Nepal was reeling under the brutal regime of Rana oligarchy for about a century. People were trying to come out of the suffocation of that closed society. They had already started different civic movements to free themselves from the fetters of autocracy. On Magh 14, 1997 BS came one of the saddest moments for the fighters of civil liberty. On the very black day, Rana rulers were going to hang Dasharath Chanda and Ganga Lal Shrestha, for their fearless revolt against them. They were being taken to central jail from Singha Durbar for capital punishment. Their immediate family members were called for the last meeting with them. So Ganga Lalís father and brothers rushed to the scene.
Pushpa Lal along with his father Bhakta Lal, younger brothers and sisters came and sat on the ground in front of the jail. Kept in chains and handcuffs, Ganga Lal was brought before them. It was a very emotional and agonizing moment. Tears rolled down from the eyes of all but Ganga Lal was unmoved and said, "Death is certain after birth, it is an inevitable rule." He sought blessing from his father so that he could breathe his last happily. Turning to Pushpa Lal, his second younger brother, he said, "Mahila, take the lamp that we lit for the establishment of democracy to the nooks and corners of the country to make it glow further." These words from the martyr brother were a great inspiration for Pushpa Lal. This continued to guide him to be a relentless fighter for democracy and equality throughout his life that was full of struggles, sacrifices and scarcities.
Senior Left leader Govinda Gnawali, who lived with Pushpa Lal as a close comrade for many years till his final days, digs into exciting historical moments associated with his ideological mentor in his Samakalin Itihasma Pushpalal, the book under review. Pushpa Lal was a founder of Nepal Communist Party and propounded the policy of joint tactical line for the democratic movement. He constantly advocated that Left and democratic forces should join their hands to overthrow the feudal system and usher in democratic era in the country. Two successful democratic revolutions in 1990 and 2006 were based on his far-sighted political strategy.
The book depicts Pushpa Lal from a young revolutionary to a mature communist organizer and theoretician. Once Pushpa Lal defied notorious police chief Nara Shumsher, who aimed his pistol at him and threatened to finish him like his elder brother at Trichandra College. There he came to distribute pamphlets and deliver speeches against Rana rulers as a part of a civil movement. But, he undid the buttons of his shirt, showed his chest and roared, "Shoot me if you have guts." Enraged Nara Shumsher then started hitting at his delicate breast with the butt of his pistol until he vomited blood. It was in the beginning of 2004 BS.
The writer has vividly described how the father of Nepali communism inexorably fought against two brutal regimes Ė Rana and Panchayat - and orchestrated peasant uprising in several parts of the country. Pushpa Lalís political life began with Nepal Prajaparishad. He was a prominent member of Nepali Rastriya Congress (NRC) and its office secretary but he was frustrated by the quarrel between Dilli Raman Regmi and BP Koirala over who is the chief of the party. He made several attempts for reconciliation between them but it yielded no outcome. As the NRC started establishing ties with expelled Ranas for political cause, it hurt him. Pushpa Lal wanted an uncompromising struggle against the Rana regime. He arrived at a decision to form a separate party for the emancipation of the proletariat and working class. His meeting with noted Indian communist leader Nripendra Chakrawarti proved a turning point in this regard. Chakrawarti suggested him to establish the Communist Party of Nepal to assert the role of workers and peasants in the democratic revolution of the country. In the beginning, he was in a dilemma whether to found Nepal Tarun Morcha or Communist Party of Nepal. But, in order to muster the support of international socialist movement, he finally chose to establish NCP. On 22 April 1949, he created the NCP along with four other colleagues in Calcutta. Prior to its establishment, he translated the Communist Manifesto and other works of Lenin and Mao in addition to his original writings on the democratic and communist revolution in Nepal.
The book throws light into the very warm friendship between Pushpa Lal and BP Koirala despite their ideological differences. BPís niece Shailaja Acharya arranged secret locations for high profile meetings between the two towering figures of the Nepalese politics in exile in India. Pushpa Lal persistently requested BP to agree on joint struggle against the Panchayat but the latter often hesitated to accept it for the western power might frown upon Nepali Congress for joining hands with communists during the height of Cold War. Finally, BP gave in to Pushpa Lalís united working policy and said, "If Pushpa Lal recognizes parliamentary democracy, I will have no problem to accept his economic policy."
The book mentions how pro-royalist Raymajhi group seized the leadership of communist party and threw it into disarray and how Pushpa Lal simultaneously fought back against the enemies inside and outside the party. The accounts of Pushpa Lalís final moments, his revolutionary integrity, spartan living, and strong attachment to the Nepalese people and his family life are inspiring and interesting. Despite highlighting many facets of Pushpa Lalís political life and his contribution to the communist and democratic movement, the writer has missed to raise other important subjects related to the former. The book keeps mum about the relationship between Madan Bhandari and Pushpa Lal. Both shared deep intimacy at friendship and ideological level. Bhandari was the beloved disciple of Pushpa Lal whose moderate ideology influenced him a lot. But, this important portion of history goes missing. Likewise, the writer has failed to specify the extreme Lefts who stood against the national referendum in mid-80s. Nonetheless, the book has become an important asset for the students of political history. More importantly, it provides authentic information about the communist and democratic movement of Nepal. Gnawali deserves appreciation for his humble efforts to bring forth the great contributions of the icon of communist movement before the readers.