Life and times of Royal Nepal Academy
Yuyutsu RD Sharma
Forty eight years ago when late King Mahendra established Royal Nepal Academy, he had no idea how, like his Panchayat system, his grand vision of putting Nepalis literature on the world map would crumble so miserably and fall into chaos. Few months ago as the new team of Royal Nepal Council was announced, there were widespread protests in the media and in the literary circles.
“The root cause of contention remained favoritism and wholesale recruitment of inept semi-literary minor figures on the posts meant to represent the promising face of contemporary Nepalis literature,” discerns Nepali novelist Khagendra Shangraula. “Even in the one-party-Panchayat era such a selection was unheard of,” argues major Nepali poet Shailendra Sakar. “In order to be an academician, you had to be a national, possibly international figure.”
Looking back at the past one finds inclusion of milestone colossal figures in the council of academy. Famous Bal Chandra Sharma remained the first Vice-chancellor of the academy and his team included literary giants like Lekhnath Paudiyal, Siddichran Shrestha, Laxmi Devkota and Balkrishna Sama. Over the decades scores of major literary figures like Bhupi Sherchan, Kedar Man Vyathit, Madan Mani Dixit, Madhab Ghimire, Dha Cha Gotame, Mohan Koirala and Ishwar Ballab have been nominated to represent the best of Nepalis literature. “The problem started after 1990 Democratic Upsurge,” states Sakar, “and now we see a crowd of non-literary figures in the Academy.” Shangraula too laments how in the last two terms several inefficient party cadres and non-writers have crept into the corridors of the academy unashamedly. “I’m mortified with shame to see the degradation of the prestigious national institute.” says Krishna Bhakat Shrestha, distinguished poet and former editor of Gorkhapatra daily. But current vice-chancellor of the Academy, Dr Basudev Tripathi brushes asides these charges as meaningless and lame. “It’s lack of decorum and patience that has ruined everything so far. All those who weren’t included the council are shouting foul things against the team.”
“It looks like a family academy,” points out senior poet Bhawani Ghimire. “Of eleven, eight of the members come from one dominant ethnic group. The whole of eastern Nepal has been ignored. Maithla is the second major languge and there’s no one to represent it. Former academician Dr Ram Dayal Rakesh adds, “First time in the history, the whole of Terai has been minimised.”“It’s not a national academy in any way,” claims Newari poet Sudan Khusa. “It’s Khasa academy and excludes the majority of national ethnic groups.” Poet Bishnu Bhibhu Ghimire considers the selection criterion undemocratic. Senior critic Dr Murari Prasad Regmi desires the institutionalisation of this prestigious institute. The response to the academy ranges from a diplomatic sigh to blatant protests. Senior musician and folk singer Ganesh Rasik condemns the selection. “It should have included senior figure like Amber Gurung, Parshu Pradhan, Krishna Bhakta Shrestha and Sakar.” Poet and columnist Bimal Nibha calls the team reactionary and directionless.
Accepting the fact that some of the minor figures have been included in his team, Vice-Chancellor Tripathi says, “It’s not for the first time such a thing has happened. Even in the previous team there were minor figures. But in my team there’s less infighting and more solidarity.” He believes the limited number of seats as the major cause of unrest. Academy has to cover several disciplines under its umbrella-ranging from literature to arts to culture to music. It becomes impossible to include all the deserving candidates in the council. MH Ansari, Nepalis translator and editor of Nepal Letters says, “It’s nothing new that has happened. Since its inception, Academy fed the hunger of the establishment. It had been created to dodge genuine writers. In its present avatar, it serves its masters unabashedly.”
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