1979 Nepalese student protests

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The 1979 student protests in Nepal (Nepali: 2036 Saal ko Aandolan (२०३६ सालको आन्दोलन) [1] ) were a series of protests amongst the student community in Nepal during the months of April and May 1979 (2036 B.S.). The clashes that occurred had a significant historical impact, as they forced the monarchy to concede to holding a referendum on the possibility of a multiparty system in the country. Official figures stated that 11 persons were killed during the agitation, and 164 wounded. [2]

Nepali language Indo-Aryan (Pahari) and official language of Nepal

Nepali, known by the endonym Khas Kura also known as Gorkhali or Parbatiya, is an Indo-Aryan language of the sub-branch of Eastern Pahari. It is the official language of Nepal and one of the 22 official languages of India. It is spoken mainly in Nepal and by about a quarter of the population in Bhutan. In India, Nepali is listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution as a language of India, with official status in the state of Sikkim, and spoken in Northeast Indian states such as Assam and in West Bengal's Darjeeling district. It is also spoken in Burma and by the Nepali diaspora worldwide. Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Indo-Aryan languages, most notably the other Pahari languages and Maithili, and shows Sanskrit influence. However, owing to Nepal's location, it has also been influenced by Tibeto-Burman languages. Nepali is mainly differentiated from Central Pahari, both in grammar and vocabulary, by Tibeto-Burman idioms owing to close contact with this language group.

Protest expression of objection

A protest is an expression of bearing witness on behalf of an express cause by words or actions with regard to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take many different forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations. Protesters may organize a protest as a way of publicly making their opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy, or they may undertake direct action in an attempt to directly enact desired changes themselves. Where protests are part of a systematic and peaceful nonviolent campaign to achieve a particular objective, and involve the use of pressure as well as persuasion, they go beyond mere protest and may be better described as cases of civil resistance or nonviolent resistance.

A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new law. In some countries, it is synonymous with a plebiscite or a vote on a ballot question.


April 6 rally

On April 6 a group of students demonstrated in the capital Kathmandu, protesting against the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan. As the manifestation came nearer the Pakistani embassy, the student procession was stopped by police at Lainchour. [3] Reportedly, the police blocked the students as King Birendra's vehicle was travelling nearby. [4] Clashes between students and riot police occurred.

Kathmandu Capital of Nepal

Kathmandu is the capital city and largest city of Nepal with a population of 1.5 million in the city proper, and 5 million in its wider urban agglomeration across the Kathmandu Valley, which includes the towns of Lalitpur, Kirtipur, Madhyapur Thimi, Bhaktapur making the total population roughly 2.5 million people and the municipalities across Kathmandu valley. Kathmandu is also the largest metropolis in the Himalayan hill region. Nepali is the most spoken language in the city, while English is widely understood.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Fourth President and ninth Prime Minister of Pakistan

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a Pakistani politician who served as the 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that as the 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. He was also the founder of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and served as its chairman until his execution in 1979.

Pakistan federal parliamentary constitutional republic in South Asia

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s sixth-most populous country with a population exceeding 212,742,631 people. In area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the far northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.

Spark of protests

After the violent clashes of April 6, representatives of the student community composed a list of 22 demands to the authorities, urging an end to police repression against the student movement. A series of other protests were held by students in the days to come. In an effort to quell the dissent, the authorities decided to close the campuses in Kathmandu valley between April 13 and April 21.[ citation needed ]

On April 9 (B.S 2035 Chaitra), a nine-member central Action Committee of students was formed in order to write the 25-point chart of demands. The members of the Action Committee were as follows:[ citation needed ]

All Nepal National Free Students Union

The All Nepal National Free Students' Union is the politically based student organization in Nepal. The ANNFSU was founded in 1965. The original ANNFSU was later divided along ideological lines, and there are several organizations that emerged from it. The main ANNFSU grouping today is politically tied to the Communist Party of Nepal. But the abbreviation can be used to denote as a whole communist students organization in Nepal. The letter or word at the end defines particular communist group. For example: ANNFSU-R for Maoists, ANNFSU(Fifth) for Marxist-Leninists. As well as declaring itself a legitimate and independent students' organization of all progressive, democratic and patriotic students of Nepal, the mainstream ANNFSU is currently a member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth.

Among them, 'chief action committees' consisting of three members were also formed, of Bal Bahadur K.C. of Nepal Students Union (connected to Nepali Congress), Kailash Karki of the Nepal National Students Federation (connected to the pro-Soviet Communist Party) and Sharan Bikram Malla of the All Nepal National Free Students Union (connected to the pro-Chinese communist, Pushpa lal group). [1] [4] [4] [5]

Nepali Congress political party in Nepal

The Nepali Congress is a social-democratic political party in Nepal. It is the largest opposition party in the House of Representatives and the National Assembly.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.

