On the Way Up

From HIMAL, Volume 7, Issue 4 (JUL/AUG 1994)

Dare a Nepali from the midhills of Nepal write an article about Bhutan, more particularly an analysis of the innermost challenges before Drukpa society today? Can a Bengali do justice to Mizoram, or a Garhwali to Punjab?

Obviously, the answer is ‘yes’, but only with full respect for his/her subject and the exercise of reportorial rigour. Whether these conditions are fulfilled in this issue’s lead cover feature on Druk Yul is for readers and those who are part of the story to judge.

Himal faces challenges quite different from other South Asian journals because we write from within and about a region that has not received in-depth journalistic treatment in the past. As we turn our lens on the multi-ethnic region, therefore, it is natural to step on toes that have never been stepped on before. Sensitivities are being bruised the very first time around.

It is additionally difficult for a midhill Nepali to get under the skin of Tibetan speaking societies in general, and to understand the spiritual underpinnings and urges that drive the polity of a country like Bhutan’s. But if one is to respect (northern) Bhutanese as a real and not “exotic” people, they deserve the reporter’s curiosity like any other community.

While on the question of the ethnicity-related challenges Himal faces, a unique problem arises when letter-writers use nom de plumes. The use of a pseudonym is acceptable when the correspondent’s reluctance to use his/her own name is offset by the importance of the idea contained in the letter. If a pseudonym is used, that fact obviously has to be acknowledged in the copy. So far so good.

In Himal, we have seen that it is also important for the pseudonym either to be ethnicity-neutral, or it should indicate the same ethnicity, tribe or caste as that of the correspondent. Grave injustice can be done and confusion sowed, for example, if a Bahun appropriates a Limbu name while arguing a janajati-related matter. For our part, we at Himal will continue to try our best to screen out mail which constitute such breach of privileges, by whosoever committed.

As regular readers know, we have for years been trying to make Himal a more Himalayan magazine — by covering more of the region, better. We do not consider adequate our coverage of Sikkim-Darjeeling, the Indian Northeast, Himachal and Kashmir (while there are obviously those who think we look too closely at Bhutan). Bide with us.

In order to make Himal more Himalayan, we have decided to form a panel of persons from the Himalayan rimland who will provide continuous input and advice. In the past, we have relied on consulting editors who gave valuable time to helping the magazine grow. We thank Anmole Prasad who, based in Kalimpong, is continuing with us in the panel. Thanks and farewell to Sanjeev Prakash, who provided counsel on subjects as diverse as water resources, the environment and Tibet. Even he, however, was unable to rein in our abominable back-page columnist, who will go her way.

On the subject of columnists, mountain lovers will welcome the resumption of our Know Your Himal column, which has been revived for this issue by Manesh Shrestha. From Jaigaon, the gateway to Bhutan, Dr. Sonam Wangyal has started his column, Placenames, which will help us learn history, geography and language all at one go.


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