An Appraisal: Press in the North-east

Dr. Payel Das*

The book “Press in the North East” is an intensive work of Prof. Gyan Prakash Pandey Head, Department of Mass Communication, Assam Central University, Silchar and former Director of Ministry of Human Resource Development (Adult Education). He is a renound academician and an illustrious figure in the Indian academia.

The North-east is considered to be a backward region of the country and hardly any research has been done on the press and journalism of the entire region. Press is considered to be the fourth pillar of any democracy. The origin of Press in India goes back to the colonial rule and has played a very vital role in the independence of the country. Prof. Pandey’s book is a sincere, intelligent and a laborious attempt to give a very clear, comprehensive and vivid picture of the origin of the Press, its history, the present status of the Press and journalists in the ‘seven sisters’ and the state of Sikkim in the North-east India. The ‘seven sisters’ of the North-east consists of: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura while Sikkim is the eighth sister. Development of the modern Press started in the region with the advent of European civilization. Christian missionaries in the region propagated their beliefs and values in the region through their leaflets and pamphlets which ultimately led to the development of print journalism in the region.

This is the first book on the entire North-east which has given elaborate descriptions along with photos of regional development of the Press and state-wise information about the journalists of the region. The book incorporates excerpts of the interviews and analysis done by the author and other sources. There is no such printed document on the history of North-east journalism.Thus, the book is very original in its work and nature. In fact, Professor Pandey’s book is an attempt to recount the history of journalism in North-east India and to pay homage to the contribution of the journalists of the region towards their profession. A notable characteristic of the book is that it has exclusive pictures and information on newspapers and magazines which do not exist today or which are in the archival section.

The book gives a very comprehensive overview of various dynamics of the Press. Prof. Pandey’s book is a genuine endeavour to bring together newspapers chronologically which were published in the past and now exist in the deep old archives. This book is divided into nine core chapters. The first section is titled ‘Overview’which gives the detailed history of the Press and the media in the entire North-east and its present status. It gives the history of the North-east in a short, concise and vivid way.

The second section is titled ‘Assam: Nerve Centre of Awakening’. It starts with the ancient history of Assam when it was known as Kamrupa and was ruled by dynasties such as the Varmanas, the Salstambhas. Prof. Pandey describes Assam as the nerve center of development of the creative and journalistic literature in various languages and dialects of the North-east. Though Assamese is the main language for vernacular journalism, there are other languages such as Bengali, Khashi, Garo, Bishnupriya, Bodo, Mising, Hindi and Nepali which also contributed to the growth and development of journalism in Assam. ‘Orunodhoi’, published in 1846 from Sibsagar, lead the way for many other publications to come into limelight. According to Prof. Pandey, this monthly magazine was brought out ten years after the setting up of the first printing press in Assam by O.T. Cutter and Nathan Brown.

The third section is titled ‘Arunachal Pradesh: A Steady Growth’. The book reveals it was the only state in India without a newspaper. Since 1988 it has seen a steady growth of the Press after the birth of the first newspaper ‘Echo of Arunachal’.

The fourth section is titled ‘Manipur: A Challenging Profession’. As the title suggests, the Press in Manipur is the reflection of the social, economic and political relations of the people of the state. Prof. Pandey has very aptly illustrated the challenges faced by the state and its people in the development of journalism and the Press which are supported with excerpts from exclusive interviews with the renowed journalists of Manipur. The Press in Manipur is still at its developing stage.

The fifth section is titled’Meghalaya:The Mirror of Popular Sentiments’. In this section Prof. Pandey has very comprehensively described the history of Meghalaya journalism which has seen lots of ups and down. Meghalaya saw the growth of Khasi journalism with the establishment of Ri Khasi Press in Shillong in the year 1896.

The sixth section, titled ‘Mizoram:Community-based Initiatives’, deals with the account of the migration of the earliest Mizos to India, their demand of statehood  and the formation of the new state on 21st January, 1972. As the name suggests, the newspapers and magazines are all community-based mouthpieces and are for the development of the society.The state of Mizoram sees a cut throat compedition among the media houses. There are 26 newspapers and 35 news magazines in Mizoram.

The seventh section is titled ‘Nagaland: The Face of Courage’ and indeed the tittle is appropriate. Prof. Pandey has done an indepth study in inscribing the book. His book reveals the challenges both mental, physical and even life threats faced by the journalists of the state. Prof. Pandey reveales that journalism in this state is born out of sheer necessity.

The eighth section titled ‘Sikkim: Growth Despite Limitations’ reveals the growth of press in Sikkim with little scope, facilities and hazards. Prof. Pandey has put forward the view that it is a political pre-requisite to use newspapers as a platform for a movement that ultimately gains popularity.

The ninth section, ‘Tripura: Enlightened Royal Patronage’, reveals that Tripura’s journalism is marked by 150 years of hard work and continuous flow of publications. Journalism in Tripura is very old and marked by glory.

The book should be useful to all students of journalism, media persons, journalists, academicians and historians who want to study the history of  newspapers and journalists and the issues that concern the North-east region.

The book is written in a very simple style, supported with photographs of journalists and archival newspapers and magazines which are out of print now. The book provides deep insights to the reader into the diverse paradigms of the development of the Press and journalism by giving equal amount of information on the region in terms of the historical and geographical perspective. This book will be immensely useful for the students, journalists, researchers and policy maker as a valuable document and a treasure of knowledge. The printing and the getup of the book is good and it is affordable at a low price.

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