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Print Journalism In The Hills Of Manipur

Manipur, which achieved full Statehood on January 21, 1971 under the Union of India, has an area of 22,327 sq km. It lies between latitude 23.03 degree and 25.68 degree north and longitude of 93.03 degree and 94.78 degree east. The altitude of Manipur is 790 meters above sea level. Physically, Manipur consists of two parts—the hill and the valley. The majority of the populations are the Meiteis, who form the primary ethnic group and live primarily in the State’s valley region. The tribals—mostly of the Kukis and the Nagas—live in the hill area. The Manipur hill covers roughly 20089 sq kms, accounting for around 90% of the state area.

According to the general census of 2001, Manipur has a population of 23,88,634. Out of this, just a little over 30 % is the tribal population. Manipur has nine administrative districts—Bishnupur, Chandel, Churachandpur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Senapati, Tamenglong, Thoubal, and Ukhrul. Among the nine districts, five are inhabited by the tribal and are in the hills. There are 32 recognized tribes in the State under the Indian Union.

Media in Manipur

According to Mayanglambam Saratchandra (The Origin of Press In India With Special Reference to Manipur in the Pre and Post Independence Period), it was only after the 1st World War (1914-1918) that Manipuris got the proper facilities of using printing machines in Manipur. Before this Manipuris used hand written and cyclostyled publications. However, the printing of Government Annual Reports had been practiced outside Manipur like Calcutta and Shillong under the supervision of the East India Company since Manipuris connection with the political Agent of Britain.

The printed publication of Manipuri script or Meitei Mayek in the pages of Royal Asiatic Society by GH Damant and Dr Grierson’s writings in the Linguistic Survey of India in 1891 are worth mentioning. In the linguistic survey of India a number of articles related to Manipuri script and culture proposed by Sarang Pandit were printed. In those days Manipuris got English education through the medium of Bengali. As a result, they used Bengali script for their writings and publications. The Manipuri script was abolished in 1891 and since then the Bengali script has been adopted by the Manipuris. It is said that the first book, which was brought out in printed form, was Haodijamba Cheitanya’s book on History. It was a small book and printed at Sylhet (now in Bangladesh). In 1895 Pandit Makar Singh also brought out books in Bengali which have been taught by Manipuris for a long time. William Pettigrew wrote another book on Manipuri Grammar in English style in 1912. Manipuris had to play on such available books in those days. However, the first ever-printed book in Manipur was Sorokhaibam Lalit Singh’s ‘Areppa Marup.’

By 1910-11, a small printing press came into existence in Manipur. It is believed to be established by one Shanglakpa Bhubanchandra Jyotisharnab at Kwakeithel, Imphal. In this press a number of forms, Bills and other Governmental papers were printed. By 1918-19, the State Printing Press was established in Imphal and the printing of Government reports including private publications became its primary works.

The common standard of press in those days was the use of hand press. But in 1929-30 a new double demy Wharfdale printing machine invented by Dawson Fehani and Halliot was brought from England and put in the state printing press. In this press a number of school text books which were earlier sent to outside Manipur were printed. From the Administrative Report of 1930-31 it is known that punching machines, cutting and machines for preparing pages had been used. In case there is power failure, the jail laborers were used to run the machines. In the following years, the strength of compositors was increased and the post of a press superintendent was created under the supervision of a Darbar member. Wahengbam Yumjao was in-charge of the press. The development of the state owned press could print a number of publications for the government as well as for the private.

The Manipur State Gazette was printed and published both in Manipuri and English. Other government orders, notices, resolutions etc were also printed. By 1932-33 the State Press became a full-fledged department of the government. It could disclose its income and expenditure as well as other accounts of publications. As the private orders for printing increased the press demanded an amount of Rs 124 as deposit fee from any sort of private orders. By 1936-37, a big book-printing house of the government press was opened and a number of Manipuri books were printed in this press in the year 1939-40.

For the smooth functioning of the press, the Assam Press Act was introduced in Manipur by adding 22 resolutions of the state government. The press also printed a number of other government resolutions, examination questions, war forms during the World War-II (1939-45). By 1965, a separate government publicity department was created under the supervision of a Director. Side by side, private printing press was also opened. In 1930, the Churachand Printing press was established. Soon after a number of other private printing presses were also opened. By 1965-66 Manipur had a total of 61 registered presses in the state. As the printing press developed in Manipur in the beginning of the 20th century, journalism also developed as well. As a result, a number of printed magazines, weeklies and dailies were brought out.

Trace of Journalism: Pre Independence Period

The origin of Manipuri journalism is, however, said to be started from outside Manipur. ‘Meitei Leima’ a hand written magazine was brought out probably in 1917-18. It is said to be the pioneer magazine of Manipuri journalism published from Cachar in Assam.2 But it did not last long. In 1920, Manipuri students who studied outside Manipur had brought out a hand written magazine. Another hand written journal ‘Meitei Chanu’ was also brought out by Hijam Irabot probably between 1925 and 26. However some writers say that Meitei Chanu was published in the year 1922.

The period between 1920 and 1949 may be considered as the first phase of Manipuri journalism. Masik Jagran, a monthly journal published in Bengali and Manipuri, was published in 1924. Arjun Singh was its editor and Parijat Singh and Ram Krishna Singh as assistant editors. It was printed at the Islamia press in Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) and its publisher was Nityachand Singh.

The first Manipuri monthly published from Manipur was Yakairol which was edited and published by Dr Ningthoujam Lairen Singh, a medical doctor who completed his LMP from Bery White Medical School, Dibrugarh in 1918. Dr N Lairen also took active role towards the establishment of CC High School in Imphal. He became a Minister of Manipur in 1947 after he was elected as Member of the Legislative Assembly.

Dainik Manipur or Deinik Manipur Patrika was the first daily newspaper published from Manipur in 1933. It was registered in 1932. Deinik Manipur was not only the first daily newspaper of Manipur but also for the whole of the then Assam. It was circulated for Manipuris inhabited areas of Tripura, Assam, Bengal, Bangladesh and Brindabad in Uttar Pradesh. About 3000 copies were sold and two issues were published in a day. Deinik Manipur was against the supremacy of the British rule and fought for freedom struggle. It criticized the British government’s policy and programs and caused much displeasure to the then political agent in Manipur. As a result, the government of Manipur declared to ban its publication. Deinik Patrika, apart from its political writings, adopted the cultural and religious views of the people. The paper rendered service to the people for five years continuously. The paper was a powerful organ in shaping the public opinion.

Lalit Manjaree Patrika, a monthly journal started its publication in 1933 with Atombapu Sharma as its editor. It was a mouthpiece of the then Congress party of India and supported the views of Nikhil Hindu Mahasabha.

After reading Lalit Manjaree, it is known that Lalita Madhap Chaterjee also edited a quarterly journal ‘Shrigouranga’ in 1934. It was the mouthpiece of Nikhil Manipuri Hindu Mahasabha. In the same year some students of Manipur also published a magazine ‘Chhatramacha.’

In 1935, Manipur Sahitya Parishad was established. In order to propagate its news, it started to publish its organ known as ‘Manipuri Shaitya Parishad Patrika. Thokchom Madhu Singh was its editor. It was a half-yearly publication and continued to publish till 1941.

The next publication was a weekly journal ‘Tarun Manipur.’ It started publication in August 1938 and was printed at the Churachand Printing works. RK Shitaljit, a well-known writer was its editor and Arambam Darendrajit Singh as its publisher. RK Shitaljit, a well-known writer was earlier a teacher at Ramlal Paul High School. Later he became a writer and editor and thus started to serve the people. He edited both Lalit Manjaree Patrika (Masik Manipur) and Manipur Matam. He was also associated with the then news Agency, the Associated Press of India (API).

In the same year, a health journal ‘Meitei Maiba’ was brought out. It was a monthly journal for health care. Sagolshem Indramani Singh was the editor and Ningombam Mangi Singh was the publisher. The journal tried to update its readers on health care.

On the eve of the Second World War, some newspapers and journals were brought out. Mention may be made of ‘Manipur Matam’ (weekly), Manipur Paojel (weekly) and Manipur Mahila also known as ‘Meitei Chanu’ (monthly).

During the Second World War from 1939 to 1945, most of the newspapers and journals could not be published. However, some periodicals came out in 1941. Two/three issues of ‘Meitei Leima’ a monthly edited by Akham Thambal Angou Singh were brought out during this period. Maharaj Budhachandra was a regular contributor of the journal. Another monthly ‘Meitei’ edited by Phurailatpam Gourachandra Sharma had also came out in 1941.

The ‘Naharol’ is another periodical which was published half yearly in the year 1941. Two issues of ‘Naharol’ known as Yaoshang and Pujah were brought out. Laishram Gopal was the editor and RK Sanahal Singh was the assistant editor.

A daily newspaper, Bhagyabati Patrika came into existence on April 15, 1946. Meisnam Birmani Singh first edited the paper.

A month later, the editorship was given to Khamnam Madhu Singh. Then PM Singh took charge of the editor two months later.

‘Ngasi,’ a fortnightly was another journal that began to hit the stands in 1946. Keisham Kunjabihari Singh edited the journal. A monthly journal ‘Chhatra Jagat,’ was also brought out in December 1946. N Tombi Singh, the founder editor of Manipur Mail, was its editor. N Tombi Singh later edited another newspaper known as ‘Manipur Times.’ Tombi later became the Education Minister of Manipur.

‘Bhagyabati Masik’ and ‘Bhagyabati Kala’ were two other periodicals published monthly and edited by Atombapu Sharma in 1946.

The Prajatantra, a daily newspaper was brought out as a mouthpiece of the then Manipur State Congress in 1946.

In the year 1947, around ten periodicals were brought out. They were: Anouba Jug (weekly), Bhagyabatee (weekly), Praja (weekly), Khonjel (fortnightly), Meengaidabee (quarterly), Palem (monthly), Imarol (monthly), Eikhoigi Manipur (daily) and Sandhyagee Bhagyabatee Patrika (daily).

Media in the hills of Manipur

Tribal media are those publications/broadcast in tribal dialect. They are mostly community-based mouthpiece and have targeted readers who read/speak a particular dialect. Tribal newspapers/journals in good numbers started to appear in the State from 1980 onwards. The circulation of the paper and its survival depends to a large extent on the population of the tribe. For instance, a Tangkhul newspaper will depend on the number of readership, i.e., populations who speak Tangkhul dialect.

Indeed, it is Christianity that mothers education in the tribal belt of the State. Of the many legacies brought about by Christianity in the hills of Manipur, journalism becomes one among them. If Guttenburg’s Bible was the beginning of press publication in the world, the history of mass communication through print medium among the tribal of Manipur began with the Gospel. The awareness on communication through media like books has begun with the publication of many Christian literatures like tracts, Bibles, etc in the early part of the 20th Century. Most of the literatures were printed outside the region in the absence of printing machine. As such, the local publications were mostly of handwritten or done with typewriter.

The practice of communication through journals was felt as late in the early part of the 1940s. It is believed that a Hmar dialect magazine, ‘Hmasawnna’ which appeared in 1941 was the first journal in tribal dialect of Manipur. The journal was edited by Zathuoi, a Hmar literary giant. The journal was published from Mission Compound in Churachandpur.

The same time around, a journal called ‘Lhangsam’ appeared in the northern hill district of Manipur. SL Lunneh, a pioneer of Christianity and a trailblazer of Thadou-Kuki literature edited ‘Lhangsam,’ the Thadou-Kuki journal. It was published from Motbung in Sadar Hills. The journal was known for its multi-perspective contents.

In 1952, a monthly magazine ‘Zingsol’ was published in Gangte dialect. Lamzasoi Chelmang, the first graduate among the Gangtes, edited the magazine. Following years witnessed the coming of ‘Sim le Mal’ a magazine in Thadou-Kuki dialect. The journal was also edited by SL Lunneh from Motbung. Magazines like ‘Penna Gam,’ ‘Muoltinchan,’ ‘Zouzam,’ etc appeared with their own tastes and colors. But they could not stand against the test of time due to financial shortage. One of the reasons for the short live of the publications could have been that nobody regarded journalism as a profession rather they considered it as a hobby.

However, the factor, which contributes to the rise and growth of journalism among the tribal people of Manipur, was encouraging. That, none of the publications were ever started with the attempt to criticize or attack someone or those who were in the authority. Rather, it was the increasing awareness and the need felt by them to address social issues that necessitated the bringing out of such publications. Another significant factor that contributes to the growth of journalism in the hills of Manipur is the ever increasing consciousness to protect and preserve their respective identities. This trend still prevails among them.

Tribal Newspapers: Past and Present

‘Thuthang’—The practice of daily newspaper publication among the tribal of Manipur started with the publication of ‘Thuthang,’ a daily newspaper in Zou dialect in 1971. This is said to be the oldest registered tribal newspaper. The paper was edited by T Gougin and was published from Churachandpur.

‘Sikni-eng’ is the oldest existing tribal newspaper. CS Sitkill started it from Saikot in Churachandpur. This Mizo newspaper began to hit the stands on September 2, 1975. Kapthianga also edited the paper for one year during 1977-78. Its present editor, Lalhmingliana Torell edited and owned the newspaper from February 11, 1978. It enjoys readership among the Mizo-speaking community of Manipur and Mizoram. Another Mizo daily ‘Chhantu’ was also started in 1976 by F Hrangzuala.

‘Sumkawn,’ another newspaper of the tribal in Thadou-Kuki dialect was started in 1980 from Churachandpur. Its first editor was Mangjangam Touthang. A year later, the base of the newspaper was shifted to Imphal and was brought out from Tongvom Memorial Printing Press, New Lambulane, Imphal.

A Paite dialect newspaper, ‘Manipur Express’ was started in 1981 as a weekly journal. The periodicity of the journal was later changed into daily in 1983. L Chinkhanlian is its editor since its inception. It still survives with large command of readership among the tribal people of Manipur.

A Thadou-Kuki journal “Thinglhang Post” was started on October 1, 1982. It was started as a weekly journal by TN Haokip (Now Minister) from Churachandpur. The paper became a daily newspaper in the nineties. With the credo, ‘come and go,’ time saw the in and out of Thinglhang Post in the tribal media arena. An abortive attempt was made in 2005 for its revival.

‘Hmasawnna Thar’ a Hmar daily newspaper was launched on October 1, 1987 in Churachandpur by Lalmalsawm Sellate. The newspaper caters to the reading needs of the Hmar speaking populace. The paper continues to hit the stands till date. The paper achieved a feat when the editor of the paper was conferred the Manipur State Journalist Award in 2008.

In 1992, a Tangkhul-Naga daily newspaper, ‘Aja’ was launched from Imphal. The paper, since its inception, is edited by Valley Rose H Hungyo. It caters to the reading needs of the Tangkhul speaking community of the State. In 1999, another tribal newspaper was launched in Tamenglong. A Rongmei-Naga newspaper, ‘Dihcham’ was started by Ramkung Pamei. The newspaper serves the reading needs of the Rongmei speaking community of Tamenglong.

Other tribal newspapers that sprang up after 2000 are Paite-dialect ‘Lamka Post’ (started on September 1, 2002), and a Vaiphei-dialect newspaper ‘Nisin Thuhiltu’ (2004). ‘Lamka Post’ is edited by Thangzalian Thomte while ‘Nisin Thuhiltu’ is edited by Benlian Khaute.

Monthly magazines like ‘Lenlai,’ (in Simte), ‘Hetnapha (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Vaphual (Zou)’ ‘Shi-twi (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Chennagam (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Lenkolni (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Akshi Sawmleng (Vaiphei),’ ‘Suangmantam Digest (Paite),’ Tongshann (Zou)’, ‘Zingsol (Gangte),’ ‘Zo-Khuak (Zou),’ etc appeared for a short while and disappeared.

Also weeklies like ‘Mediator,’ ‘Tulai Zogam (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Kanthouna (Maring),’ ‘Frontier Weekend (Paite),’ ‘Kaphung Khon (Tangkhul),’ had also appeared in the scene but only for a short glory.

It is encouraging to note that some monthly magazines/periodicals in tribal dialect are struggling to survive amidst several constraints. Magazines like ‘Chollha (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Tongluang (Paite),’ ‘Zingvalpa (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Zopatong (Zou),’ ‘Sawrtui (Hmar),’ ‘Laizon Digest (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Khohui (Thadou-Kuki),’ ‘Zalen Banner’ (weekly in Thadou-Kuki)’ etc have stood the test of the time and come out till date.

Tribal newspapers which survive to hit the stands till date are Sikni-Eng, Manipur Express, Lamka Post, Thuhiltu, Hmasawnna Thar, Aja, and Dihcham. Encouragingly, the launch of a multi-lingual color daily newspaper, ‘Gosem’ from Imphal, the State Capital in December 2009 sets a watermark in the annals of tribal media-industry’s history. With its entire professional editorial staff and the committed trust-members of the Gosem Lawm, the Gosem is reckoned to revolutionize media industry among the tribal people.

The presence of cable news channels of the tribal (in Churachandpur) is also encouraging to note. At present, around four/five cable news channels—Hornbill Cable, TC Network, Sinlung Cable, ZRS, etc are rendering dialect news service in Churachandpur.

Concluding remarks:

It is crystal clear that tribal media in Manipur are not necessarily stemming out against those who are in authority. Rather it is the culmination of the growing mass awareness and the needs felt by them to promote and preserve their respective identities, of which language is one of the most significant factors. However, the hope and aspiration of the people could not live long. All the newspapers and publications were put behind the eight ball.

The main factors responsible for the short live of the tribal media is undeniably financial shortage and, of course, what could be read as ‘lack of professionalism.’ In all fairness and honesty, the tribal newspapers would run successfully, if not script glorious chapter, if the Government of India as well as the State Government assist them financially through agencies and departments like DAVP, PIB, DIPR, etc.

It would be only a venial error to assert that sincerity and commitment are lacking in tribal society as a whole. It will be prudent if tribal media practitioners exert more zeal and enthusiasm and do justice to their profession. The standard and quality of the publications can be improved.

For this to happen, skills and sincere commitment are required on the part of the professionals. In turn, the Government departments concerned should appoint translators in order that the news carried by the tribal media reached the ear of the Government and policy makers.

*The article is written by Th Mangminthang Gangte.

*The writer can be reached at tmgangte@yahoo.com

*The article was earlier published April 2010.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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