Voice of opposition, always

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 22.05.10
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Madan Tamang died as bravely as he had lived. Arguably, the hills’ most-gifted orator in politics, Tamang had never wavered when it came to speaking his mind, which, in the end, cost him his life.

He entered politics when in college and became a close associate of the then undisputed leader of the hills, Deo Prakash Rai. During the 1970s, he headed Tarun Gorkha, the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League’s (ABGL) youth wing, and shot into the limelight with his oratory.

In 1977, he was made the district secretary of the League but resigned in 1980 to join a new outfit called Pranta Parishad. His exit from the League was largely because of differences with senior leaders. Pranta Parishad threatened to overshadow the League after it spearheaded a campaign along with apolitical organisations like the Nepali Bhasa Manyata Samiti to include the Nepali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

Tamang had worked closely with Subash Ghisingh during the early days of Pranta Parishad, but the latter floated the GNLF in 1980 and slowly started overshadowing the Parishad with the statehood demand.

By 1986, the entire hills were with Ghisingh but Tamang refused to join him. Even at the height of the Gorkhaland agitation, between 1986 and 1988, Tamang never shied away from criticising Ghisingh and the violence he had unleashed. Tamang was then the only hill resident who openly spoke against the GNLF.

The GNLF did not take things lying down and burnt his ancestral house at Meghma near Sandakphu.

In 1992, Tamang floated the Gorkha Democratic Front (GDF) when the GNLF started opposing the inclusion of the Nepali language in the Constitution. The GNLF wanted the language in the Constitution after having its name changed from Nepali to Gorkhali.

At a public meeting at Chowk Bazaar, hordes of khukuri-wielding GNLF supporters surrounded Tamang once but he stood his ground and continued with his speech. In the end, the language was incorporated as Nepali/Gorkha in the Constitution.

After his success with the language agitation, Tamang lied low only to rejoin the League in 2004.

He defied GNLF-sponsored strikes to address public meetings against the inclusion of the hills in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. His vehicle was attacked in Kalimpong, his meeting was stoned in Bijanbari but he never lived in fear. Instead, he headed an anti-Ghisingh conglomeration called the People’s Democratic Front.

When the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha came into being in 2007, he initially supported the new party but animosity started to set in when his call for a collective leadership to pursue the statehood demand was disregarded. Alleged Morcha supporters attacked his house, burnt a League office and prevented him from holding public meetings, but nothing could stop him from voicing his views.

Recently, Tamang played a vital role in bringing several non-Morcha outfits to form the Democratic Front.

Tamang dedicated his life to politics but he also loved to live life kingsize. Well read, he had one of the finest collections of books in the hills. He was a keen gardener and his Gothic-style house suggested he was a man of taste.