People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
YEARS OF DESHABHIMANI
Struggle, Survival And Surging
organ of the CPI(M) in Kerala, completed 60 years of its life on September 6.
With its humble but hopeful beginning on September 6, 1942, it fulfilled a need
of those turbulent days of our freedom movement. Its beginning was a culmination
point of the hopes and aspirations of millions of the oppressed, repressed and
suppressed toiling masses. The path it traversed was thorny. Often it faced
brickbats from the authorities and adversaries, receiving at the same time
bouquets from the masses. The paperís onward march from a weekly to a
full-fledged morning daily with six editions plus an internet edition, from a
double dummy cylinder to the state-of-the-art equipment with fully computerised
infrastructure is a stirring experience.
has a saga of trials and tribulations. Its chequered history is an inalienable
part of the growth of Left and progressive movements in Kerala. It steadfastly
stood with the masses throughout and its role has been vindicated by the
peopleís involvement in nurturing it. As for financial support, the donation
of a pet calf by an illiterate rural woman in earlier days and lakhs of rupees
received in one-day bucket collections afterward are clear indications of how
much affection the common folk have for this paper. They consider it as their
own. To paraphrase the famous words from Abraham Lincolnís Gettisburg speech, Deshabhimani
may unhesitatingly and proudly be called as a newspaper "for the people, by
the people, of the people."
(The Dawn), started from Shorannur near Trichur on January 9, 1935, under the
editorship of late Comrade E M S Namboodiripad, is considered to be the
precursor of Deshabhimani. As an unofficial organ of the socialist
group in the Indian National Congress, Prabhatam fought against
the injustice and atrocities and had therefore to bear the brunt of persecution.
The publication of a poem "Athmanadam" (Sound of the Soul) by Chovvara
Parameswaran annoyed the government and the paper was fined Rs 2000.
Comrade A K Gopalan (popularly called AKG), who rose to become one of the
stalwarts of freedom movement and Communist Party in Kerala, came forward
confidently to raise funds, which the paper badly needed. He toured to Bombay,
Ceylon, Burma and other places to meet the Malayalees and managed to collect
enough funds. It was at this time that the second world war broke out. The
government promptly withdrew the license for publication without any rhyme or
leaders then working in the Congress Socialist Party were influenced by Marxism.
64 prominent figures of the Kerala CSP soon got together at Parappuram in
Pinarayi panchayat, Kannur district, and resolved to function as the Communist
Party, even though the latter was banned and had to work in the most adverse
circumstances till the ban was lifted in 1942.
the party started functioning openly in 1942, it took initiative to have its own
mouthpiece and that was how Deshabhimani was born at Kozhikode. It
started as a weekly on September 6, 1942. The fund collected by AKG sustained it
initially. Later, EMS disposed of his ancestral property and donated the entire
amount (Rs 50,000, a big sum in those days) to the paper.
editorial "The Call of the Gallows," in connection with the Kayyur
martyrs, infuriated the British imperialists. The Madras government took revenge
and ordered the paper to deposit a security of Rs 1000. But the people raised
this amount within days. Four years later, despite all onslaughts, Deshabhimani
changed to a four-page morning daily on January 18, 1946.
proletarian perspective and progressive view of these papers were so irritating
to the erstwhile princely rulers that the papers were banned once by the Cochin
government and twice by the Diwan of Travancore during 1942-46. But, by then, Deshabhimani
had become an instrument of fight for the struggling people. It took up a number
of issues and lent its voice to many struggles. The agitation of toddytappers of
Anthikkad (Thrissur) and the strikes of Cochin harbour, Sitharam Mill (Trichur)
and Aaron Mill (Kannur) were some of the outstanding struggles among them. Not
only the mass agitations in different parts of the state, but the struggles in
other states also reverberated in Deshabhimaniís pages. It
played its revolutionary role against landlordism and colonialism diligently,
and highlighted the sacrifices of those who laid down their lives at Karivallor,
Kavumbai, Munayankunnu (Kannur) and Onchiam (Kozhikode) while fighting.
improve the quality and meet the growing demand, the need to replace the double
dummy cylinder press by a speedier modern rotary press was felt as early as in
1947. Again, when the party workers approached the people for fund, the response
was fantastic. The experience of Chombala village near Kozhikode at that time is
etched in peopleís memory forever. Here, Palora Matha, an illiterate,
impoverished rural woman who had nothing else to part with, donated her only
calf to the party, telling the comrades to sell the calf and utilise the money
for Deshabhimani. What a gesture! Is anything more needed to prove
the common peopleís love for the paper?
the other hand, attempts to harass and persecute the paper continued unabatedly.
Under the Public Security Act of 1947, many members of the editorial board were
taken into custody and false cases registered against them. Again the
authorities insisted for a deposit of Rs 4000. But party sympathisers and
workers again raised a fund, as they had done earlier, well aware that the
paperís existence was the need of the day.
article on Malabar rebellion titled "The Message and Warning of 1921"
was the ostensible reason for another ban on the paper. Meanwhile, the party was
banned and all repressive measures were taken against the paper. It was again
banned under the General Security Act of 1948.
period 1948 to 1951 witnessed the severest repression against the party in
independent India. Workers were brutally tortured; mass struggles inhumanly
suppressed. Moyarath Sankaran, a staunch freedom fighter, and many others were
murdered. Brutal incidents took place at Munayankunnu and Padikkunnu (Kannur).
Since the paper was banned, there was none to highlight these atrocities. The
paper itself was on the brink of liquidation. But after his release from the
jail in 1951, AKG took initiative to revive it.
