Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, Founder Editor-Sambad.
Let’s pursue the truth.
Before coming to the substance of my open letter, please allow me to put on record my deep respect and admiration for a person I have always idolized for ushering in a media revolution in Odisha. ‘Sambad’, your pioneering venture, was launched at a time when morning editions of newspapers were unknown in the state. It continued to break new ground through the 1990s and 2000s while adhering to the highest standards of journalism. Bringing a whole generation of growing up Odia up do date with the rest of the world was a remarkable achievement on your part. You proved that Odisha too can produce a daily newspaper that can hold its own against the so-called ‘national’ dailies in terms of both the quality of the content as well as its production values. Apart from creating countless new readers, it also brought to the fore numerous young journalists, writers and columnists, who never had a platform like the one that Sambad provided to make their presence felt. The revolution unleashed by Sambad saw the birth of a host of newspapers, TV channels and web portals in the subsequent years. The media industry in Odisha has now truly come of age. And your significant contribution in this phenomenon has been recorded by history for posterity.
Like millions of others in the state, I have always been inspired by your remarkable drive, foresight and penchant for innovation to keep pace with the times and cater to the changing tastes and priorities of readers. As a young, aspiring journalist based in Keonjhar, I remember putting all scheduled work in abeyance just to listen to you whenever and wherever (especially in Bhubaneswar) you had to speak or debate on different issues on different platforms. Your oratory is truly mesmerising. The erudition, elan and nonchalance with which you speak on diverse issues always reminds me of Sachin Tendulkar hitting exquisite straight drives effortlessly in his heyday no matter who the bowler was or what the pitch was like. Like the batting maestro in the cricket field, you are a true superstar in the intellectual world.
Even your opponents acknowledge it openly. No wonder even the government of the day listens to your viewpoint with rapt attention whenever you participate in a debate in the Assembly. It is as if you are the Leader of the Opposition! The presence of an enlightened Editor like you has truly enriched the august House.
I must acknowledge that you have had a profound and lasting impact in shaping me as a journalist and inspired me to engage in a constant striving for excellence. Your example has been a source of inspiration as well as a huge moral booster for me. I am sure there are countless others, like me, who have also been inspired by your remarkable persona and enviable achievements – not just in journalism, but in myriad other fields as well. In the process of listening to you over the years, I have realised the importance of living with dignity and values.
Your achievements, however, are not limited to the field of journalism. Under the banner of Ama Odisha, you revolutionised blood donation – just as you had done in the field of journalism earlier – in the state. With the motto “No one should die for want of blood”, it made Ama Odisha a household name and blood donation a people’s movement throughout Odisha. So much so that even the Bjiu Janata Dal (BJD), the party you represent as an MLA now, emulated it and launched the ‘Jiban Bindoo’ programme.
You also created a buzz with your foray into politics. Unlike the unqualified success you have enjoyed in your other endeavours, however, you have had a rather chequered career in politics. You joined the ruling BJD at a time when you were leading a farmers’ movement against the government for its alleged anti-farmer policies. While you may have a point when you said you had done so to take up the farmers’ cause ‘from within’, many people saw it as an act of betrayal. Your 19-month long tenure as Bhubaneswar MP in the mid-1990s also had precious little to show by way of any meaningful contribution that could be cheered or remembered.
Like many others who adore you, I was shocked – and thoroughly disappointed – when you dubbed the dastardly killing of five-year old Paree in Nayagarh district a ‘minor incident’! In doing so, you were, of course, just doing the bidding of the party you represent. But the people of the state see you not as a loyal party worker but as a voice of sanity among the cacophony of cheerleading ruling party workers. They expected you to give a clarion call for ‘Justice to Pari’, just as you have done in numerous other cases in the past. I am sorry to say you did not live up to your well-earned reputation as someone who is always on the side of truth and justice and speaks his mind even in the face of reprisals.
At this juncture, no one knows who killed Pari and why or who is protecting him. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, your boss, never tires of uttering his catchphrase “The law will take its own course”. But what you said was tantamount to giving the culprits a clean chit even before a proper investigation has begun in this highly sensitive case.
As a politician, you are of course bound by party discipline and expected to toe the party line in public. But in describing this abominable killing of an innocent girl child as a ‘minor incident’, you have embarrassed not just yourself but even the party you represent. People now see you as someone who has lost the human touch and become just another ruling party apologist.
I would like to plea you earnestly yet politely,its your hard-earned good deeds that has popularized you widely but the politics you incline has never brought any adoration to you and even to your majestic personality.Hope you will genuinely mind it possibly act on it.A man what he or she is remembered for his or her crafted works not his or her wishful positions or bigotry.
Thanks & Regards