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Special Content

Issue no 21, 21-27 August 2021

Trilochan Pokhrel

Unsung Hero who pioneered Swadeshi Movement in Sikkim


Dr. Rajan Upadhyay & Prof. Binod Bhattarai


Salvaging India from the tyrannous clutches of the British Empire required a protracted struggle - a struggle that witnessed the birth of many heroes. While some heroes rose to fame and remained etched in our memories, some, who fought equally hard, did not get their share of limelight. But as citizens of India we ought to know about the unsung heroes whose contribution to India's freedom struggle somehow got lost in the pages of history. It is worth mentioning here that a lot of personalities from North East India too came out to fight the British rule and gave their lives to break the shackles of oppression. Trilochan Pokhrel is one such unsung hero of India's freedom struggle who deserves our salute.

Trilochan Pokhrel was born to Bhadralal Pokhrel and Januka Pokhrel and brought up at Tareythang Busty in Pakyong subdivision of East Sikkim in the last decade of 19th Century. During his youth, he was greatly influenced by the movements started by Mahatma Gandhi which were based on the fundamental principles of truth and nonviolence. While there is not much documented information about his involvement in the earlier movements of Mahatma Gandhi, such as the Non Cooperation Movement and the Civil.

Disobedience Movement, his contemporaries back in his native village recall his active involvement in the Quit India Movement of 1942. Pokhrel is said to have stayed with Gandhiji at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat and the Sarvodaya Ashram in Bihar. During his stay there, Pokhrel spent his time spinning the Charkha and rendering his services for the ashrams and assisting the Mahatma in his daily affairs. He was so influenced by Gandhiji's teaching and his lifestyle that he would visit his native village donning clothing similar to what Mahatma Gandhi wore. This combined with his undaunted courage and spirited patriotism won him the epithet of 'Gandhi Pokhrel.' Also, Pokhrel used to greet elders in the village with 'Vande Mataram'. This prompted some people in his village to refer to him as 'Vande Pokhrel'.

In 1861, the erstwhile Kingdom of Sikkim and the British Empire signed the Treaty of Tumlong, which effectively made the presentday Northeastern state a protectorate of the British Indian government with the objective of using the Kingdom as a trade route. Three decades later, the British established a formal protectorate over Sikkim fully assuming the responsibility of the Kingdom's defence and external affairs. It was in this context of growing British influence on Sikkimese affairs that Trilochan Pokhrel took upon his shoulders the responsibility of educating and organizing the people of Sikkim to take up a peaceful struggle against the British Empire. Dadhiram Dhamala of Amba Gram Panchayat, recalls "Bande Pokhrel never used to come home for long stays. While Pokhrel spent most of his time propounding the idea of Swadeshi among the Sikkimese peasantry, in his leisure, Pokhrel visited local haat-bazaars such as Rongli, Rhenock, Pakyong, Rangpo where he sat with his Charkha (spinning wheel) to make cotton threads. Akin to Gandhiji, he too wore cotton dhoti and a pair of Khadau (wooden slippers)." He did this, mainly to encourage the spirit of Swadeshi i.e. to spin and wear indigenous fabric, to establish and promote village industries etc. so that the villages could be developed as self sufficient.

Tara Prasad Bhattarai of Kapurpatey village claims that Trilochan Pokhrel gave away most of his land to his father. However, there are still remains of a small house where the late freedom fighter stayed whenever he visited his native place. The house is now known as Pokhrel Bari (House of Pokhrel). Bhattarai showed us a photograph of Gandhi Pokhrel and an envelope that contains the late Freedom Fighter's death certificate issued by Prakritik Chikitsalaya, Ranipatra, District Purnea, Bihar. The timing of his death is noted as 9 AM, 27- 1-69. In 2018, the Sikkim government posthumously honored Trilochan Pokhrel with the LD Kazi Award for Democratic Movement.


(Dr. Rajan Upadhyay is Assistant Professor, History, University of Sikkim and Prof. Binod Bhattarai is Assistant Professor, Sociology, University of Sikkim) Views expressed are personal.