Lal Bahadur Basnet was born on 17th December 1926 at Nazitam, Sang in East Sikkim. Born to Lieutenant (Honorary) Prem Bahadur Basnett and Narbada Devi, Lal Bahadur Basnett is an enigmatic personality of Sikkimese politics.
At the age of 4, Late Basnett, along with his parents, left Sikkim for Dehradun (then United Provinces now the Capital of Uttarakhand) and returned to his native land only after 15 years. He got his basic education at Dehradun and went to Ludhiana and admitted to Punjab University for his graduation.
After accomplishing his Graduation, in 1945, he went to United Services Pre-Cadet College Belgaum. He was court-martialed from the Army due to his direct and open letter to a High ranking Army Officer. In his Letter he stated about “the dissatisfaction prevailing in 2/5 Ghurkha Rifles”, which was not engrossed by other high ranking Officers. He was sent for a rigorous three months imprisonment but, later released after spending one and a half months in the jail. After resigning from the Indian Army, he went to Pokhara (Nepal) and served as a school teacher.
Lal Bahadue sat for the Sikkim’s first Civil Service Competitive Examinations and qualified the same by scoring more than 80% marks in both written and viva examination and was appointed as a Magistrate in 1961. His ideas of egalitarianism could not match with the monocracy.
For him, the Sikkim Monarchy was standing on the fundamental principle of theocracy and chauvinism. In order to show his resentment against such system of Sikkim, Late Basnett resigned from his job and again went to Nepal. There too he sat for another competitive examination, which he cleared with a first position and got his job as Assistant Editor for a semi government English Bi-weekly “The Nepalese Perspectives”.
Due to his immense faith on radicalism, which was visible in his writings, Late Basnett came under the direct surveillance of Nepali Monarchy and was put behind the bars for nearly 11 months. His days as a prisoner in the Nepali Jail paved the way for the writing of his famous novel “His Majesty’s Paying Guest” (Shree Panch ko Pahuna).
After getting expelled from Nepal Late Basnett came back to Sikkim and joined Sikkim National Congress, a political party headed by L.D Kazi. Very soon he was appointed as Joint Secretary of the Party and became an important element and was begun to be regarded as a “Think Tank” of the Sikkim National Congress Party. His ideas of democracy and egalitarianism could not stop there. In 1966, he published series of three articles on the topic of Democracy in Sikkim (Sikkim ma Prajatantra) which ultimately led to the portrayal of Late Basnett as an anti-national. He was sent to prison for using satirical and sardonic languages against the Sikkim Monarchy.
Later he was granted a bail of Rs. 1 Lakh but, within a few days he was again sent to jail on the same alleged reason. It was due to his endeavour the Sikkim National Congress had been able to win 10 out of 18 seats in the General Election of 1967. The sole credit of the victory goes to late Basnett for his political stalwartness.
Due to his deviating political views with L.D Kazi he resigned from the Sikkim National Congress and founded Sikkim Janata Party. Though, the party had never been active in the political sphere of Sikkim but, the demands made by Late Basnett and his party cannot be disregarded. After his victory in the election of 1979, he was elected as the Deputy Speaker of Sikkim Legislative Assembly.
Late Basnett as a Sportsman: During his youths he used to be a skilled sportsman. He participated at the National Boxing Championship in 1944 held at Irwin Stadium (now National Stadium) and became the first Sikkimese to become a participant in a national sports event. He was also a Captain of the Western Command Football Team in the Durand Cup in 1953. He is arguably the first Sikkimese football player to play at the National level.
Late Basnett as a Writer: A part from a political figure, Late Basnett was a prolific writer as well. He has written many books which include Sikkim- A Short Political History (1974), His Majesty’s Paying Guest (1982), a collection of Nepali short stories Dharma Chada (1983) and The Ghurkhas of India are of importance. He has also written Rape of Sikkim a controversial book about the annexation of Sikkim by India. He wanted to publish it from India; therefore he replaced the word Rape with Merger. But, most unfortunately the Indian army seized his manuscripts at Bagdogra airport on his way to New Delhi in May 1978. Thus, this book of him remained unpublished.
Late Basnett as a Journalist: His writing habits did not allow him to sit ideal, after leaving the Editorship of “The Nepalese Perspectives” he made his tie-ups with Himalayan Observers an English Newspaper published from Kalimpong from 1967. He was also a founding editor of this Newspaper. His articles were published in many reputed newspapers of India like Blitz, Current, Himmat, Now and Surya. One of his short stories was also broadcasted by BBC London in 1975 and the same story was published by a journal Imprint in 1976.
Due to lack of other relevant sources I am unable to mark the later part of his life. His other achievements will be updated as I will get further information. This article is written on the basis of an Appeal published by Sikkim Gorkha League Party for the Election of 1984.
The above post has been published on Rajen Upadhyaya’s blog
About the author:
Rajen Upadhyay from Namchi, Sikkim is an Assistant Professor of History in the Namchi Government College. A passionate reader and sports enthusiast Rajen is working to revive the History of Sikkim. You can read his blog sikkim-historyhunter
Read other posts by Rajen Upadhyaya:
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Sikkim’s Bal Bahadur Rai: For whom art is passion
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Jaharman Rai: The unsung Hero of Sikkimese History
The journey of political consciousness in Sikkim
Constitution of Sikkim State Congress 1947