JORHAT, Aug 7 – The current year is remarkable in the history of Assamese newspapers as the publication of daily newspapers is going to complete 75 years on August 12. The first Assamese daily newspaper, Dainik Batori was published from the Thengal Bhawan, 8 km from Jorhat town on August 12, 1935.
Tea baron Shivaprasad Barua, egged on by nationalist zeal, published the paper from his residence at Thengal. Earlier, he had started the Sadinia Batori under his own editorship. When the Dainik Batori was started, Bagmibor Nilmoni Phukan was appointed as its editor.
Though Nagarar Katha, a single-page local daily, was published by Mafajal Hussain (Baputa), which included only news pertaining to Jorhat town about one month earlier than the Dainik Batori, critics hesitate to consider it as a full-fledged daily newspaper. It was recognised as a local daily paper of the town.
Overcoming all difficulties, the staff of the Dainik Batori started publishing the paper from the interior Thengal village on a regular basis. Essential facilities like telephone, telegraph and post offices lay at a great distance from the place. The nearest telegraph office was four kilometres away from the Thengal Bhawan. Knowing the hardships of publishing a daily paper from such an interior place, Shivaprasad Barua bought a printing machine from Calcutta and appointed as many as 55 employees.
From the beginning, it consisted of eight pages. The length of the paper was 45 cm and the breadth was 30 cm. The symbol with a banana tree and a garland of flowers on the first issue of the paper was painted by the famous patriot, Mahendra Dekaphukan. Inside the symbol, there was the phrase “Aai! Tur batori pahare-bhoiyame, Jane-juriye bowak”, meaning ‘The news of Assam will reach everywhere, all the hills and dales in the State’.
In the first editorial of the paper, the editorial policy was reflected where it was said that Assam is only for the Assamese people. Thereafter, the paper constantly struggled for the welfare of Assam and its people. It played an important role to form mass opinion on the burning issues of Assam during those days. Supporting the demand of a university for higher education, the Dainik Batori published as many as six editorials. The paper also supported the idealism and activities of the Asamiya Sangrakhsini Sabha formed in 1926.
On the news desk, there were Benudhar Sharma, Lakhsminath Phukan, Karunakanta Gogoi, Rajivlochan Baruah and Ram Baruah. The main sources of the newspaper were the telegrams from the Reuters and the Associated Press (now PTI).
The annual subscription to the Dainik Batori cost Rs 10, a half-yearly subscription was worth Rs 6. In 1936, the daily paper was circulated through 31 agents all over Assam. The names and addresses of the agents were also published in the paper. About 3,000 papers were published from the press. The paper was published till June 29, 1937 (247th issue). In 1936, Shivaprasad Barua went to Calcutta for the treatment of his ailment. Nilamoni Phukan was in charge of the paper. But without the presence of Barua, the paper did not live long. The printing press was sold away in 1937.
Conscious sections of people here are of the opinion that the diamond jubilee of the daily newspaper in Assam should be celebrated with due importance. Some of them also said that it is a milestone which indicates the glorious course of the daily papers in the entire north-eastern region. But, unfortunately, these days history does not get due importance even from people associated with the press. Another section wants a systematic study and analysis of the history of print media in Assam.