Monday, July 15, 2024

An interview with Padma Shri DN Bezbaruah – Journalist, Writer and Former President of the Editor’s Guild of India

Robin Bhuyan (Editor)

Gargi Baruah (Sub-editor)

Naba Kumar Sharma (Staff Reporter)

Dhirendra Nath Bezbaruah is an Indian journalist and writer who is best known as the founder editor of one of the Northeast’s leading English newspapers, The Sentinel. One of Assam’s leading intellectuals, he had also served as the President of the Editor’s Guild of India, and has been associated with other organizations such as the Media Trust, Assam. He has received multiple awards and honours throughout his career such as the B. D. Goenka Award in 1997, for his contribution to the field of Journalism and the Nachiketa Samman of Panchjanya weekly in the year 2001. For his contributions to literature, he was also awarded with the Padma Shri in the year 2016, which is India’s forth highest civilian honour.

EH: How did you get involved in the world of journalism?

DNB: In my family, my youngest son was very much into publishing newspapers, magazines and books. At that time, I was a lecturer, teaching in Cotton College. My profession and my son’s passion encouraged me to take part in journalism as well.

EH: When you got into the world of journalism in the 1960s, what was the scenario and how would you compare it with today’s time?

DNB: Journalism was not very well developed in the late 50s and the early 60s as compared to today. So, we didn’t have much of a clear idea about what journalism ought to be. But I feel that over time, in Assam they had a fairly good idea of what journalists should be doing because we had some wonderful people like Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya. He was an inspiration to everyone, especially to the journalists. So we were fortunate to have someone like him among us. So, that’s what I think made a big difference in journalism in Assam. It is because we had good people in the business. We had people like Haren Boruah, Radhika Mohan Bhagawati, Kirti Nath Hazarika and we have all worked together throughout the journey.

EH: When you were working as a journalist in the 60s, people respected and trusted this profession but now the trust is diminishing. What are your thoughts on that?

DNB: The thing that we keep forgetting is that our focus should be on what journalism should be doing rather than what it is doing. And what it is doing is not very satisfactory at all. It is time we formulate a quick move to make newspapers and media houses do what they should do rather than continuing their current way of work and this is very important. We are beginning to accept situations and behaviour that doesn’t do any good to journalism.

EH: What are the qualities one must possess to become a good and a successful journalist?

DNB:  The most important thing for a journalist is his/her concern for the truth and only the truth. Once we achieve that, we can say that we are in the right direction.

EH: It has been several decades of your journalism journey? What are the challenges that you have faced?

DNB: I really didn’t have to face any challenges. People were kind to me, I was able to get any information or news that I wanted. No one ever said no to me.

EH: You were a lecturer before and then a journalist. Which profession do you like introducing yourself as?

DNB  Teaching. However, I can’t tell you the exact reason why I identify more with this profession.

EH: When you were working with The Sentinel, which particular issue in Assam concerned you the most?

DNB: My main reason for getting into journalism was because there was a kind of total negligence towards the problem of illegal infiltration from Bangladesh.  And nobody was doing anything about it. In fact, there were officers of the Assam government who were involved in the whole business. It alarmed and angered me very much. It is a little late now to act on it but the media should tell people that we are asking for our own doom unless we do something about it.

EH: What are the courses of action one should take to stop illegal infiltration?

DNB:  Discourage people from providing any kind of help assistance or encouragement to this illegal infiltration. It has to stop completely.

EH: What is the biggest problem for Assam as a state?

DNB:  The biggest problem is that our people do not want to work. We want everything easy and the upcoming generation will suffer due to this. Their behaviour is going to reflect from our actions.

EH: Would you like to say anything about the current newspapers of Assam?

DNB:  What I am worried about is that our attitude towards journalism, news, etc is not very conclusive to the right kind of atmosphere for healthy journalism.

EH: It can be seen that when a political party forms the government, initially they may be quite efficient, but later on they end up being corrupt too. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that democracy is a flawed concept? Should we move on to some other form of government?

DNB: Corruption is always there and will be there. The most important thing for our leaders now is not being genuinely non-corrupt. But they focus on just appearing not to be corrupt. Regarding democracy, it is society’s decision to accept whatever that makes lives easier for everyone. So, if democracy doesn’t work, I believe we will automatically and eventually change to a different form a government.

EH: Journalism is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. Do you feel that currently today’s media is upholding this? What suggestions would you give to the young generation of journalists?

DNB: People are worried about what media is doing. But they are not even worried about what the media is capable of doing. We are allowing today’s media to drift in a different direction, and if we don’t do something about this at the earliest, the next generation is going to curse us.  

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