Friday, December 12, 2014

Linguistic and Cultural Activism of Inap: A Search for Cultural Identity and Recognition


This article is a case study of Newar activism for ethnic movement via a popular weekly newspaper Inap in the 1980s. Inap was one of the main forums for debate and discussion on different issues of Newars and others. During the Panchayat period, ethnic activists used media such as books, newspapers, and magazines to push their causes for social justice. Some of them who were actively involved in the movement also edited or published newspapers like Inap.

Though many scholars have studied about activists (especially Karki 2006, Gellner and Karki 2007) and ethnic activism (Minami 2007, Tamang 2009) in Nepal, very few (Des Chene 1996, Klauskopff 2009) have looked into this activism through media. Des Chene studied the debate on different aspects of Tamu culture in Gurung magazines, whereas Klauskopff studied the writings of two Tharu activists on the relationship between Buddhism and Tharus. Those who studied ethnic media have claimed that these media produce ethnic identity (Des Chene 1996, Klauskopff 2009), and act as forums to identify and debate the issues of contention (Matsaganis, Katz and Ball-Rokeach 2011). However, they have not taken into account the limitation of ethnic activism through media. For example, some issues could remain untouched even when activism is done for one’s own community. Additionally, these scholars have not given much attention to cases of activism by one group for another, and how the relations between the groups affect such activism. In this article, I am interested in discussing intentions and limitations of activism not only for one’s own community but also for other communities. For this, I have studied the contents published in Inap around activism for Newars and others groups, mainly Tamang and Magar, and the limitations of this activism.

In this article, I have four arguments. First, opposition and solidarity were two main characteristics of Inap. Second, though it showed solidarity with other ethnic groups, it was not uniform, and Inap’s preference of Magars and neglect of Tamangs helps us to understand the ambiguous relationship between Newars and Tamangs. Third, Inap highlighted an idea that Newars too were Janajatis like Tamangs, Tharus, Magars, and Rai diluting the view that Newars were oppressors like Bahuns and Chhetris. Lastly, it gave less priority to hierarchy and discrimination within Newars. This article shows that being a dominant group, the crux of the ethnic activism of Inap was for the recognition of languages and cultures of indigenous groups.

The article has three main parts. The first is a brief history of Nepal Bhasha (Newari) journalism, where I discuss two issues: language and religion. The second is representation of Newars and other Janajati groups in Inap. The third part discusses the reasons of these representations in detail.

Note: The  'Introduction' section from my article published in a book, Citizens, Society & State: Crafting An Inclusive Future For Nepal.