April 23 Ascol clashes

On April 23 students of the Amrit Science College (Ascol) held a public manifestation, protesting against violence committed by the pro-government outfit Rashtravadi Swatantra Vidhyarthi Mandal (nicknamed mandales). At that manifestation, the police not only decided to break up the demonstration in the open areas of the campus, but surrounded the entire area and began violently assaulting the students. Sources from the student community claimed that two or three students were killed by the police. Police sources, on their hand, claimed that 64 amongst their ranks had been injured in the clashes.[ citation needed ]

Following the Amrit Science College clashes, the authorities took a decision that would essentially turn local student unrest in the capital into a national rebellion. They decided to close the campuses and student hostels; students were given 24 hours to clear their rooms. Students from remote areas left the capital to return to their family residences. To their villages and hometowns they brought news about the brutality of the state forces, and soon protests began to appear around the country. [6]

Nationwide Escalation

On April 27 a visit by a minister to Hetauda sparked protests by the local population. Demonstrators held the minister incommunicado for ten hours. The crowd was broken up by police firing. Official records say that three demonstrators were killed, but opposition sources claimed that the death toll could have reached 17. The morning after, the state forces clamped down on known opposition leaders in the capital, arresting several prominent figures. Former Prime Minister B.P. Koirala was placed under house arrest.[ citation needed ]

The unrest then gained momentum and spread throughout the country. Protests occurred in Bhaktapur, Patan, Bharatpur, Birganj, Kalaiya, Janakpur, Biratnagar, Rajbiraj, Siraha, Sarlahi, Pokhara and Syangja. In total, clashes occurred in 37 out of 75 districts of Nepal. The education minister, Pashupati Shamsher Rana, resigned. [7]

Royal commission and negotiations

On May 2 King Birendra, in response to the protests, formed a five-member commission headed by Dhanendra Bahadur Singh, Chief Justice of Supreme Court, present a report on how to deal with student movement. On May 2–3, 160 students arrested during the protests were released. The royal commission suggested giving in to the students' demands concerning academic issues, and on May 9 the 64 remaining arrested students were released alongside political opposition leaders. [8]

The Central Student Action Committee, Bal Bahadur K.C.-Nepal Biddhyarthi Sangh, Sharan Bikram Malla- All Nepal Free Student Union, Kailash Karki- National Student Federation were the three members of central action committee of the students movement of 1979 was able to reach an agreement with the royal commission including abolishing the 1972 new education policy, scrapping entrance exams for universities, giving the right to form independent unions and abolishing the Mandales. The Student Action Committee on their behalf urged fellow students to return to the campuses. [4] [9]

Royal declaration on plebiscite

On May 23 King Birendra made a public declaration that a referendum with universal adult suffrage with secret vote would be held in which the people of Nepal would be able to choose between introducing a multiparty system or retain the non-party panchayat regime. The referendum was held on May 2, 1980. [10]

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  1. 1 2 Silwal, Ani Rudra. Students and Politicians in '36 Saal ko Aandolan' , published in The Kathmandu Post Review of Books, Vol. 4, No. 3, 9 May 1999
  2. Brown, T. Louise. The Challenge to Democracy in Nepal: A Political History. London: Routledge, 1995. p. 90
  3. All Nepal National Free Students Union. The Nation-wide Students Movement of 1979 . 2003
  4. 1 2 3 4 A Crisis in Nepali Student Politics? Analyzing the Gap between Politically Active and Non-Active Students 2005, Peace and Democracy in South Asia, Volume 1, Issue 2
  5. Devakota, Grishma Bahadur (1983). Nepalko Rajnitik Darpan: Political Mirror of Nepal-Referendum and Then After (1 ed.). p. 6.
  6. Shaha, Rishikesh. Politics in Nepal 1980-1990. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1990. p. 48-49.
  7. Shaha, Rishikesh. Politics in Nepal 1980-1990. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1990. p. 49, 51.
  8. Shaha, Rishikesh. Politics in Nepal 1980-1990. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1990. p. 50.
  9. Baral, Lok Raj. Nepal 1979: Political System in Crisis in Asian Survey, Vol. 20, No. 2, A Survey of Asia in 1979: Part II. (Feb., 1980), pp. 197-205.
  10. Shaha, Rishikesh. Politics in Nepal 1980-1990. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1990. p. 51, 69.