MS Shailaja Acharya, a lifelong fighter for parliamentary democracy in Nepal, who underwent imprisonment and trial in a case along with the late Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, the uncompromising leader of the Nepali Congress has been appointed Nepal'sAmbassador to India.
It is unfair to describe her as an aunt of Bollywood star Manisha Koirala, ignoring her revolutionary role for the cause of restoration of parliamentary democracy in Nepal after the royal coup of December 15, 1960 had ended the democratic rule of the Nepali Congress led by B.P. Koirala.
This reporter distinctly remembers the incident of February 18, 1961 when King Mahendra was presiding over a parade at the Tndikhel grounds (now the Khula Manch) on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Democracy Day, commemorating the event on February 18, 1951 when the autocratic rule of the Ranas had come to an end and a people'sgovernment was sworn in by King Tribhuvana. The parade included march past by college students, including students of girls? colleges in Kathmandu.
Suddenly, as the girls? college units were passing in front of the dais where the monarch was receiving salutes, four girls waved black flags against the King and shouted slogans denouncing the royal takeover.
Needless to add, Shailaja Acharya, daughter of the sister of the Koirala brothers (including present Prime Minister Girija Prasad) was among the four. They were immediately arrested by the security forces and lodged in prisons to be released several years later.
Of the four, the other three married and raised families, but Shailaja remained steadfast in her mission and accompanied BP (that is how the venerable Bishweshwar Babu was popularly known) after his release from prison on October 30, 1968, nearly nine years after his arrest on December 15, 1960 almost everywhere he went.
When the Koiralas and other Nepali Congress leaders taking shelter in India decided, apparently because of the hostile attitude of the Government of India at that time, to return to Nepal, knowing fully well that they would be tried and many of them might be awarded death sentences. This was on December 31, 1976. Shailaja too was among the passengers in this flight from Patna.
Expectedly, all of them were arrested and put on trial. However, around that time, a major political upheaval took place in India with the Janata Party coming to power. Probably sensing trouble, King Birendra took a lenient view and even sent BP accompanied by his wife Sushila to the United States for treatment of cancer, which was BP'slifelong companion with passports, visas and foreign exchange arranged within one night.
Later all these accused were released. On coming to India, they stayed at the South Extension-II. At that house, Shailaja had told this reporter that the torture was inhuman in the jails. She was kept awake all night with a 200Watt electric bulb burning over her eyes all night.
Times changed and democracy was restored as a result of Jana Andolan in April 1990.General elections saw the Nepali Congress win it and forming a government with Girija Babu as the Prime Minister. The Nepali Congress regained power in 1997 and Shailaja Acharya, now a Member of Parliament, was appointed the Minister of Agriculture and later named the Deputy Prime Minister.
She had failed to get elected in the 1999 elections but remained active in the party. One wishes her all success in cementing the relationship between Nepal and India.