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JUNG BAHADUR AMONG THE HORNETS' NEST - THE AFTERMATH OF VELAYAT YATRA

Kazi Karbir Khatry was a trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana. He was subservient and loyal to the new repository of power to a fault. He considered himself highly privileged to be a part of the prestigious retinue of the prime minister's epochal visit to England. But the Kazi was a very religious man; he was also extremely ambitious.

Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana finally returned home on the 6th of February, 1851 A.D. to a hero's welcome after a thirteen month long odyssey of England, France, Egypt and, on the way back, after politicking in the important power centers of British India. Entering Kathmandu Valley Jung was feted by his brothers, the court and the huge masses of the citizenry of the valley. Across the Black Bridge at Pachali, great welcome arches were constructed decorated with colourful banners and buntings hailing the prime minister and proclaiming the glory of Nepal. Welcome committees of every hue and color waited with garlands of marigold and traditional vermilion powder to shower the hero in orange and red. A military guard of honor played martial tunes of the times. A 21 gun salute was fired from cannons placed at the military garrison at Tundikhel. Smartly uniformed troops of the Nepalese army lined the street three rows deep from Pachali along the banks of the Bagmati River all the way to Thapathali the residence of the prime minister, their bayonets glistening in the bright wintry sun. Multitudes of common people jostled for view along the route. To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill's memorable exhortation in the British Parliament a century later, this was Jung's "finest hour".

A six horse carriage slowly made its way to Thapathali Durbar with Jung and his brother Bom Bahadur the officiating prime minister sitting and waving to the jubilant crowds. Shouts of "Jung Bahadur ki jai" were heard reverberating from one temple pagoda roof to another Mughal-era influenced temple dome. Jung looked resplendent in a white silk robe draped over military breeches and the bird-of-paradise plumed coronet studded with expensive diamonds, emeralds and pearls on his head, a great sword gifted by Louis Napoleon the French President dangling by his side. Jung basked in glory momentarily but driving along the route he was overwhelmed by it all. He was choking with emotion. He was humbled by the display of such love and affection shown by the common people coming so soon after the Kot massacre. Jung remembered the plans he had made for his beloved Nepal and he vowed with Lord Pashupatinath as his witness that he would implement them with undying zeal.

During Jung's absence the olden enemies had started to rear their ugly heads once again. There was a whispering campaign started by them to assasinate Jung's character. A trip across the ocean in those times meant losing one's high caste but Jung had prevailed over the reservations expressed by many influential members of his durbar and embarked on his historic visit. Now rumours of his exploits in Europe started to permeate a scandalized court. Upon hearing such stories folks started shaking their head from side to side expressing disapproval; they stuck their tongues out expressing shock. Jung had touched alcohol with his lips some said, an act that was anathema to chaste Hindus. Jung ate outside his own kitchen managed by dhoti-clad Brahmin cooks, others said. Jung had laspas with firingi women; Jung hobnobbed with colonialists and republicans; he toasted revolutionaries and anarchists. Jung entered a church! The hero had suddenly become an ogre. Just what his enemies needed to deal a final blow!

A conspiracy had been hatched during Jung's long absence. His third brother Badri Narsingh Rana and a coterie of courtiers had approached Prince Upendra Bikram Shah the younger brother of the reviled king with a plot to oust the king and place the prince on the throne in his stead. At the same time Jung Bahadur would be taken care of and Badri Narsingh would take the helm of government. Now they needed a smoking gun and found in Kazi Karbir Khatry a willing eye witness to Jung's misdeeds in England. The kazi's conscience had been troubling him for some time now. He had disapproved of Jung's conduct many times during the visit but had kept the discontent to himself for fear of recriminations. For a non Rana the post he held was very dignified and it came with political and financial rewards he was not about to jeopardize. But the conspirators now put seeds of a richer harvest in his mind should he come forward and say as he saw. The kazi's ambition gained the better of his prudence.

The conspirators had also tried to get the officiating Prime Minister Bom Bahadur, Badri's elder brother, on their side. Bom Bahadur had been tormented by this plot but he played along because he was afraid the conspirators might get the upper hand and finish him off too should he oppose them. But Bom Bahadur's loyalty to his elder brother Jung was unquestionable; they had all come out of the Kot massacre unscathed and he was convinced that the only way for them to survive in Nepal's ever-scheming court was for the seven brothers to be united. A division among the brothers would ring a death knell for the clan. Emotion overcame him as he hurried to the prime minister's residence at Thapathali to warn his brother Jung about the imminent danger he was in. Bom Bahadur threw himself at Jung's feet and divulged the secrets of the conspiracy, weeping and begging forgiveness for not sounding the alarm sooner. Jung Bahadur was shocked by the turn of events. He knew he had to act resolutely.

