Islamic largesse on media in eastern India

via By Asim Kumar Mitra @ published on January 15, 2009

Of late Islamic money and men have become extraordinarily active in the
field of media in eastern and north-eastern India. Within a very short
spell of time, the Islamic Journalists Society has started at least
twelve newspapers including one daily newspaper in Bengali named
Aajvikas and three 24-hour satellite news channels (They are Network
365 from Kolkata, Din 365 from Jharkhand and Dy 365 from Assam). Apart
from Aajvikas they have started Dakshiner Varanda a magazine devoted on
agriculture and environment, Anahata a newsweekly, Fashion on fashion
and style, Career and Pesha Sopan both devoted on career and job
information Indoor Outdoor this news magazine has four editions and it
is published in Hindi, Oriya and Assamese, two educational magazines in
Bengali Mission Secondary and Mission Higher Secondary, Amrit Cricket
on cricket and other sports, The International Gazette, a magazine
devoted to international issues. Those who are in the field of
newspaper publication they can well imagine how much capital is
required for bringing out so many publications regularly.

Shri Suman Bhattacharya, a former journalist of Ananda Bazar
Patrika, the largest circulated Bengali daily with a circulation of 1.3
million, is spearheading the journalist section of the group. Shri
Bhattacharya became popular after covering the Kargil war in Ananda
Bazar Patrika. His father was very close to Shri Priya Ranjan
Dasmunshi, former Information and Broadcasting Minister as he was an
employee in Dakshinee Varta a yearly magazine edited by Priya Ranjan.
People are inclined to draw a conclusion that may be Priya Ranjan had
an invisible hand in the appointment of Suman Bhattacharya in his
present position. The daily newspaper Aajvikas edited by Suman
Bhattacharya has already campaigned for allowing work-permit for the
Bangladeshis. In another news campaign Aajvikas has argued that Md.
Salim, an MP of CPI(M) would have been a better chief minister of the
State than the present CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. These kind of
indirect but definitive and motivated stories are being published in
the interest of parochial Islamic interest.

Let us cite another example from its publication Anahata, a
newsweekly. In its issue of 3—9 December, 2008, it had put forward six
questions and obtained answers from the intellectuals and college and
university students. If one goes through the questions they have asked,
one would immediately understand the motive behind asking those
questions. Let us put forward the questions they have asked: (1) There
are few people who are honest and responsible think that Muslims in
general are ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘opposed to the national interests’.
Do you think that this kind of generalisation is supportable? (2) Do
you think that the terrorists are Muslims only and no other communities
have no terrorists? Is it a fact that terrorists form a separate party?
(3) What is your perception about terrorists? Or what do you understand
by “terrorists”? (4) If you find that there are terrorists in other
communities as well, then will it proper to say that only Muslims are
terrorists in this country? If it is correct, then should we get rid of
such wrong notion? (5) What kind of India you prefer to see—a free,
secular India where love, tolerance and equal prestige for all will be
followed as national ideal? Or you want an India which is being ruled
by a particular group of people belonging to a particular religion and
where only that particular religious group will enjoy policy deciding
right? (6) What kind of social discrimination gives birth to terrorism
or such an ambience drives people to take up ‘terrorism’ as a way of

Many renowned personalities of Bengal including Sunil
Gangopadhyay, litterateur and President, Sahitya Academy, PC Sorcar Jr.
famous magician, Kaushik Sen, actor, Bibhas Chakravorty, Drama
director, Bani Basu, litterateur etc. have responded to these questions
more or less positively which have successfully served their purpose.

Although all these newspapers have been started by the Islamic
Journalist Society, now they have changed the name of this
organisation. Instead of the word ‘Islamic’ they are now using the word
‘Independent’. By giving this new name i.e. Independent Journalist
Society they think that people would accept this organisation as a
secular organisation and would not have any prejudice against it. Or
may be they would have found certain problems while registering the
society in the former name. In any case, the presence of this new
Independent Journalist Society is being felt by each and every section
of the society as the publications are covering regional and sectional
subjects. Another important aspect of their motive is that they have
not limited themselves in the political matters only; instead, they
have spread their fangs in divergent areas. Through this media chain
they are consciously trying to rope in important personalities in their
fold. The latest example, in this regard, is that when Din 365, the
24-hour satellite channel, was inaugurated in Ranchi, the capital of
Jharkhand, on December 18, 2008, the chief minister Shri Shibu Soren
was present at the function.

Wherefrom this huge capital is coming for running such a huge
number of magazines is not exactly known. But it has been said that
some “Hawala Businessmen” are involved in this matter. The name of Arun
Poddar, a Kolkata-based businessman, has come up as supplier of money
to the Independent Journalist Society. In exchange of this job Poddar
has an eye on a Rajya Sabha seat from CPI(M) quota with the help of Md.
Salim. It is said that Md. Salim had assured him to get one seat of
Rajya Sabha to him. It is also said that huge Arab-money is coming
through different sources. Although exact proof for this is not
immediately available but circumstantial evidence is very much there.
Even if the sources are not disclosed the affluence can be noticed in
their life style.

(Author is a former member of Press Council of India)

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