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Media in Kerala had reflected labour class struggles from the latter's nascent stage. Inspired by the Bolshevik revolution, Congress socialists began organising labour and farmer classes. There was a widespread campaign against Congress socialists then. This forced its leaders to think of using media to achieve their goals and it resulted in the origin of Prabhatham, the first Communist newspaper in Kerala was brought out in January 1935. Though the newspaper lasted for a short period it played a big role in Kerala’s social progress.
EMS recorded thus: We used Prabhatham for analysing issues faced by Kerala and to raise our opinions. Our major responsibilities included encouraging labour agitations and other public protests which were in initial stages. On the political front, we published reports on clashes between the left and right wings in the KPCC and also the stand of Congress Socialists on those issues. Prabhatham helped in spreading messages that boosted social progress. It also detailed the progress of agrarian movements.
The government then adopted a stand to control activities that helped social progress and banned Prabhatham. But, it could realise the Marxist concept of newspapers taking the roles of an agitator and organiser. In 1938, the printing of Prabhatham resumed in Kozhikode but its permission was revoked after the start of Second World War. These developments throw light into the hardships faced by the party in campaigning during that period.
Deshabhimani was first published as a monthly on 6 September 1942 in Kozhikode. It actively involved in political issues then. After the hanging of Kayyur comrades on 29 March 1943, Deshabhimani published an editorial titled "Thookkumarathinte Vili" (The call of the gallows). This provoked the Britishers who imposed a fine of Rs 1000. The massive public support helped Deshabhimani to collect the money in no time.
Deshabhimani's efforts to analyse significant political activities and to take them to the masses then have to be recorded in golden letters in Kerala's history. Prominent among them is an article by EMS titled "1921nte Aahvanavum Thakeethum" (1921's Exhorting and Warning) on the agrarian uprising in Malabar. The Britishers and their supporters tried to portray the Malabar Rebellion as a communal uprising but Deshabhimani termed it as a reflection of imbalance in land holdings. The paper had to face a ban for this as well.
The ban on the newspaper lasted from 1948 to 1951. During this period party continued publishing in different names –Republic, Kerala News, Viswa Keralam, Navalokam, Janayugam and Navajeevan. These publications helped the party to carry on its campaign for the progress of the society. In 1952, ahead of the general elections, the ban on Deshabhimani was lifted, and it tremendously helped the party in campaigning.
The reforms of the first Communist ministry of 1957 are well recognized. Prominent among them were the Land Reforms legislation and Education Bill. The mainstream media were reluctant to discuss the positive sides of these legislations. But Deshabhimani took people’s side and supported them.
In 1964, after the split of Communist party Deshabhimani became the mouthpiece of CPI (M) and unleashed a campaign against the Right Wing. The newspaper’s role in retaining the mass base in revolutionary politics was tremendous.
The newspaper had to undergo strict censorship during Emergency from 1975-1977. Despite the restrictions, the newspaper could conduct and active campaign against Emergency. During the time, Deshabhimani was published without an editorial which symbolized the people’s strong resentment towards the government.
The paper was the first to trigger a public debate on the dangers of globalisation in the country. Detailed reports were published on the future dangers in each sector. The newspaper introduced to the public anti-globalisation campaigns in different parts of the world. Deshabhimani also takes pride in forecasting the possible destruction of Babri Masjid by Sangh Parivar forces. The Indian Government’s subservience to the US in nuclear policy and the dangers of the Nuclear Agreement with that country were revealed by “Deshabhimani”. The stand of the paper against the ASEAN pact is well recognized by all.
Communist newspapers helped Kerala to retain the spirit of the fight and stride towards commendable social development. Deshabhimani also fights against the trend of portraying anti-socials as gentlemen with the help of mainstream media. Ideologies which take side with people’s interests will only have the ultimate win. The present-day experience prove that the stand of Communist newspapers were quite relevant in the context of social progress.
Communist media in Kerala have a great tradition of helping and preserving social progress. This tradition helps Deshabhimani to expose contemporary issues and to make use of scientific and technological advancements for people’s welfare. Modernisation will only help the newspaper to effectively reach out to the people and take up their issues.
History of Publication
- 1935 January 9 : Prabhatham started publication from Shornur, but lasted only for 9 months
- 1938 April : Prabhatham started publication from Kozhikode
- 1942 September 6 : Deshabhimani Weekly started publication from Kozhikode
- 1946 January 18 : Publication of Deshabhimani daily from Kozhikode
- 1968 May 16 : Second Edition of Deshabhimani started from Kochi
- 1973 July 1 : Printing started from Ernakulam
- 1989 January 4 : Deshabhimani’s third unit started functioning from Thiruvananthapuram
- 1994 January 30 : Deshabhimani’s fourth edition started functioning from Kannur
- 1997 March 22 : Deshabhimani’s fifth edition started functioning from Kottayam
- 1998 January 1 : Deshabhimani’s Internet edition started functioning at Kochi
- 2000 August 31 : Deshabhimani’s sixth edition started functioning from Thrissur
- 2010 January 17 : Started Malappuram Edition
- 2010 May 8 : Opened Headquarters at Thiruvananthapuram.
Internet Edition of Deshabhimani
On 17th March 2008, the revamped e-paper of Deshabhimani was launched by then CPI (M) Secretary, Pinarayi Vijayan at Kochi, which marks the beginning of a new era in the history of Deshabhimani newspaper. An achievement to be proud of, the internet edition has been widely accepted by the readers. Designed and executed with latest technology, the e-paper of Deshabhimani paper has been successfully reaching out to the people.