The next day was a full durbar. Jung would be going to the King's palace at Hanuman Dhoka to officially present him the letter of greetings from Queen Victoria. This was his opportunity to trap the conspirators in the presence of the king as some members of the royal family were involved too; Jung dared not arrest them without the king's approval. Jung gathered his faithful around him in the morning before going to the royal palace and gave the news about the conspiracy and the course of action to be taken. He believed that discretion was the better part of valour and it was wise to pretend that he knew nothing until the right moment. His intuition had saved him in 1846 A.D. when the distraught queen had sounded the alarm bugle and gathered the court in the middle of the night over the slaying of her paramour Gagan Singh Thapa. It would save him again.

King Surendra Bikram Shah was presiding at the court in Hanuman Dhoka. Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana read the letter of felicitation to the Nepalese monarch from Queen Victoria translated into Nepali. The King and the court were pleased: they knew that for now the East India Company would not be a nuisance and Nepal would enjoy a period of peace and good neighbourly relations. Then Jung dropped his bombshell! He talked about the conspiracy against the person of His Majesty and against himself. He asked the deputation of his personal bodyguards to arrest Prince Upendra, his brother Badri Narsingh and some of the leading conspirators gathered there. The drama was not over yet, Jung had to teach a lesson. He ordered Kazi Karbir Khatry to be arrested and brought before the court. The terrified kazi realized his folly and a quick vision of Jung's retribution flashed in his mind. Would he be hanged, drawn and quartered? Would a bull elephant crush his skull as practiced in the Mughal courts of Aurangzeb? Would they blind him? Pull out his tongue? He went limp. Brawny arms dragged him to the center of the court room and pinned him down on the floor, face up. Strong fingers pried open his mouth and before he knew what was going on, one of the well endowed bodyguards of Jung opened his fly and pissed in his mouth in full view of the court. The mouth would no longer monger gossip. Too, no more mouths would monger gossip after this. Kazi Karbir Khatry's humiliation was complete.

All the conspirators were banished from Nepal and British India was requested to hold them prisoners at the fort in Allahabad for a few years until the anger in Jung Bahadur ebbed away and politics and pity took over.

Comments

  1. Well written with scintillating details -"well endowed bodyguard of Jung" pissing in Kazi Karbir`s mouth!
    I read somewhere that Jung`s mother at her deathbed asked him to forgive his brother Badri Narsingh and bring him home.And who can refuse a dying mother`s final wish?

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  2. The description of Jung Bahadur's return to Kathmandu was what struck me the most. The pomp and the glory of it all, described in such vivid details.

    Looking forward now to a follow-up piece on the Kazi and his defiled mouth!

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  3. Subodh, errors here again. I am getting annoyed at the degree of liberty you are taking in describing these events.

    1. Kazi Khatri was never a confidant of Jung, but he was very intelligent man. He had the experience of visiting Chinese emperor, and was living in India. He was intelligent man, and even Brian Hodgson has mentioned him as being a very well informed. Obviously, any intelligent man like him can't support what happened in Kot. But on the other hand, cream always rises to the top, and unless one was willing to kill kaji, one couldn't suppress him forever.So, Kaji was just around, doing nothing, when the plan to visit London was being hatched out.

    2. Jung thought it prudent to take Kazi along. Too smart a fellow to leave behind, he probably thought. Jung might not be well educated, but he was extremely smart man. Kazi was therefore included in the 25 member retinue that went to London.

    3. Kazi was an old man. A remnant of Anglo Nepal war era. He hated the British. But he wasn't happy that he had to kowtow to the Chinese emperor when he was there. In this regard, Jung agreed with him. Seeing how victoria received them (kissing hand), they were even more disgusted about chinese govt, and it probably led to Jung's attack of Tibet later and scrapping the quinquennial trip to Peking.

    4. After Jung returned to Kathmandu, nothing happened for a week. You can read the account written by Oliphant, who travelled to KTM with Jung and was there for a while. (Journey to Kathmandu).

    5. I am not sure but I think the exact date when Bam Bahadur revealed the secret was Feb 13 midnight.

    5. All conspirators were arrested during the night. The court sat the next day. There were deliberations, long deliberations, on what type of sentences to be meted out. Jung objected to mutilations or killing.

    6. Khatri was pissed off, but not at the court. That is bs. Please show source that corroborates this claim.

    7. Khatri was also endowed with sugurko andrako janai, his kazi rank taken off, and he was banished from the valley. After a few months, he was pardoned.

    Most likely, Kazi was innocent. He was a smart man to fall for such trap. He had survived all purges, Kot Parba and tumultous decade preceding Kot. You think he would be so dumb to fall for such trap when Jung was so powerful?

    ReplyDelete

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