Asam Bani completes 50 yrs today(The Assam Tribune,01/07/2005)

Launched on July 1, 1955, by the Assam Tribune group of newspapers under the stewardship of the late RG Baruah, the weekly marked a watershed in the history of journalism and newspaper industry in the North East. It was the first weekly newspaper published from the region.

During its long 50 years of circulation, the Asam Bani has played a stellar role in educating people and moulding public opinion. As the leading weekly, it had always been in the forefront to lend its voice in support of vital causes of public interest.

Reminiscing his Asam Bani days as the founding editor, Satis Chandra Kakoti, now 94, says, “Credibility and impartiality had been the hallmark of the Asam Bani. It has always acted in the best traditions of journalistic principles.”

All the major issues affecting the State used to find adequate and unbiased representation in the Asam Bani. “Some of the burning issues in the 1960s and 1970s like the language movement, shifting of the capital, unemployment and infiltration were focused very seriously by us, and I wrote a number of editorials on those subjects,” Kakoti, who remained its editor till 1980, says.

Editing, managing and running a newspaper in a remote part of the country was rather tough in those days. But the people showered their love and affection on the Asam Bani in such an overwhelming manner that very soon it went on to surpass all the contemporary weeklies published from West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar in terms of circulation.

The immense popularity of this weekly probably stemmed from the fact that right from the beginning, it was a comprehensive newspaper that catered to the needs of different sections of the people. Initially of 16 pages and later extended to 24, the weekly used to cover a lot of subjects – hard, routine news, special sections for women and children, cultural reports and cartoons in addition to a number of other innovative features.

Around 20,000 copies of the first edition of the Asam Bani was circulated free of cost at all the villages and schools of the State.

“This initiative of RG Baruah, the pioneer of newspaper industry in the North East, bore fruit and the weekly became a household name across the length and breadth of the State,” Kakoti, who edited The Assam Tribune for over a decade, says.

The coverage of the sensational Upen Rajkhowa murder case in the early 1970s was a high point in the Asam Bani’s history. Its circulation soared dramatically following the exhaustive coverage done by the late Nirod Choudhury, touching the 80,000 mark from some 50,000.

Although the Asam Bani made its debut when The Assam Tribune, the flagship brand of the Tribune group, was an established daily, it took no time to create an identity of its own and was never under the shadow of The Assam Tribune.

The Asam Bani can also boast of making a significant contribution to the State’s literary front by way of promoting new writers, who later went on to carve a niche for themselves in the writing arena. Many a stalwart in different fields like Dr Jayanta Madhab, Nirod Choudhury, Sasa Roy Baruah, to name only a few, started their career with the Asam Bani. It has also seen several distinguished personalities like Homen Borgohain, Chandra Prasad Saikia, Tilak Hazarika, Phani Talukdar and Nirod Choudhury leading from the front as editors.

The present editor (since 1997), Dilip Chandan, is candid enough to admit of challenges posed by the changing times and the changing tastes of people, especially when they have a large choice.

“We plan to delve deeper into the various problems confronting the State and its people, while at the same time there is also the need to attract the younger generation,” Chandan says, adding that some amount of change may be inevitable at this hour.

“But let me assure you one thing,” Chandan says, “The Asam Bani has een steadfast in adhering to the journalistic ethos and upholding the causes of justice, equality and truth – something that is never going to change.”

By Sivasish Thakur on The Assam Tribune