Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Underground with Baburam Sir

THREESOME: Ram Bahadur Thapa, Biswadeep Pandey and Baburam Bhattarai somehwere in India during the war.

It was March 2004. A long cold winter had just ended and there was a certain calm in the country because of a ceasefire. My father, Bhakta Pandey, who was living underground in Gorakhpur, arrived in Butwal. I had just finished my SLC exams, but my father wanted me to come to India with him. I couldn't ask him where he was taking me.

At Lucknow railway station I found out I was going to be Baburam Bhattarai's personal assistant. After a 15-minute auto-rickshaw ride, we reached a three-storeyed house. There were two women and two men waiting for us. I recognised Baburam and Lekhnath and later learnt that the other two were their wives. Baburam Sir was leaving that day for Nepal for peace talks. "Comrade," he told me, "go to Delhi with Hisila. I'll see you there when I get back from Nepal."

Hisila Madam and I left for Delhi the next day. She told me that Baburam Sir was looking for a young, hard-working, disciplined and responsible assistant who could keep party secrets and understood the importance of simple living. We lived in a pink house in Rohini Sector 15 in Delhi. Hisila Madam showed me how to get around the city in public buses.

My main responsibility was to get Nepali newspapers for Baburam sir. I also had to type up articles and run errands. The nearest cybercaf? was 10km away. I had learnt how to use a computer in school but didn't know how to use the internet. Hisila Madam taught me and I was ready when Baburam Sir returned.

The talks failed and Baburam was restless, disturbed and unhappy. One day there was a knock on the door of our apartment. There was a man standing there. He had a salt and pepper moustache and looked familiar, but I couldn't quite figure out where I had seen him before. He asked me if I was Bhakta's son and headed straight to Baburam Sir's room. Hisila Madam asked me if I recognised him. When I told her I didn't, she said: "That's Prachanda." I was stunned. I hadn't recognised the leader of the 'peoples' war'.

That evening, Baburam Sir asked me to type up a paper. It was a statement on the failure of the talks. I went to the cybercaf? and sent it out to all the leading international newspapers. Back then we used to create new email IDs to send emails out. The story was published in The Times of India the next day.

Baburam Sir used to drink black tea in the morning. At around 8AM he used to have a breakfast of roti and curry, and lunch at 1PM. If he had to make a call he used public phones. He carried a mobile phone but only a few Maoist leaders had his number. He never used an auto-rickshaw or taxi. He used to go around Delhi on public buses to save money.

Baburam Sir never used to have his picture taken because of security reasons. I didn't have any pictures with him, so it was my dream to have one taken. I requested him a number of times. He was so tired of my request that he called my father and asked him to talk to me about it. After that, I never asked him again.

I learnt about communism from Baburam Sir. He gave me Lenin's The State and Revolution to read. The first time I read it, I didn't understand a word. By the third read I could vaguely understand some of the concepts.

In 2004, the Maoist party decided to take disciplinary action against Baburam Sir and three other leaders. I was in Kharibot, Rolpa and wept all night when I heard the news. The next day, 1 Feburary 2005, Baburam, Dinanath, Hisila, Debendra Paudel and Mani Thapa arrived at Kharibot. That was also the day former king Gyanendra decided to take over. This changed everything, and the Chairman rescinded his decision to order disciplinary action against the leaders.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)