By Dr. Rabin Man Shakya
Today, Satya Mohan Joshi is the most senior litterateur in Nepal Bhasa and Nepali. He is one of the few nonagenarian Nepalese luminaries who has dedicated his whole life for promoting arts, culture, literature and journalism. Joshi is a shining star in the constellation of Nepal Bhasa and Nepali literature. Newah culture, Nepal Bhasa journalism and Nepal Bhasa literature must be grateful to him and also must be proud of a creative researcher like him.
Even though there are zealots at either end of the political and literary spectrum in Nepal, most people consider something other than politics their top priority. Creative fields like literature and journalism have sadly been highly politicized and polarized in Nepal. In this context, Joshi has always been a simple, independent and free litterateur. A number of observers coming from the left and right spectrums have mentioned it as one of the quintessential aspects of Joshi’s continuous efforts for preserving arts and culture, Nepal Bhasa literature and Nepal Bhasa language.
Man of century Satya Mohan Joshi was born on Baisakh 30, 1977 BS to father Shankar Raj Joshi and mother Raj Kumari Joshi at Bakhum Bahal in Patan district of Nepal.
Having preliminary alphabetical knowledge at home, Joshi was admitted to Darbar High School. He passed his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tri-Chandra College. Joshi has written and published more than 70 books in Nepal Bhasa and Nepali. Notable publications of Joshi are “Hamro Lok Sanakriti” and “Nepali Rastriya Mudra” which have bagged two Madan Puraskar awards in 1956 and 1960 respectively. Other remarkable magnum opus of Joshi include Karnaliko Lok Sanskriti, Charumati, Sun Keshari, Mahipa: Lakhe, Bagh Bhairab etc. So many books, booklets, articles and news stories about Joshi have been published and broadcast in Nepal and other countries.
Satya Mohan Joshi was appointed the first director of the Archeological and Cultural Department of the Nepal Government in 1959. Joshi played significant role in establishing Rastriya Naachghar in Kathmandu, Archeological Garden in Patan, Arniko White Dagoba Gallery in Kirtipur, National Painting Museum in Bhaktapur and Archeological Museum in Taulihawa.
Soon after King Mahendra orchestrated a coup d’état in 1960 against the elected Nepali Congress government, Joshi went to the People’s Republic of China. During his stay in China, Joshi not only began teaching Nepali at the Peking Broadcasting Institute, but he was also engaged in research on Arniko, a Nepali sculptor who went to China in 1260 AD.
Joshi, who is one of the Executive Board Members of Nepali Art Council and a Lifetime Member of Nepal Academy, was honored with “Litterateur of the Century” title on August 23, 2017 by the Government of Nepal in recognition of his unprecedented and unparalleled contributions to Nepalese arts and culture.
Satya Mohan Joshi is a prominent archeologist, historian and an expert on arts and culture. He is a noted litterateur, poet, and dramatist. No doubt, Joshi is a multi-dimensional and multi-talented personality. But the fact that Joshi is also a journalist and editor is not known to many. In fact, Satya Mohan Joshi was not just a journalist, he is the pioneer of “inclusive journalism” in Nepal.
Quarterly magazine “Kalakar” (Artist) was launched in January 1953 (Nepal Sambat 1073, Silla Thwo Panchami). The magazine (that came out four times a year) was published by Satya Sahitya Sadan, Bakhumbahal, Patan and was edited by Satya Mohan Joshi. The magazine “Kalakar” was the first publication to be printed both in Nepal Bhasa and Nepali. That is why editor Joshi is considered to be the pioneer of inclusive journalism in Nepal. Raison d'être for launching the magazine “Kalakar” was the statement “Developed arts is the heritage of a developed society” printed as the epithet on the first issue of the magazine in the front page. Noted artist late Chandra Man Maskey expressed his views also on the front page of “Kalakar”: “Literature is the main symbol of civilization, but fine arts also creates literature.” A selfless desire to enhance and promote Nepal Bhasa, Nepalese arts and culture is the quintessence of Joshi’s life. Publication of inclusive magazine “Kalakar” was simply a meaningful step towards that direction. Satya Mohan Joshi was also editor of other historically important magazines like Bikas, Raajmarg and NACC (Nepal-America Cultural Center) monthly publication. It is to be noted that the quarterly publication “Kalakar” was brought out during a short period of democratic political experience of 1951 – 1960.
The constructive changes at that time were part of wider government reckoning that the policy of repression of freedom of press and lack of freedom of languages during the Rana regime were severely flawed, The newspaper renaissance and liberal language policy were part of reform efforts implemented during the short period of democratic innovations, Needless to say, the more languages are included in the newspapers or magazines, the more inclusive will they become.
Gorkhapatra, the grand old lady of Nepalese journalism, has been promoting inclusive journalism for over a decade now by giving space for news and views in all the indigenous languages of Nepal. Since Nepal is a multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country, the basic essence of journalism should be to make it more inclusive. It is the duty of the federal democratic government to give equal opportunities to all the languages of Nepal and to promote inclusive journalism and indigenous media.
Today more than ever, indigenous media and inclusive journalism have become the buzzwords in the Nepal Bhasa media scenario after Nepal was proclaimed a federal republic in 2008. It is an open secret that both indigenous media and inclusive journalism could not flourish until democracy was restored in 1990 as a result of the People’s Movement. There simply was no conducive political atmosphere for indigenous and inclusive journalism in Nepal during the 30 years of repressive Panchayat era which ended in 1990. The Panchayat regime had bolstered up the uni-cultural society by adopting “one language one nation” slogan. Government resources were poured in only for promoting Nepali language and literature. Other ethnic languages of Nepal were grossly neglected.
Today, Nepal’s indigenous media, especially the Nepal Bhasa newspapers and Newah Journalists National Forum have come out quite strongly to champion the cause of inclusive journalism. It is to be noted that the yearnings and grievances which have remained suppressed within these indigenous communities during the Rana regime and the Panchayat era had to surface.
The abolition of monarchy and introduction of federal democratic governance in 2008 have paved the way for the cause of indigenous media. As a result, the indigenous media, especially the Nepal Bhasa newspapers have been giving voice to enhance and promote inclusive journalism and indigenous media. Therefore, the seeds of inclusive journalism sown by Satya Mohan Joshi in 1953 by publishing the magazine “Kalakar” in Nepal Bhasa and Nepali are, today, gaining the momentum, albeit slowly and steadily. At a time when the nation has already entered into the federal structure, the question now is how the local and state governments will be moving forward to introduce policies vis-à-vis the concerns of indigenous journalism and inclusive media.
(Rabin Man Shakya, a Portland based Newah journalist, is the first PhD in journalism in Nepal. Shakya did his PhD in journalism at Moscow State University in March, 1989.)