KATHMANDU, April 24: As the country marks 12th Loktantra Day on Tuesday, images of arbitrary arrests of political party leaders, mass demonstrations in the major thoroughfares of the capital and sporadic clashes between police and protesters live on in the minds of those who saw and felt those unfolding events.
One more image that transports many back to the April uprising of 2006 is that of young Rubin Gandharba, who left no stone unturned to entertain pro-democracy protesters with his songs of republic at mass rallies against King Gyanendra’s direct rule.
A permanent resident of Aaap Pipal, Gorkha district, Rubin was barely 11 years old when the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) took to the streets in the cause of democracy. As the series of SPA protests failed to make Gyanendra budge, a section of SPA leaders had begun quietly advocating a republic in the country.
Yet not many of them had the guts to speak out at public rallies. It was then that Rubin not only helped to draw greater popular participation in the protests, but also created favorable atmospherics for restoring democracy and eventually ushering in a republic .
Rubin, who was eking out a living with his singing at different public platforms including in public buses, proved such an influence on the ongoing protests that top SPA leader Girija Prasad Koirala invited him to dinner. “You are able to say in public what I cannot articulate at public forums. Although still a child, I am glad you have been able to speak out in such fashion,” Rubin recalls the former prime minister as telling him as the democratic protests were still underway back in 2006.
One of the popular songs Rubin sang during mass demonstrations criticized Gyanendra over his dictatorial ways and warned that a republic was inevitable if he continued to snub the call of the political parties to restore democracy. It was the same song that eventually set the mood of the protesters now demanding a democratic republic and not just democracy.
Recognizing his contribution, the Koirala government formed after the success of the April 2007 movement provided him a scholarship to pursue his studies. Although this privilege was later withdrawn by the Khil Raj Regmi government, Rubin was somehow able to pass the intermediate level with support from various generous souls over the years.
Rubin feels that he lost a lot personally after he decided to join the democratic movement against the suggestions of patrons who had enrolled him in a high-end school in Kathmandu. But he has no great regret.
“The dreams we cherished during the movement have not been realized . Nevertheless, I am optimistic that our dream of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Nepal shall be realized soon with all democratic forces joining hands in the spirit of that movement,” he added.