IIMC Dhenkanal celebrates Odia Journalism Day

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Dhenkanal: Indian language newspapers had played a key role in achieving independence from British rule. These newspapers which used to be published in various Indian languages, mostly by the freedom fighters, in the pre-independent era had sowed the seeds of patriotism in the minds of millions of people in the country. They had given a voice to the voiceless people against the British misrule. Speaking on the occasion of Odia Journalism Day, academician and author Subir Ghosh emphasised on the twin roles – awakening the people against British misrule and social reforms – the language newspapers played. He was delivering a special lecture on ‘Role of Language Newspapers in the Freedom Movement in India’ at IIMC Dhenkanal on 5 August 2019.
“British were the common enemy of all the Indian language newspapers published during the pre-independent period. The news against the misrule of the British used to be published regularly in these newspapers. From Raja Rammohan Ray to Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bhupendra Nath Dutta, Gaurishankar Roy, Gopabandhu Das, Bal Gangadhar Tilak to Mahatma Gandhi – all of them had openly challenged the British government and its misrule through their respective newspapers,” said Subir Ghosh.
Citing the example of Indigo Rebellion, he mentioned how British planters forced the Indian farmers to grow indigo in place of food crops. While the British planters looked at the profit out of the indigo plantation, there was an uprising among the oppressed farmers of West Bengal, Bihar and some parts of Odisha. Rather than going to the police, some farmers had resorted to the newspapers. They got in touch with the editor of Hindu Patriot, Harish Chandra Mukherjee who visited the spot of the incidents and wrote about the plight of the indigo farmers. At the same time he strongly criticized the British rulers. His writings gave a voice to the voiceless creating a significant impact.
However, due to the low literacy rate, these newspapers did not enjoy huge circulation. Still, they reached out to a large number of people during this period. “A villager would grab a copy of the newspaper and read it aloud to others. This is the way the newspapers gained popularity among the masses and helped them grow an anti-British sentiment at a faster pace,” said Ghosh.
As the Indian language newspapers reached the grassroots level, they had created much trouble for the British government. Realising the power of the language press, the British rulers had enacted the Vernacular Press Act in 1878. All the Indian language newspapers came under censorship through this Act.
“Interestingly, the day the Act came into effect, Bengali language newspaper Amrita Bazar Patrika changed itself into English language newspaper overnight. This censorship was meant for only language newspapers and Amrita Bazar Patrika escaped the censorship. This move had caused much embarrassment for the British rulers, but it had shown the power of the Press,” said Subir Ghosh.
He also mentioned how the Indian language press played its role in social reforms as editors like Raja Rammohan Roy used his newspapers to ban the custom of Sati and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar worked hard through Somprakash, the newspaper he edited, to bring change in the orthodox society after the enactment of Hindu Widow Remarriage Act 1856.
In his opening remark, Dr Mrinal Chatterjee, Regional Director, IIMC, Dhenkanal, said, “First Odia language newspaper, Utkal Dipika, was published on 4 August 1866. This day is celebrated as the Odia Journalism Day. Its founder-editor Gaurishankar Ray was a visionary. He could see things ahead of his time. This newspaper had an important role in the Indian freedom movement. It has been published for about 70 years.
“Regional language newspapers were more emotionally connected to the freedom struggle than the English language newspapers,” he added.
The students and the faculty members of IIMC Dhenkanal were present in this special lecture commemorating the Odia Journalism Day. The programmed came to a close with Assistant Professor Dr Jyoti Prakash Mohapatra proposing the vote of thanks. To mark this occasion the students of Odia Journalism course also planted trees on the campus.

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