Harsha Man Maharjan
After scholar and historian Shiva Regmi passed away on 20 February 2019, many people wrote obituaries on him. I wrote one in Nepal magazine focusing on his research life. At that time, I could have devoted that write-up on his writings on media issues, but I had other priorities. Today I am going to do this. We should not forget that his main interest was to study different aspects of literature and he was also attracted to history of mass media.
He was born in 1941 in Thamel, Kathmandu. He worked in different government offices, collected books and periodicals, and conducted research. He completed MA in Nepali in 1974 and BL in 1975.
He joined civil service in 1965. First he worked in Law Commission as a head clerk. Then he worked in the Ministry of Law, Postal Service Department, Ministry of Communications, Prime Minister’s Office and Election Commission. He retired in 2001 as undersecretary. The work in Postal Service Department and Ministry of Communications must have encouraged him to write more on Nepali media sector.
After he passed SLC in 2015 BS, he started to collect periodicals and books. By that time, he had few copies of periodicals such as Sharada, Udhyog, Udaya, and Pragati. He began to collect these periodicals and the books that his father and brother brought and bought. As he started to make income as a school teacher, he started to collect other periodicals and books. He and his family donated about 900 titles of periodicals he collected to Martin Chauatari, which are being digitised in collaboration with Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya. When he died he left behind about 4,000 books, of which his family donated about 3000 to Nepal Academy.
He began to publish short articles on literature in periodicals. He published about 700 articles, authored 3 books, co-authored 1 book, edited 12 books, and co-edited 6 books. Among them these five books are directly related to media: 1. ‘Sharada’ ka Sampadaikya Bicharharu (1990-2020) (2058 BS), 2. Nepalma Aamsancharko Bikas (2058 BS) 3. Atitka Pana: Kehi Nepali Sahityik Patrapatrika (2063 BS), 4. Gorkhapatrako Itihas (2067 BS), and 5. Khoji-Niti: Lekhsangraha (2069 BS). Among them, he authored the third and the fifth books, edited the first one, co-authored the second one with P. Kharel, and co-edited the fourth one with Shivaprasad Bhattarai and Jayadev Bhattarai.
The above list shows that though he did research on print media and general media, the former is his main interest. Only Nepalma Aamsancharko Bikas (2058 BS) falls under the research on general media.
He wrote short articles on different aspects of periodicals and books. Atitka Pana: Kehi Nepali Sahityik Patrapatrika and Khoji-Niti: Lekhsangraha contain his short articles on Nepali periodicals that he published in different periodicals. The first book includes his articles on 45 periodicals such as Sudhasagar, Madhavi, Udhyog, Dharti, Indu and Dhupi, whereas the second one has articles on periodicals such as Sewa, Cinema, Rahar, Swasnimanchhe, and Naulo Paila. Though the first book is mainly about periodical, it also contains articles on printing presses, publishers of books/periodical, and laws related to publication before 1950 as three appendices.
He collected and edited the primary texts published in periodicals. The best example of it is ‘Sharada’ ka Sampadaikya Bicharharu (1990-2020), the collections of editorials from Sharada published in 1991 BS. In his interview with Surya Subedi published in Srijana ra Dristikon, a collection of interviews with Nepali scholars, Shiva Regmi mentioned how he collected the issues of this periodical and the editorials published in it. According to him, he started to look for the copies of Sharada in the 1970s and collected the editorials from the collection of Achyut Raman Adhikari, and then from Ishwor Baral.
In the book published by Royal Nepal Academy, he has also acknowledged Ishwor Man Ranjitkar, Indra Mali, Kamal Dixit, Kashinath Tamot, Krishna Dev Sharma Regmi (Palpa), Gajendranath Regmi, Chittranjan Nepali, Tikaram Sharma, Raghu Ghimire, and Sharadchandra Sharma for availing copies of Sharada to him. In this book, he has mentioned that an essay written by Ramkrishna Sharma and published in the book, Table Guff: Nau Baithak encouraged him to collect the editorials of Sharada as Ramkrishna Sharma mentioned that studying these editorials was tantamount to do the service of literature. He also collected and edited the writings on Nepali daily, Gorkhapatra published in the same newspaper.
He conducted a study on the history of mass communication in Nepal. The best example is Nepalma Aamsancharko Bikas, he co-authored with P. Kharel. As a co-authored book, we don’t know the exact contribution of each author, but as Shiva Regmi’s name appears in the beginning, his contribution seems the major. The book has two parts-- 1. Expression and means of communication, and 2. Development of Mass Communication—and the second part is the main. The second part contains the history of assorted institutions such as Rastriya Samachar Samiti, Press Council Nepal, Radio Nepal, Gorkhapatra Corporation and media like postal services, telecommunications, television, film, etc.
The method he used to study these periodicals is textual analysis. But while doing this, his main interest was less in the mode of content analysis prevalent today in the field of journalism and mass communication studies in Nepal that is to study the representation of media about different groups like women, janajati and dalit. Instead, he was interested in the questions: when the periodicals were published? Who published them? Why were they published? How many issues were published? What were the contents of the periodicals? This has been summarised correctly by Madan Mani Dixit in his preface to Shiva Regmi’s book, Atitka Pana: Kehi Nepali Sahityik Patrapatrika. Dixit wrote that Shiva Regmi focused on discerning dates, and correcting description without creating controversies.
Shiva Regmi was a historian who was interested to do inquiry about literature and media. He was very active in research after his retirement. He studied periodicals he had collected and created a tradition of studying periodicals in Nepal. He also collected primary texts like editorials from periodicals. He has shown us ways to do research on mass media in Nepal.
(Maharjan is a senior researcher at an academic NGO Martin Chautari and writes on issues related to media and technology.)
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