Thursday, 21 October, 2021

India and Nepali Language


Gandhi Raj Kafle

When we talk about Nepali literature and culture, the subject assumes importance for Nepal and the Diaspora staying across the globe. Languages and literature are such things that transcend the nation's borders. The same is true with culture. The Nepali language, beyond doubt, carries with it the strongest identity for Nepal. But, it is also the strongest identity of all the Nepali speaking communities residing beyond the border.
This is the truth of all languages. One quotable example of this kind of truth can be surmised from the struggles and achievements made by the Nepali speaking communities and their leaders in India, one of our closest neighbours.
Against this backdrop, we have a book, which is under review here, by an Assam-based author Gyan Bahadur Chhetri. The profile of the author in this book shows he is a devotee of literature. He has over a dozen of Nepali language and literature related publications to his credit. This book, which is his latest one, however, is in the English language. But, the themes covered in it are the same – the Nepali literature and culture, which are subjects of interest of the author. What we can also hope is, the book will go to a wider circle of the interesting English readership of Nepali literature both in Nepal, India and beyond because this publication happens to be in the international language.
Chhetri's 168-page book is miscellaneous in the feature because it contains mixed subjects. First of all, the author introduces the history of Nepali literature in a gist. But, while dealing with this theme, the author in one or another context has covered up creativity and contributions also from the contemporary Indian Nepali litterateurs.
The second important thing about this book is it has presented a brief introductory profile of the luminous personalities from the Nepali literature like Laxmi Prasad Devkota (the Mahakavi), Indra Bahadur Rai, Shiv Kumar Rai, Bishnu Lal Upadhyaya, Hari Prasad Gorkharai, Pushpa Lal Upadhyaya, Haribhakta Katuwal, Prabhu Ram Karki, Lil Bahadur Kshatri and Gita Upadhyaya. Most of the litterateurs here are from India's Nepali speaking parts.
The third feature of this book is the author it has included some of the book reviews. The reviewer of these books is Chhetri himself. The book reviews, which are here in this publication, are Jivan Namdung's 'History of Modern Indian Nepali Literature', Sharita Sharma's 'Of Myriad Voices' and Balaram Upadhyaya's 'Sparks Inside'.
The fourth salient feature, which must not be forgotten to mention, is this book has very briefly presented some of the culturally important matters of Nepali speaking communities. Is this relevant to see in a literary book like this? This can be a question. But, literature can't be delinked from culture. This is the truth. So, author Chhetri, who has provided little space with titles like "History and Culture of the Assamese Nepali" and "Some Indigenous Food Products and Beverages" in this book, is a creative attempt on the part of the author for the book, which is freshly unveiled to readers of Nepali literature.
This book also offers interesting reading materials related to glorious struggles and achievements of the Nepali speaking communities for the recognition of their language, which they have made not as the Nepali citizens but as the bonafide citizens of India. It is a sagaciously long history. Let's quote a letter written to the President of the Republic of India dated 18th January 1956 by three applicants Anand S. Thapa, Veer Singh Bhandari and Narendra S. Rana on behalf of the Editorial Board of Jagrat Gorkha Karyalaya, Dehra Dun Cantt (page 164 in the book).
The historic letter has demanded justice on the matter of Nepali language drawing the attention of the then President of India in these words:
"Among the fourteen languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of our constitution (Indian Constitution), the Nepali language …the language of five million people has been ignored. Whereas it will not be improper to mention here that before independence, even during the British regime, Nepali was one of the recognized Indian languages. It is disheartening to us Gorkhas, more than five million of whom are born citizens of India … that our language has been excluded from the list of Indian languages and is being considered as a foreign language."
Notably, in India, the permanent Indian-Nepali citizens and Nepalese language there, their literature and culture is that identity, which is made of a long struggle, achievements and ethos of modern life of the Gorkhas there. Happily, what we can see is this aspect has been included while discussing the Nepali literature and culture for interested readers in this book.
Thus, in gist, what can be said is this book is a thing of merit not only from the point of academic learning; it also serves the interest of common readers who are eager to know about the achievement of Nepali language and literature in India.
The concluding two pieces in the book entitled "Nar Bahadur Bhandari: A Visionary Leader of the Indian Nepalese" and "Struggle for Recognition of Nepali Language: A Brief Outline" not only introduce two prominent Indian-Nepali political leaders, who are also known for championing the cause of the Nepali language there, but these pieces also offer a due honour to their struggles and contributions for the recognition of the Nepali language in India.