Girija Koirala: Politician who led the drive for peace and democracy in Nepal

Girija Prasad Koirala was an integral part of Nepal's modern political history and served as its prime minister five times. He was a champion of democracy and architect of the peace talks with the Maoists which brought to an end a bloody 10-year insurgency that killed thousands; his efforts brought the rebels into the mainstream and paved the way for abolishing the 239-year-old Hindu monarchy.

The youngest of five sons and one daughter, he came from a political family – his father Krishna Prasad Koirala had defied the despotic Rana regime and Girija was born in exile in north-east India. He studied at Varanasi, initially seduced by Communist ideology but thereafter always advocating democracy.

Like his father, and brothers Matrika and Bishweshwar, both of whom would also serve as prime minister of Nepal, he participated in the freedom movement in India, spearheaded by his "role model" Mohandas Gandhi, as well as in the struggle against the Rana dynasty at home. In the late 1940s he led a workers' strike in Biratnagar, founded the Nepal Trade Union Congress and launched an insurrection against the Rana rule at the behest of the Nepali Congress (NC) party. Appointed Morang district president of the NC in 1952, he held the position until his arrest in the 1960 coup d'état by King Mahendra, who deposed Bishweshar as Prime Minister and began a 30-year reign of terror against pro-democratic elements and the NC.

Released in 1967, Girija went into self-imposed exile in India with Bishweshwar and others, working towards democracy in Nepal; he masterminded the hijacking of a Nepalese aircraft ferrying cash, printed fake Indian currencies and procured weapons. He became the NC's general secretary in 1975 and returned to Nepal in 1979 as part of the national reconciliation campaign.

Long seen as Bishweshwar's lieutenant, he came into his own after his brothers' death in 1982. The NC forged an alliance with leftist groups and organised a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement. Mass participation and support from Indian leaders helped restore democracy in Nepal in 1990. In May 1991 Koirala followed in Bishweshwar's footsteps, becoming the country's second democratically-elected prime minister following the incumbent premier Krishna Prasad Bhattarai's defeat in Nepal's first nationwide multi-party elections.

He went on to serve as prime minister four more times; his third term (March 2000-July 2001) was marred by the bloodbath in which Crown Prince Dipendra shot and killed King Birendra and eight other members of the royal family before his own apparent suicide. Koirala resigned in the heat of growing Maoist insurgency and the military was mobilised in the civil war for the first time.

When the new, ambitious monarch King Gyanendra grabbed total power most democratic leaders gave in, but Koirala saw it as a "regressive step" and insisted on the reinstatement of the House of Representatives. He persuaded the Maoist kingpins to give up violence, concentrate on democratic politics and join hands with parliamentary parties to topple the royal regime. With Indian help, the historic 12-point agreement was signed in New Delhi in November 2005, triggering the massive People's Movement of April 2006.

This was Koirala's defining moment: he had stood resolutely against royal adventurism and convinced the Maoists of the value of democracy. In November 2006 he signed a peace agreement with the Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, formally ending the civil war. The monarch was forced to concede that sovereignty rested with the people and Koirala was selected as prime minister by leaders of the Seven-Party Alliance. The parliament passed laws to strip Gyanendra of his powers and bring the military under civilian control.

Re-elected as premier in April 2007, Koirala became acting president when the Maoists won the constitutional assembly elections in April 2008. On 28 May 2008, he proposed the motion to abolish the monarchy, a move which was endorsed by an overwhelming majority.

But Nepal continues to remain in turmoil, and the death of Koirala when he was still trying to secure a new constitution only complicates the situation. Despite his frail health he had stood like a rock between the Maoists and Nepal's present ragtag coalition government under Madhav Kumar. The interim constitution ends in May, and if Nepal cannot restore the consensus of 2006, conflict and anarchy may return.

Koirala had met Sushma Upadhyaya, a Benaras Hindu University graduate, and fell in love with her. Since his mother and other members of his family didn't accept her, they eloped and married in Calcutta in 1952. Sujata, their only child, was born in 1954. A minister without a portfolio in Koirala's cabinet in 2008, she is serving as deputy premier and foreign minister in the current Nepal government.

Haresh Pandya

Girija Prasad Koirala, politician: born Tedi, Bihar state, India 20 February 1925; married 1952 Sushma Upadhyaya (died 1967; one daughter); died Kathmandu 20 March 2010.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?