The other positive diversity, as I see, is the development in the area of research. In the past, research on Newars and on various areas-related to Newars was mostly done by foreign scholars, very few by Newars themselves. These days I see an increasing trend of Newars and a few from other ethnic groups doing research in many different areas, especially worth mentioning are those researches conducted by Masters’ students in the Central Department of Nepal Bhasha, Tribhuvan University. When I was growing up, the college and university journals and other local journals used to contain mostly stories, poems, essays, letters, and so on but almost no research papers. Even those who were doing research, focussed on limited areas such as the biographical studies of famous writers and activists and on their epics and work. These days, the research have expanded to diverse areas from studies of Mahakal, Vajravarahi, Vajrayogini, Swasthani-Vrata, old inscriptions, Newars in Chitlang, Rajopadhyayas, Mahayana, Vajrayana, various dialects of Newah language, Newah food, clothes, jewellery and rituals to psychological topics and many more. Moreover in the past, most often the anthropologists, linguists, historians, archeologists, and litterateurs were the ones who studied about the Newars. Today scholars from various backgrounds such as sociology, religion, missiology, biology, and even demographers like me are doing research on Newars and some on their diversity. The DNA test being conducted by the Central Department of Biotechnology and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology on some caste groups of Newars is worth mentioning in this regard. All of such varied research will help us in understanding, learning, and eventually preserving the positive aspects of diversity within the Newar groups, among other things.

And there are social diversities among the Newars, which have some negativity in current practices. For example, even in this 21st century we still have the age old “high caste”-“low caste” system along with the so-called untouchable castes. The so-called untouchables are still discriminated against race and status by some so-called high caste Newars, although some Newars pretend not to notice such behaviours or practice. In 2001, I remember reading an online article published in Sandhya Times titled “Newar castes cannot be suppressed groups, can they?” (“नेवातनंदलितजुइला?”) My immediate reaction was, “why not?” As long as there are some Newars who dominate and discriminate against race, and some who are being dominated, suppressed, discriminated against race, job, and status there will always be a group of “suppressed (दलित) Newars” unless the so-called high-caste Newars, at least, go to the kitchen of the so-called untouchables and eat rice and lentils cooked by them. They should also be able to invite the so-called untouchables to their kitchen and eat not only baji (flattened rice or rice-flakes) but also rice and specially lentils with them (for those who do not understand the culture of the Newars, and of all Nepalese for that matter – these food items mentioned are eaten together according to the rank of caste status of the groups – people may eat flattened dry rice with the lower caste but not the cooked rice with them, especially not the lentils). Until then, the caste diversity of Newars will remain rather an unfortunate “disparity” among the Newars.

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July 14th, 2015

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