Odia Daily ‘The Prajatantra’ Turns 75: The Journey From ‘Salt Satyagraha’ To ‘Gaon Majlis’

Bhubaneswar: Union Home Minister Amit Shah will soon be heading towards Indoor Stadium in Cuttack to attend the 75th-anniversary function of Odia daily ‘The Prajatantra’,  which was founded by noted freedom fighter and former Chief Minister Harekrushna Mahatab.

Shah had arrived at Biju Patnaik International Airport here at 1.30 am along with Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and was given a rousing reception by top leaders, including Odisha BJP president Samir Mohanty, Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi,  National Vice President of party Jay Panda and Opposition whip Mohan Majhi.

Before leaving for Millennium City, he offered prayers at Lingaraj Temple this morning, the last auspicious Monday of the holy month of Shravan.

‘The Prajatantra’ programme will begin around 11 am. Prajatantra means the rule of the people. Started as a weekly newspaper in 1923 under the editorship of Harekrushna Mahatab, it focused mainly on news and some advertisement. Literary writings did not find any place in it. As with the other contemporary publications, it carried regional, national and international news. It was converted into a daily newspaper in 1930 and became the voice of the Congress during the Salt Satyagraha till the British colonial state banned it in 1932.

The publication reappeared with renewed vigour, carrying the glorious legacy of the Indian National Movement on August 8, 1947. Generations of writers were and are associated with The Praiatantra and its sister publications – The Jhankar, The Meenabazar and The Eastern Times. These newspapers and journals virtually served as training grounds and workshops for the writers.

Mahtab’s regular column,  “Gaon Majlis”,  was a favourite with the readers. Mahtab wrote, “This column is drafted as if the writer himself is sitting and discussing the issue with common people of the villages.” He would explain in his own words the rationale behind every political decision he took, or any issue, be it any national or international relevance, he would create a public opinion in simple, lucid language so that an illiterate villager may comprehend them.

This column was withdrawn during the emergency when Mahtab was arrested. However, it resumed in 1976 again after his release. It was permanently withdrawn in 1986 when Mahtab was not able to contribute just before his death in 1987.

One of the compilations of this “Gaon Majlis“ won a Kendriya Sahitya Akademi award for its unique contribution and the socio-political impact on the masses.

Besides Mahatab, former CMs JB Patnaik and Nilamoni Routrary were also associated with ‘The Prajatantra’. His son Bhartruhari Mahtab, who is also the BJD MP from Cuttack, is the current Editor of the newspaper.


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