.

Uttam Bikram Rana had been a ruthless enemy who had allowed his men to brutally kill many of the freedom fighters in cold blood during the two months of fighting.

A few days earlier, one Dal Bahadur Thapa–Magar, who had been wounded in an encounter, was tortured in the most inhuman manner and was eventually shot dead. That was not all. After he was murdered in the cold blood, so many bullets were pumped into his lifeless body that the body had disintegrated into countless pieces!

Another was the case of Tula Ram Tamang. After murdering him, Tula Ram’s body was unceremoniously dumped outside the compound wall where foxes, vultures, and dogs were seen snatching off the flesh for days!

Flashback on such awful atrocities race through Yakthumba’s nerves. In utter rage he abruptly swings his revolver in a swift upward motion and points it to the Rana’s head.

Uttam Bikram collapses onto his knees begging for mercy! In that instant, Puran Singh and some leaders of Nepali Congress enter the room and, instantly evaluating the dire situation, quickly move towards Yakthumba, asking him to restrain from doing anything that was incorrect.

Controlling his extreme hatred for the man cowering in front of him, Yakthumba remains immobile for some time and, after what seems forever, he slowly lowers his revolver.

No sooner he lowers the gun, Uttam Bikram’s son, who had been standing on the steps of the staircase some distance away, runs down in panic, jumps out of the window, and speeds off towards the north of the compound.

But, as he fails to heed the warnings, fighters of the Janamukti Sena shoot him from behind. He drops dead and the body lies where it falls all day long.

The coincidence here is rather uncanny. The spot on which Uttam Bikram’s son falls dead is roughly the same location where the dead bodies of the two freedom fighters – Dal Bahadur and Tula Ram – had been subjected to a humiliating and dreadful treatment.

For sure, Uttam Bikram Rana was pursued and being punished by his own hubristic retribution.

The Battle of Biratnagar ends in jubilation for the Janamukti Sena.

Epilogue

Victory over Biratnagar was indicative of the possibility that the one hundred-and-four year old despotic Rana rule in Nepal would soon come to an end. Proving this as such, the National Army was being defeated in battles across the country.

After the successful campaign in Biratnagar, Janamukti Sena get busy launching attacks on the National Army in the mountainous regions of Eastern Nepal.

Like it was in the case of Birgunj, Upperdang Gadi, Thori, and Biratnagar, Gyan Bahadur Yakthuma, along with his many Area Commanders, leads successful campaigns against the Rana forces in Bhojpur, Tehrathum, Dhankuta, Khotang, Diktel, Okhaldhunga, Ainselukharka, Ramechhap, Sindhuligadi, Melung, and Charikot.

Despite reinforcements of men and materials from Kathmandu, the National Army is everywhere beaten as a matter of routine. In the true sense of the term, the sun over the gilded Rana reign seems to be setting over the horizon of an emerging democratic Nepal.

However, there is one last act to be played out in the drama that had begun with the terrible bloodbath called the kot parva one hundred and four years in the past. In this concluding act, the National Army is to take their last stand in Kathmandu where, in their own garrisons, rebel soldiers are getting ready to chop down the highest rank that came their way!

References:

1) Core book: GB Yakthumba: A Champion of Democracy, by Dilli Bikram Edingo (Chapters 4 and 5)
2) Janmukti Sena: Aeuta Nalikhiyeko Itihaas (Janmukti Sena: An Unwritten History,) by Shyam Kumar Tamang
3) Political Awakening in Nepal: The Search For A New Identity, by Prem R. Uprety. (The translation of the sanad was done by WB Irwin, the Assistant Resident, Foreign Secret Consultation, August 29, 1856
4) Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy, by Manjushree Thapa
5) Ganeshman Singh: Mero Kathaka Panaharu, Part I (presented by Mathavar Singh),
6) With A King In The Cloud, by Erika Leuchtag

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