One To One With Kishalay Bhattacharjee Che in Paona Bazar
Source: The Sangai Express / Ninglun Hanghal
New Delhi, March 11 2013:
After more than a decade of ground zero reporting from North East India, Tv journalist Kishalay Bhattacherjee brings out the "many heart rendering stories that he feels needed to be told" putting down his professional objectivity in his book " Che in Paona Bazaar" which otherwise were "revolutions that will never be televised " .
Launched on Saturday, March 9, in New Delhi , the 241 page book got its name in Paona Bazaar , the hub of commercial activity, burning tyres, violent clashes, shut downs at the drop of a hat, dark alleys, with "Che" (a revolutionary leader) symbol in T shirts, caps, belts; "It is a fashion statement" said Bhattacharjee, which has nothing to do with an everyday 'normal' life in this trouble torn State.
In 2000 he went to the region ( NE) as a reporter for NDTV recalled Bhattacharya.
Journalistically, he said that during those time, Manipur and Assam were the two "hottest places" without much media presence particularly broadcast Television.
"I was there alone during the June 2001 uprising in Manipur over the integration issue" he told The Sangai Express.
Reiterating that the North East region of India is and has always been looked at from the prism of violence, insurgency, bloodshed, communal / ethnic conflict, Bhattacharjee tells that a Manipuri mother waiting for her child to come home would be exactly the same as any mother in any other places, in Africa or in Kashmir.
"This is a universal story and there is nothing called "northeast" as such and the book is essentially talking about that" reveals Bhattacharya.
The stories in the book are about love, about the way how a Meitei is completely mad about Eromba, there are marriage procession, drum beats taking place amidst bomb-blast or curfew.
Travelling down memory lane of his reporting days in Manipur's remote areas , into the insurgent hideouts, literally walking through hidden landmines, " I could have been blown up and if I get blown up , then the story is dead , right ?" he exclaimed " I realized that I had been taking risk , dangerous ones" he said.
Talking about reporting on conflict , Bhattacharjee reasserted on 'compulsory' precautionary measures a journalist should know and undertake.
A training for journalist before venturing into conflict and hostile environment , such as first aid in case of injury , a helmet, flag jacket to identify a journalist , which unfortunately an Indian conflict journalist seldom follows or randomly practice.
Besides covering breaking news, bloody conflicts in a state such as Manipur, an 'outsider' Bhattacherjee recount a mixed reaction on his encounter with the common-man in a society with a strong insider – outsider sentiments, a society divided along ethnic and community lines , Kishalay said " people are not really hostile with me, but yes, that is what the book is all about, stories of common people" .
Much as he finds the Manipuri society complex, multi-layered, complicated, Bhattacharjee also finds himself puzzled or bewildered , ' as a journalist, I am looking for a story and a context, without the context then I will not be able to convey the sense" he elaborates.
Taking a case story of the Hill and Valley divide in Manipur , he asked " but what about the 18 tribes in the hills ?" While there is no difference between Kukis or Zomis, they have different stories to tell.
He adds there are more than 13 armed Kuki groups .
If people asked why ? How do you explain that in a short story ? It is not possible said Bhattarcharjee.
"There are dots and I am trying to connect those dots" which he said are the real voice of Manipur that talks of things that are never discussed or said in open such as Polygamy which is very much prevalent and practice but no Manipuri ever talks about; " I have quotes in the book from a girl talking about her father" he said.
(Currently Kishalay Bhattacharjee is EditorEast , The New Generation Media based in Delhi) .