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Pampha Bhusal – A JOURNEY OF TRUE GRIT
Pampha Bhusal travels back in time to the beginnings of her political journey and the recognition she holds today. Hers is a story of true grit and determination.
From facing discrimination for being born a female to challenging the status quo, she has played a major part in the development of Nepal’s politics. She is currently the spokesperson of the third largest party in the country, Nepal Communist Party, Maoist Center.
From an underground student political practitioner to the chairperson of the then United Peoples’ Front (Samyukta Janamorcha), Pampha Bhusal was able to change the course of history with her intelligence, strength, passion and leadership.
Bhusal says that she was a born rebel. In her hometown, Aapkhola, Kimdada, a remote village in Argakhanchi District, giving birth to a female child was looked down upon. Girls were restricted from going to school. But the young Pampha was adamant about studying. She would challenge all the things that were supposedly for men only. She recalls, “I used to ride a horse, listen to the radio and would always top my class. Whenever I thrived people would remark “she did it just like a boy”. But I wanted them to accept my achievements for who I was – a girl! One day I read about Sushila Thapa, Kamal Rana and Indira Shrestha and I was really inspired by their stories.”
From her school days, she would question any form of injustice. Bhushal completed her primary education from Janata Primary School and moved to Janajyoti Secondary School. Every time she graduated from a class, her neighbours would tell her parents to stop her education. “A lot of questions were raised at my parents for having only girls. Some even advised my father to go in for a second marriage, just to have a male child. However, he dismissed the idea and focused instead on making us independent. This made me feel that I was no less than a boy,” Bhusal recalls.
As Bhusal’s belonged to one of the wealthiest families in the village, many village folk would visit her home for loans. She witnessed how they were discriminated because of their poverty and caste. She felt that she had to find a solution. When she was in grade eight, she joined an underground student union. She would read many books that were restricted to the public such as Nari Bandan Ra Mukti Manab written by Modnath Prasit and books on Marxism.
“As I studied Marxism and leftist ideologies I found out communism was the only solution to inequality and discrimination that existed in the society. Luckily, I was in contact with people who supported leftist ideologies and my school itself was established by communists during the Panchayat regime,” she shares.
After finishing SLC, Bhusal wanted to come to Kathmandu for further education. But a girl travelling so far from home was a distant thought not to be even considered. It took relentless persuasion for Bhusal to convince her parents. “I was not going to give up my studies. I cried and stopped eating until my parents finally agreed to send me to the capital,” she remembers.
In Kathmandu, she joined IOE Pulchowk Engineering Campus and became the only girl from her village to attain a degree in engineering. She then joined Shanker Dev Campus and completed her course in management studies. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Masters degree in Sociology.
Bhusal entered student politics in 1977. All Nepal National Union Students ‘ Union (ANNFSU) was banned under the Panchayat regime, but this only fueled the fire within to join and contribute. “The people’s movement in 1978-79 gave form to the student’s union. I believed that this political movement would be the changing factor for the development of our country. Hence I became actively engaged in it,” Bhusal says.
The Warrior Spirit
In the struggle against the autocratic rule of the king, she was jailed several times. In 1981, she was arrested for the very first time for conducting Mahangi Birodh Karyakram. “I was brought up in a rural village and never had any idea about jail. Honestly now when I think about it, I was actually excited at that time,” Bhusal recalls with a hint of humour. Right after release, she got membership into the political party.
In 1982, she became the General Secretary of All Nepal Women’s Association which was chaired by the legendary writer and novelist Parijat. She also ensured her active presence in Communist Party of Nepal (CPN), CPN-Mashal, CPN- Unity Center, CPN- Maoist Centre and Samyukta Janamorcha. She became the first female politician in Nepal to lead a political party as the Chairperson of Samyukta Janamorcha.
When CPN Maoist started the people’s war in 1996, she was the only female committee member constituted under the leadership of Chairman Prachanda. She went underground and fought the war until peace negotiations were held by then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.
“When we initiated the war we knew some of us may be arrested, tortured or even killed but what we were fighting for was very necessary and we dedicated everything to it,” says Bhusal.
An interim government was formed after the peace negotiation and she became Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
For the first constitutional assembly election, she gave her candidacy from Lalitpur constituency number 3 and won with a high margin. Consequently, in the first republican government led by Chairman Prachanda, she became the Minister of General Administration and later Minister of Peace and Reconstruction.
“Joining politics is very crucial if you want any change in society. I would advise the younger generation to be first politically aware before being politically active,” she concludes.