16 February 2007

Journalism in Vernacular Languages in Nepal: Challenges and Remedies

Harsha Man Maharjan

In Nepali context, journalism in vernacular languages mean journalism in Newari, Tharu, Maithali and other languages, except Nepali and English. They have similar problems. They lack audiences. Their market is small. Hence their journalism is no mainstream journalism.
Main theme that cover them is Bhasa Anurag (Passion of Language). I encountered the word Bhasa Anurag in Kamal Prakash Malla’s book on literacy criticism in Nepal Bhasa, Nali Swana. He used this word to describe the first stage of literacy criticism that only celebrates earlier Nepal Bhasa writers. At this stage criticizing the writers was impossible. Critics were more emotional. I think that journalism in vernacular languages in Nepal, too are glorifying their past, and using less ink on criticizing their weaknesses.
Today the circulation of the Nepali daily Kantipur is more than 2 lakh. There are many readers in Nepai language. It happens only after long time. It happens only at the cost of vernacular languages.
When the Nepali literary magazine Sarada started publishing in 1991 v.s, there were few readers. Its first editorial requested Nepalis to use the money, they spent buying a cigarette per day on the magazine. You can say literacy rate of Nepali was poor at that time. You are right.
But what I am emphasizing here is other aspect. Kantipur daily could not have boosted on its presentation if government had not invested in the oldest newspaper Gorkhapatra and Gorkhabasha Prakashini Samiti that published text books on Nepali language. Governments opened these institutions to cultivate readers in Nepali language. By doing this the governments neglected vernacular languages. Now journalism in vernacular languages is languished in darkness.
Who is responsible this ?
We are.
Our elites are.
Myopic vision of Nepali elites gave no opportunity to non Nepali speaking people to study in their mother languages. The first report of Nepal National Education Planning Commission published on 1956 says: “The study of a non Nepali local tongue would mitigate against the effective development of Nepali, for the student would make greater use of it than Nepali–at home and in the community–and thus would remain a ‘foreign’ language. If the younger generation is taught to use Nepali as the basic language, then other languages will gradually disappear, greater national strength and unity will result.” (page. 97) In name of nationality state tried to demolish vernacular languages. Owning to this recommendation Nepali became compulsory in school from 2028 v.s. at the cost of vernacular languages. Vernacular languages got chance to flourish only after 1990.
Audit Committee of Circulation (ACC) has a provision which, says the circulation of newspapers in vernacular languages including English are deemed twice that of actual one. Yet scenario is unpleasant. Newspapers in vernacular languages that ACC have in its list are 7 in English, 4 in Hindi, 4 in Newari, 1 in Maithali, ,1 in Doteli. No doubt many are out of the list because they can’t meet the criteria of ACC. Press council has to study the main reasons of this. The government has responsibility to prosper vernacular languages.

No comments: