U A Shimray
Television and cable network have reach many households. Today, media revolution turns incredible market in the world of business. For the North Eastern region, Television first came in 1982 (Thanks to Delhi’s Asian Games) and it was straight away to colour TV (We can say, the period of Black-and-White TV was skipped…). Even before internalising the basic logic of “development” and understanding the process of “materialism” cable television quickly arrived in 1990s. Before, the event of cable network, Calcutta based publications like The Amrita Patrika Bazaar, The Statesman and Illustration Weekly entertain the region (exception to Radio). Now, The Telegraph, North East Sun, The Times of India, The Hindu is the main player in the media market. Shakily, Guwahati based English publications The Assam Tribune and The Sentinel hold its regional authority. Indeed, the media market is flourished and its market value touches the region.
In Manipur State, particularly in Imphal valley areas airing cable is not free. MTV, Channel-V, F-TV and Hindi based channels are banned by one of the insurgent groups- Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), another parallel “authority” in the Imphal valley. Hindi news channels like Aaj Tak, Star News and Zee News are spare. Also, screening Hindi movie is ban in Imphal areas. No long ago, All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) called for a “Hindi Boycott” and organised a “communication blockade” in which all national papers and Hindi textbooks were confiscated and burnt. The “virus” of xenophobia is started getting into the mindset to some ultra-ethnicist cohort. The fact remains that many people are great fans of Hindi movies and songs. Today, these theatres have a deserted look and seem live less without the face of Shah Rukh Khan, Hritik Roshan, Preity Zinta, Ash., Aamir, etc. So, “Hindi out” and “Samosa in”!
Recently, the region experienced swelling in number of producing newspapers both English and local languages. For instance, the neighbouring states like Nagaland and Manipur alone have more than 20 local based newspapers. Manipur State alone has 18 papers; Three English papers and Fifteen Manipuri based papers. Among the tribals, Paite have two newspapers and one each for Lushai, Kuki and Tangkhul. One Imphal based electronic media- the ISTV. However, in term of quantity and pages, the Imphal based publications are still lacking behind in comparing to other regional newspapers. For instance, The Sentinel, The Nagaland Post, The Eastern Mirror, and recent induction The Morung Express carry six to twelve pages looking more colourful and competent. Here, I am not comparing their quality and editorial proficiency (No doubt, today, competition is taking place on the marketing and sales front, rather then the editorial).
What bore in Manipur State newspapers is quantitative front like one turn page and poor paper quality, monotonous, lesser coverage and also absent of “constructive competition” among the agencies. This trend is happening for long time. In the 1980s, there was only one English based paper The Manipur Mail carrying only two pages. Many regional papers were started updating the graphic design presentation becoming more readers’ friendly, leisure and entertainment column; enlarge national and regional page, foreign and sports. In spite of more columns the price is limited to Three Rupees.
Is Manipur’s four to eight page newspapers is too “Manipur centric” affairs? What do the daily newspapers of Manipur write? Most of the time, it carries and views of this or that underground group as a news item. Underground outfits have views on almost every issue like education, Public works, appointment, university… Also, underground’s boast of killing security forces hit the Headlines. Another interesting is allegation and counter-allegation, clarification and counter-clarification in “letter to Editor column” or a rejoinder paying certain amount of money as a fee (Sometimes deliberate false name rejoinder assassinate one’s character). Could this be the reason why Manipur English papers is not doing well in other neighbouring States.
Indeed, media one of the pillars of democratic institution contains with certain moral principle and social responsible in delivering the “freedom of expression”. The Imphal based publication The Sangai Express faced the wrath of Naga organisations by imposing ban in Naga dominate districts for a period of time (This happen at the time when the Naga ceasefire extension “without territorial limits” is pronounced on June 2001). The Naga organisations feel that the paper reports are ethnically biased and hurt the sentiments. Electronic media ISTV also banned by the state government at the time when the protest demand for the repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The government justify as which apprehends breach of peace and danger to public tranquility.
The ban of media in democratic institution is undemocratic manifesting intolerance politics. Media in Manipur often face banned by the state authority or social organisations. Such action is unfortunate. However, in highly sensitive region like North East India, issues should deliberate with clear conscious and understanding. Journalist is one of the respected professions and such job needs to maintain its ethics to the best. But when the profession is carry away by the pulse of partisan attitude and sentiment then it would come to the end of profession.
At the moment, Manipur is socially and politically “divided”. Often, when one talk about Manipur it is limited to the Imphal valley because the political and economic power concentrate here. The periphery voices of the Hills (tribals) somehow could penetrate to the core because of various reasons. Such cultural divisions and diverse social system in a single state, the quest for a unity is difficult journey. The notion breeds “them” and “us”. What need in this juncture is addressing the issue in right perspectives. However, when the media play a role of political patronization and ethnic sentiment then it would further threaten the state political system and social relationships.