Juddha Shamsher and the 1934 Earthquake
In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, Maharaja Juddha Shamsher’s handling of relief and reconstruction after the 1934 Bihar-Nepal quake was celebrated in some nationalist and royalist circles as a laudable example of self-reliance and his role at that time had already won him praise even from those taking a generally critical view of the Rana regime (e.g. Rishikesh Shaha, Modern Nepal: a Political History). However, given the contemporary circumstances, Nepalese accounts, including in particular reports in Gorkhapatra and Brahma Shamsher Rana’s Nepalko Mahabhukampa 1990, naturally reflect a pro-government stance. The information available in British records paints a rather different and perhaps more reliable picture, though it must be remembered that the British Minister in Kathmandu had to rely in part on information from interested parties within the Rana family itself. Juddha’s reluctance to accept offers of help from British India stemmed not so much from concern for self-reliance for its own sake as from the wish to insist on Nepal’s separateness from India. This was particularly important in view of the stance among many in the Indian nationalist movement that, despite Britain’s formal recognition of Nepal’s complete independence, the country was in pactice no different from the `princely states’ under British Crown paramountcy. Juddha’s later decision to waive repayment of reconstruction loans to civilians appears to have been made under pressure from other members of the family. The refusal to extend similar concessions to military personnel contributed to the discontent within the Nepalese army contingent serving in India during World War II which manifested itself at the time of their departure from Kathmandu and again in an episode of `serious indiscipline’ at Kohat in 1941.