This is not a book review. This is a discussion about a book named Makaiko Kheti [translation: The Cultivation of Corn] that was written by Subba Krishna Lal Adhikari and published in 1920. It became famous in Nepal at that time although nobody got the opportunity to read it, the reason being that out of the 1000 copies published, it is said that 999 books were confiscated and burnt down by the Ranas. Even today, nobody knows about the fate of the only copy that had somehow escaped confiscation.
At the time, any publisher or writer had to receive governmental permission for any document to be published. According to Article 32 in the Muluki Ain, the National Code of Nepal, the document had to be presented to the Nepali Bhasha Prakashini Samiti [Nepali Language Publication Committee], that would then review the document and give permission for publishing it if deemed appropriate. If a document was published without the permission of the Samiti, the publisher and the printer would be fined NRs 50 in the event that there is “non-objectionable” content in the particular piece of work. If there is anything that upset the Samiti and was deemed offensive to the Rana rule, all copies would have had to be seized and, in most cases, destroyed.
Before the publication of Makaiko Kheti, it is said, Adhikari had received permission for its release. Therefore, his arrest and the destruction of his work came as a surprise for many. Adhikari was sentenced to a nine-year imprisonment by a court decision of August 2, 1920. His term of imprisonment could be lessened to six years if he returned all 1000 copies of the book. He could return all but the one that was missing. The author did not know what had happened to it. Adhikari died in the gaol after three years. No wonder, the book that escaped confiscation remained a mystery. On the other hand, there is no document which shows how Adhikari defended himself in the case, or whether he acknowledged the offense of treason [bagyan] charged against him. However, this event consequently discouraged efforts to write critically about the Ranas.
What had made Makaiko Kheti so controversial was the dual meaning in its content. The Ranas had always maintained tight control of the freedom of expression, especially through the lack of education of the masses. However, many Nepalese had already developed a taste for education and had started knowing about the American and French Revolution. It was in this context of rising awareness that Adhikari wrote Makaiko Kheti. Although the book was about how to cultivate corn technically and scientifically, it consisted various metaphors that alluded to the oppressive regime of the Ranas. For example, Adhikari wrote about “the red headed insects and black headed insects,” “domestic and foreign dogs,” “the devils entered since 1846,″ and “Chandrodaya is not as good as mother’s milk to a child.” These expressions were interpreted as metaphors of the Ranas, who were governing the country illegally. The “red headed insects and the black headed insects” especially offended Chandra and Bhim Shamsher, because they wore red and black topis, respectively. Two gentlemen — Ramhari Adhikari and Bhojraj Kafle — who were pundits at the palace of Chandra Shamsher blamed Adhikari for ascribing these mischievous expressions to treason.
Only after a decade of the publication of Makaiko Kheti did the first, youth-led political organization, “Prachanda Gorkha,” with the objective of overthrowing the Ranas was formed. It is said, the youths planned to wipe out the Ranas by bombing them while they were traveling through Dilli Bazar, while a soldier was to eliminate Juddha Shamsher, the commander-in-chief. While searching for somebody to establish a link with the King, the activists discovered Laxman Raja, who had the same intention, although a contrasting view on the method of execution. Due to their differences, however, Raja ended up betraying the activists, who were then arrested by the Ranas. During their trail, it became clear that the activists had been inspired by the socialist revolution. This discovery led to the members being sentenced to life in prison, the confiscation of their property, home detention, and in some cases, banishment from the Valley of Kathmandu. Although they had not managed to reach their goals, the members of the “Prachanda Gorkha” realized the deep injustice prevalent in Nepalese society under the dictatorial Rana regime.
\It was clear to the people of Nepal that the Ranas were not working in favor of the common folks. They had no intention to liberalize themselves keeping in view the demand for change. Krishna Lal Adhikari was imprisoned when he was blamed for writing against the Ranas, supposedly accusing them of favoring the foreign, English breed of dog rather than the trustworthy, Nepali one.
Adhikari’s actions not only spoke out against the Ranas, but also addressed the unwanted influence of the presence of the British in South Asia.The book is still remembered in Nepal as the first book heralding demand for socio-political change.