Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Durga’s journey through time



MIN BAJRACHARYA, 9 APRIL 1990, NIKON FM-2 105MM ON MITSUBISHI 100 ASA FILM

This picture of Durga Thapa leaping out of a crowd of protesters in the 1990 People's Uprising became an icon for the era. It represented the euphoria and hope of the restoration of democracy 16 years ago, hope that was later dashed only to be revived this week with King Gyanendra's restoration of parliament.

Durga was 22 then, a student activist at Padma Kanya. She was attending a mass rally at Tundikhel on 9 April 1990. The protests against King Birendra's absolute rule were spreading and Durga remembers listening to democracy activist Padma Ratna Tuladhar speaking to the crowd.

"Suddenly, I couldn't hold it back any longer," she recalls. "I just leapt into the air to give a double victory sign."

Durga didn't know Min, and Min didn't know he had the photograph of the decade. Min Bajracharya was only 17 then and remembers: "Those were the days before digital, so I had to be economical with film. Suddenly I saw this woman leap up with her hands thrust out, and I took three quick shots."

The two met by chance three years later in a blood donation clinic, and kept in touch. When the seven party pro-democracy movement got underway last month, Min tracked Durga down and decided to follow her around.


MIN BAJRACHARYA, 18 APRIL 2006, NIKON D100, 24-85 MM DIGITAL

This picture of her last week in Baneswor leading a group of civil servants was a turning point in the agitation because government employees for the first time descended on to the streets. Durga is now a member of the Nepali Congress youth wing, and feels her place is on the streets to keep fighting for democracy not to rub shoulders with the party leaders.

"I feel very happy because the king has reinstated parliament," she told us on Tuesday, adding a warning to all political leaders, "parliament should quickly arrange a constituent assembly as the public is demanding. The politicians must not be negligent and ignore the voice of the people-that was why the king took power."

Her husband is a trader and Durga has a 12-year-old son. She says it is for his future that she is fighting now. "Our generation is moving on, now we have to make sure that people of his generation can live in a free country," she says. Durga had kept out of politics since 1990 and hadn't even met a NC central committee member. But when the seven parties launched their agitation, she was convinced it was time to put up another fight.

While most activists of her age have mellowed and started raising families, Durga has lost none of her fervour. Some of her friends accuse her of being extreme leftwing, but she is not deterred. She replies: "Extreme times demand extreme measures."



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