Sikkim’s forgotten Gandhian freedom fighter

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By Binod Bhattarai & Rajen Upadhyay

THERE are many freedom fighters in India whose with their true spirit and undaunted courage earn us freedom from the tyrant colonial empire. India was free in 1947 from the British Empire but the country lost many men and women who were filled with undaunted courage and spirit of patriotism. Today, they are known as freedom fighters because they sacrificed their lives for their motherland.

Pic: Tara Prasad Bhattarai with his Charkha in his home (By Binod Bhattarai)

With the passing of time many of these heroes of our freedom struggle are hardly known, though they played an important role in the struggle for the emancipation of our country from foreign domination. Now they all are just the forgotten chapters. Today, we the people of India have almost forgotten many of them and countless other social reformists and their ideals. Among such forgotten pioneers, one is here from the soil of Sikkim and he is late Trilochan Pokhrel or popularly known as Gandhi Pokhrel.

Late Trilochan Pokhrel Photo

Last photo of Late Trilochan Pokhrel, a follower of Gandhi. Pic: Binod Bhattarai

Late Pokhrel was born at Tareythang Busty in Pakyong sub-division of East Sikkim possibly in the last decade of 19th Century (We do not have any evidence to assert his year of birth). During his youth he was greatly influenced by the movements of Mahatma Gandhi which were based on the fundamental principles of truth and non violence.

We do not have much information about his involvements in the earlier movements of Mahatma Gandhi like Non Co-operation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement. But, we can firmly claim his involvement in the famous Bharat Chhodo Aandolan (Quit India Movement) of 1942 from his contemporaries. His contemporaries informed us about his stay with Gandhiji at Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat and Sarvodaya Ashram in Bihar.

During his stay with Gandhiji, he used to spin the Charkha, rendered his service for the Ashrams and assisted the Mahatma in his daily affairs. Late Trilochan Pokhrel had an immense faith in the teachings of simple life by Mahatma Gandhi. His contemporaries in Tareythang village informed us that he used to visit his native village in the costumes of the naked fakir Gandhi. Akin to Gandhiji he too wears a piece of cotton Dhoti, with a pair of Khadau (an Indian wooden slipper). Hence, they began to call him Gandhi Pokhrel.

Further, few legends are still alive in the village of Tareythang about late Trilochan Pokhrel. It is said that he used to say, “Bande Mataram” while greeting his elders at the village. Therefore, they began to refer him as “Bande Pokhrel”. Still there is a piece of land at the said village which once belong to this Gandhian known as “Pokhrel Bari” (Land of Pokhrel). But, he never used to stay at his home for a long time. Few elders of this village claims about their meeting with this Gandhian Soul of Sikkim.

A deserted plot of land popularly called Pokhrel bari at Tareythang (Kapurpatey) Village near Pakyong sub division in East Sikkim where once Sikkim Gandhian Freedom fighter Trilochan Pokhrel used

A deserted plot of land popularly called “Pokhrel Bari” (Land of Pokhrel) at Tareythang (Kapurpatey) Village near Pakyong sub-division in East Sikkim where once Sikkim Gandhian Freedom fighter Trilochan Pokhrel used to live. Pic: Binod Bhattarai

In one of the stories, we heard about his involvement in propagating the concept of Swadeshi of Mahatma Gandhi among the Sikkimese peasantry. During his leisure he used to visit local hatt-bazar (such as Rongli, Rhenock, Pakyong, Rangpo etc) and sit there aside with his Charkha (spinning wheel) to make cotton threads. Few legends who knew late Pokhrel told us that during Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Sikkim in 1957, he had come to his native place and used to talk about the enigmatic Indian Prime Minister in a voluminous manner. Perhaps this was his last visit to his native land and possibly he is the lone Sikkimese to take part in the Indian Struggle for independence.

While inquiring about his descendants we were told that all his family members were migrated to Assam long back. Hence we could not gather much information about the other parts of his life. The only person from whom we can secure good information about late Pokhrel is Mr. Tara Prasad Bhattarai of Tareythang (Kapurpatey) village. He still preserved some of the glimpses as well as valuable sources related to him. He has maintained one of his last photograph and an envelope which was received by his family members 43 years ago. The said envelope was posted from the Purnia district of Bihar which contains the death confirmation of this Sikkimese Gandhian which read like this: “Expired on 27-1-69 at Prakritik Chikitsalaya, Ranipatra, P.O. Ranipatra, District Purunia, Bihar at 9 AM”.

(We would like to acknowledge Mr. Tara Prasad Bhattarai of Tareythang (Kapurpatey) village, without whose valuable inputs as well as of generous support this paper would not have been possible. – Authors)

The authors, Binod Bhattarai, a Doctoral Fellow at Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University, Puducherry and Rajen Upadhyay, Assistant Professor at Department of History, Namchi Government College, South Sikkim can be contacted at / .



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