History: A Forgotten Discipline

Prem Khatry

If a student forgets her lesson, the teacher is there to help her remember it through special technic. If the teacher forgets to teach, there are mechanisms to remind her of her duty. But what would happen to the society, especially to the next generation if the nation itself forgets to learn the lessons lying there in much disordered and neglected manner? Where would the Nepali nation go from here shunning the entire lessons of history at one big blow?

Pathetic trend
An ex-university employee gets up early to write a few paragraphs as the morning thoughts are pure, clear and undisturbed, to say the least. The writer focused on the recent developments and news coming from Tribhuvan University early this morning. The questions above and few more to come are disturbing and pathetic at the same time: TU will not have history classes this session as the dwindling student population in the subject came down to nil. Few other departments are also suffering badly from this ailment. There is no word from TU authorities regarding their plans to treat this and reverse the trend visible for some years now.
How many of us, especially the new generation of our students can identify, these foreign and Nepali names and organisations such as Hodgson, Oldfield, Wright, Kirkpatrick, Levi, Fr. Stiller, Sirdar Rudra Raj Pandey, Nayan Raj Pant, Bhairav Bahadur Pradhan, Iman Singh Chemjong, Hit Narayan Jha, Tulasi Ram Vaidya, Dhana Vajra Vajracharya, Gyan Mani Nepal, Dinesh Raj Pant and Itihas Samsodhan Mandal? Perhaps, not many.
The scribe would not bother the readers with a long list of many other names. There are plenty. The issue is – can a nation survive and thrive by ignoring history as an important discipline in our universities? There are nine universities already at work, TU being the oldest. Two are in the pipeline. What is the TOR for them? Do they play their due role by closing subjects like history, culture, language/literature, economics, and political science, for example? The university authorities think that there is no need to produce administrators, professors, career diplomats, economists, linguists, archeologists, and historians in the future? These questions are not only relevant but piercing to penetrate through the thick and deaf ears of our education planners and facilitators like the universities and faculties.
Perhaps Nepal is the only country in the world where history and archives are thrown into dust bins for good. Nobody is concerned about the significant role history can play in nation building. Or, even more importantly, nobody seems ready to accept the fact that this country has suffered from history, at the same time it has also earned name and fame in history. Isn’t Gurkha a legend in history? Didn’t the Treaty of Sugauli bring a humiliation to Nepal when Pandit Rangnath Upadhyaya of incredible height and a nationalist was rendered by the British Raj to a humble and helpless being? He was asked to crawl to the British Commander to sign the Treaty. It reminds of the Janayuddha days when Nepali security personnel stationed in a post once asked a Supreme Court justice to crawl to cross the street to approach them. It became viral news at that time.
The consequences of the Treaty will always be debated. Nepal not only lost a vast chunk of territory won in a face-to-face battle against the Raj, but also had host of other humiliating consequence to face and endure. The Treaty of 1950 was fallout of the Sugauli Treaty itself. And, when both Nepal and India decided to work on its due revision through the recommendation of the Elite Group, there is a significant mum on the other side of the border.
A thorough study of Nepal’s history and research on several issues raised, solved, unsolved, written and unwritten are and can be the subject matter for the present and future historians of the country. Perhaps this is the reason why the late king Mahendra is said to have commented: ‘We have suffered a lot in history.’
A total closure or a minimal instruction of history in our schools, campuses, and universities is a fact that works towards the annihilation of nationalism and sense of nationality. We will raise a new generation who will not be able to identify our heroes and builders of the bygone eras. Why do we consider the names of King Manadeva, Narendra Deva, Amsuverma, Jayasthiti Malla or Ranjit Malla, Sankhadhara Sakhwa, Bhimsen Thapa, Lakhan Thapa, and many others worth study and research? Is not history a fun as well as a source to learn about the growth of our nation and nationalism? This is time we focus not just on big name rulers but also on the role people played in the growth of this nation. And, only academic institutions run by qualified and committed scholars can lead the trend of research and teaching producing qualified professionals in different fields. If the Humanities and Social Sciences suffer from admission, teaching and research, the nation will ultimately face the consequences.
One remedy to this research and study gap is to start developing syllabi for Public Service Commission so our future administrators realise the importance of history. Regional universities can also design courses focusing on the past and contemporary subject areas in the field of history and culture of Nepal. Multifaceted study of regional history and culture is also an urgent agenda for the scholars. If the present generation fades away with age and existing situation in campuses, the subject of history will itself be a ‘history’ to remember once in a while.

Finally, a concerted effort is not only necessary but urgent to revamp the syllabus of history and reinstate it in our campuses and universities. Similarly, Public Service Commission and other employers could consider giving priority to history and culture in order to promote the subjects and offer proper insight to the future employees. History guides the nation and we simply can’t ignore this fact nor can we compromise its value in creating a personality filled with national pride and sense of service to the nation.

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