Birth: 8 May 1920, Sindhuli
Death: 2 June 2022, Kathmandu
Bhim Bahadur Thapa, the man who left behind cryptic one-word message ‘Khoja’ in Devnagari script on streets, walls and electricity poles across the country, died on June 2 at the age of 104.
Thapa was a wizened old man of bent posture who wandered the streets and neighborhoods with a stick and a bag slung over his shoulders. He had this penchant of writing the word ‘Khoja’ (‘seek’) on whatever space he considered suitable with paint or chalk.
He was a man on a mission to make people seek knowledge and understanding human life.
Born to an ordinary family in Sindhuli district, Thapa never got formal education. He was an autodidact, who taught himself to read and write. At a young age, he became a passionate adherent of Karl Marx and his philosophy.
He believed in a casteless and classless society and joined the then Communist Party of Nepal in 1958. Thapa was an active participant in the communist movement of the time organized to protest against the monarchy.
During his years as a proponent of communism, he was detained on more than one occasion. But one day Thapa had a terrible epiphany: the communist parties of Nepal were faux-Marxists.
Disillusioned, Thapa left politics for good and in 1978 started his ‘Khoja’ campaign.
“Searching is an abstract thing, but it has made this world. Every other thing you see on earth is an outcome of searching, hence keep the spirit of search alive until you get your needs fulfilled,” Thapa once said.
One singular word ‘Khoja’ had a profound political, spiritual and philosophical meaning for those who meditated on it. This was what Thapa wanted: to get the attention of people with this simple word, make them pause for a moment–and think.
Thapa had fashioned his own flag for the campaign, with the word ‘Khoja’ with a cross of a pick-axe and hoe—in what was a clear indication of Marx’s influence on him.
To those who asked him about his work, he used to say that it was aimed against the feudal lords who exploited the masses. His goal was to organize his campaign around a group of adherents–just like Rup Chandra Bista did via his ‘Thaha’ movement in the 1970s.
Many people supported Thapa’s campaign, which lasted for a tad over four decades. But it never grew into a collective movement.
Thapa was against superficiality and insincerity. He wanted people to reflect, think, and most importantly, seek the truth.
That seeker of truth is now no more. Thapa is survived by three sons and seven daughters.