A Good Pahar that Could be Better PAHAR
Is this a book, a magazine or an academic journal? Pahar is none of these, yet a little bit of each. It is a new concept: an annual magazine that con¬tains selected writings on ecology, his¬tory, culture and other aspects of life in the Himalayan region. Pahar was started by Shekhar Pathak, a historian and social activist from Nainital, in collaboration with many like-minded friends and as¬sociates. Then- group, PAHAR has so far produced three Pahar issues, including the one under review, three booklets and several posters.
The present joint issue of Pahar con¬tains papers and articles of long-term relevance. Several are on ecological questions, including one on the crisis facing the lakes of Nainital, another on the proposal to melt Himalayan glaciers to provide extra water for the plains, and a detailed report on Kash¬mir and Ladakh region, Pathak has written a balanced editorial on ecologi¬cal issues of special concern to the Himalaya.
This volume is rich in its coverage of history, par¬ticularly the history of the freedom movement. There are papers on "Uttarakhand in the National Freedom Movement" by Pathak and Ramachandra Guha; on "Awakening among Dalits" by Muhammad Anwar An-sari; women hi the freedom movement by Savitri Kaira and Basanti Pathak; and people´s movements in Tehri, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. There are other writings of value in specialised areas such as archaeology and sociology. These "heavy" writings are balanced by inclusion of poems, short stories, travelogues and memoirs. (Note: most of the articles in Pahar are in Hindi.)
So far, so good, but the ultimate evaluation of Pahar has to be in the context of its role as a social change agent. Here we are in for some disap¬pointment, for this present volume does not deal with some of the burning is¬sues of present-day Uttarakhand — the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh in which Pahar has had special interest since its launching. Pahar has almost entirely ig¬nored the drive by some people to axe trees (this, in the land of Chipko!) in the name of opposing forest laws. Neither has it covered adequately the demand for a new hill, state in Uttarak¬hand — a subject which has dominated
all recent debate. How does Pahar in¬tend to play a role in social change while side-stepping these issues? Why this reluctance?
The editor admits in his introduction that there has been a gap of over one thousand days in bringing out the present volume. Why was it necessary to wait so long to publish this bulky 350-page issue when the same amount could have been spent on, say, seven is-sues of 50 pages each, taking up the current controversial issues as well as carrying some lasting articles. In fact, the three PAHAR booklets are more closely connected to social change, such as the one on the anti-liquor movement written by Pathak himself. The booklets are also more affordable than the whopping sum that this bulky issue demands. How many among those who would read Pahar can afford to pay for even the paperback edition?
Regardless of the drawbacks relating to subject-selection and price, this edi¬tion of Pahar meets the high standards set by past issues. The breadth and depth of coverage remain impressive. No person truly interested hi the Himalaya can afford not to read Pahar.
B.Dogra is founder/editor of the News From Reids and Slums (NFS) feature service in New Delhi,