Deshabhimani was banned, other methods were used to convey the
partyís messages to the people. A series of other publications were started: The
Republic, Kerala News, Vishva Keralam and Navalokam were
some of them. These publications started from different places; the ban on one
of them was followed by the start of another. Then, Deshabhimani
resumed its publication on December 16, 1951, almost on the eve of first general
elections in 1952. During the election campaign, it served as a powerful
ideological weapon against the repressive Congress misrule.
ideological conflict within the party, that led to a split in 1964, got
reflected in the paper as well. After the split, Deshabhimani
became the organ of the CPI(M). Late Comrade K P R Gopalan was at the helm of
affairs and played a major role in sustaining the paper as the CPI(M)ís organ.
the Kozhikode edition alone couldnít meet the growing demand, the party took
initiative to start another edition from Kochi in 1969, to cater the need of
southern Kerala. In 1973, a new building was constructed for it, again by
raising funds from the masses.
period of Emergency was one of severe stress and strain for the party as well as
for its organ. Deshabhimani couldnít publish editorials due to
the hard and fast pre-censorship imposed during the Emergency, and had to leave
the editorial space blank. The paper was also denied of its rightful share in
government advertisements. The paper could not print in time and had even to
skip editions because of the delaying tactics of censoring officers who were
subservient to the authoritarian rulers.
surmounting all these difficulties in this period, the paper stood in defence of
democracy and of the massesí interests. It exposed atrocities like the
infamous Rajan case in Kerala and excesses elsewhere in India like Turkman Gate
case, while the monopoly press and others either kept mum or defended the
span of time between the second and subsequent editions was not as long as it
was between the Kozhikode and Kochi editions. The growth was rapid, reflecting
the partyís increasing popularity in the state.
third edition of Deshabhimani started from Thiruvananthapuram on
January 4, 1989. For it, the party had decided to collect Rs 25 lakh but the
response was much greater. In just one day of bucket collection, people
generously donated Rs 45 lakh.
next edition started at Kannur on January 30, 1994, a stronghold of the
communist movement. One-day collection through the state for this edition was Rs
42 lakh. Apart from this, Rs one crore were collected from Kannur and Kasargode
districts only, by way of 12-year subscriptions. It was a landmark in the
history of the paper.
1997, the fifth edition started from Kottayam. For it, two days of bucket
collection brought Rs 75 lakh. Besides, Rs 1.4 crore were collected through
annual subscriptions from the districts within the limit of this edition alone.
was really an inspiring experience to note that, within a month, about Rs 1.05
crore were collected for the sixth edition from Trissur district alone. People
from all walks of life contributed to the fund. Almost all the workers, peasants
and employees, etc, contributed their one-day wages. The edition came out on
August 31, 2000.
paper started its multicolour edition at Kochi in 1993, and Thiruvananthapuram
and Kozhikode in 1994. Kannur and Kottayam editions started with the colour
printing installations right from the beginning.
the printing and publishing companies that bring out these editions are named
after party stalwarts like P Krishna Pillai, AKG, C H Kanaran and EMS.
the party is planning another edition from outside Kerala, that is Mumbai, the
hub of business activities in India. The purpose is to cater to a large chunk of
Malayalees who have settled there for livelihood but still have fond memories of
Kerala. The internet edition started on January 1, 1998 --- another feather in
the paperís cap.
a very humble beginning in terms of assets and circulation, the Deshabhimani
has become the third largest daily in Kerala, reaching a wide range of
readership. Tiding over all the hardships and constraints, the growth from Kallachu
(a primitive calligraphic mode of printing) to the well equipped modern
machinery with all-out computerised facilities fulfils the aspirations of the
toiling and downtrodden people of Kerala, whose unstinted support and
wholehearted loyalty made all this possible.
of the Left and progressive movements in Kerala like E M S Namboodiripad, M S
Devadas, V T Induchudan, K P R Gopalan, P Govinda Pillai, K Chathunni Master, E
K Nayanar and S Ramachandran Pillai were the luminaries who served as the
paperís chief editors at different times. Along with hundreds of party workers
and thousands of sympathisers, P Krishna Pillai, AKG, EMS, C H Kanaran,
Azheekodan Raghavan, P Kannan Nair, N Sreedharan and Chadayan Govindan were,
among others, the moving spirits behind the paper. Since March 1998, after EMS
died, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member V S Achuthanandan took over as the chief
editor. M Govindankutty was the printer and publisher during 1951-67. In 1973, P
Kannan Nair took over as the printer, publisher and general manager. After his
death in 1990, P Karunakaran is the printer, publisher and general manager.
its beginning, the paperís proprietorship had been vested with EMS. Late
Chadayan Govindan became the proprietor in 1998, and after his death Pinarayi
Vijayan took it over.
has been the friend, philosopher and guide to the paper till the end of his
life. One of the two articles he wrote on the very day of his demise, that is on
March 19, 1998, was part of a series on contemporary politics, captioned
"Congress, BJP and Left Parties." The paper carried it along with his
obituary. The other article was for the first anniversary supplement of the
though maintaining its basic character as an eloquent mouthpiece of the
progressive forces, with a clear political vision on national and international
issues, Deshabhimani has changed a lot in form and content in
recent times. It comes out regularly with the special pullouts on
socio-economic, industrial and business issues, agriculture, sports, tourism,
etc, thus serving as a complete newspaper. Magazine Thathamma for
children, a sister publication, is widely circulated. Deshabhimani
weekly maintains its qualitative standard. It was Deshabhimani
that brought out Kalikkalam, the first sports magazine in
Malayalam. It has also demonstrated its capacity to cope with the changing
times. Even those who once laughed at Deshabhimani as a party
gazette, now accept these sea-changes and laud its professionalism.
the paper is conscious of its multifarious objectives that are yet to be
attained and the shortcomings still to be rectified. EMS had a desire and vision
to make it the largest circulated daily. Concerted striving is needed to fulfil
his dream in a not very distant future.