2022: Here are the most read stories, top ten newsmakers and iconic photographs of Barak Bulletin
As we bid adieu to 2022, it is worth looking back at the year through the lenses of google analytics. Barak Bulletin which was launched in 2018 has completed another year. Like in the past, 2022 had more readers than 2021. The year-on-year growth continues for the crawling hyperlocal publication. About 20 lakh unique users served around 50 lakh pageviews on Barak Bulletin in 2022. In 2021 it was 14.5 lakh unique readers reading 44 lakh stories.
This growth comes on the back of our commitment to covering stories from Barak Valley. What is also worth mentioning here is that Facebook which used to contribute to about 62% of our traffic changed its algorithms in the month of October and since then, we are witnessing a different consumer behavior. What is overwhelming for us is that despite the downslide from Facebook, our readership has not witnessed any significant drop. This means, our readers are now landing on our website organically and reading our stories. We are grateful to our readers for the direct traffic.
For Barak Valley, 2022 has been disastrous. Two floods within the span of a month devastated humanity. Then there was the uprooting of three million tree plants which caught global attention. Central and State Government’s unprecedented moves to combat natural calamities like airlifting stranded train passengers, or airdropping relief materials became word of mouth. When it comes to individuals who were most read about in Barak Bulletin, the chief minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma tops the list followed by Keerthi Jalli, the former DC of Cachar. This was also the year when Barak Bulletin shook Dispur and Delhi with some photographs throwing the administration under the scanner.
Here are the 10 most-read stories of 2022
1: “From King Cobra To Black Krait: Meet Ecologist Bishal Sonar, Post Graduate From Assam University Who Rescues Venomous Snakes”
It was read more than a million times in 2022 and is not just the most-read story of 2022 but also the most-read Barak Bulletin story of all time. This was a feature story on the Karimganj-boy and how he got into this sojourn of rescuing venomous snakes among other animals. He has defended his thesis at Assam University Silchar under the guidance of Professor Parthankar Choudhury and is now Dr. Bishal Sonar. Another unique aspect of the story is that this is now our most-read story in African countries with more than 50,000 readers reading from Nigeria and Ghana. 32% of the readers who read this story, logged in from outside India.
2: Alternate Rail-Route For The People Of Barak Valley Is A Necessity, Greenfield Airport Is A Luxury
For the first time ever, a guest article features among the top stories of the year. The author of this article, Jayanta Choudhury is a resident of Barak Valley who got stranded at Ditokcherra Railway Station for hours. Following his experience, he shared this authored article highlighting the importance of an alternate rail route. The story became such a hit because he placed his railway argument with the most discussed Greenfield airport on the backdrop. The story was read by over one lakh unique readers.
3. Cachar College Principal Appointed His Brother As An Office Assistant, Authorised Him To Sign Bills; Sources Hint Toward Scam Worth Lakhs
The former Principal of Cachar College who was suspended from the position by competent authority following a departmental probe was definitely the most controversial personality of Barak Valley in 2022. During his tenure, he behaved as the undisputed emperor in Cachar College which he treated as his own empire. He did not care about the laws, or the governing body and hardly treated his fellow colleagues with dignity. He used students to politicize situations and at times, used them as pawns in his jibe against other private institutions. All was well for him till it was within the campus. During the direct recruitment examinations to employ at grade III and IV posts, he bumped into a feud with the deputy commissioner of Cachar, Rohan Kumar Jha. Then a newly transferred DC in Cachar, Jha went on and lodged an FIR. That opened the pandora’s box and there was an outburst against the Principal. This particular story was a Barak Bulletin exclusive that shed light on how the Principal flouted rules to employ his cousin and then went on to hand over critical responsibilities like signing bills. Many in Dispur have earmarked this story as the stepping stone to his eventual suspension. The Principal could not even contest the content of the story.
4. Land For Greenfield Airport: Face-Off Between Security Personnel And Protesting Tea Garden Workers In Dolu
While this is number four among the most-read stories, overall, the chain of events leading to the land acquisition for the Greenfield airport in Dolu was the second biggest newsmaker in Barak Valley in 2022. This was the riskiest period of journalism for Barak Bulletin in its history. A top official sitting at one of the top offices of the district wrote a message to ministers, MLAs of Barak Valley stating that Barak Bulletin is creating a problem and the reportage must be “stopped”. We have seen those messages and yet continued with our saturated reporting on this issue. More than 50 stories were published describing the events as they were. A special mention here to the video that was filmed with hundreds of JCBs uprooting millions of plant. That video has fetched over a million organic views on Facebook. If there was an award for the photo of the year, then it would go to the photograph of a tea-garden labourer at the feet of Police begging them. Kabir Suman’s song, ‘Ami Chai Gach Kata Hole Shok Sobha Hobe Bidhan Sobhay’ came to life with this story as one of the Central Ministers called asking for the photograph. The factual representation was referred to by top media houses headquartered in Delhi.
5. Meet Silchar GC College’s Joyeeta Nath Purkayastha Who Secured AIR – 4 In IIT JAM
Barak Bulletin was launched with the motto of highlighting local success stories and the journey continued. Fifth on the list of most-read stories in 2022 is the story of Joyeeta Nath Purkayastha, a final-year student of Gurucharan College who had cleared by far one of the toughest post-graduation entrance exams in India- IIT JAM. The story of her securing the All India Rank 04 in that examination was shared and talked about.
6. 160 Passengers Of Silchar – Guwahati Express Are Stranded At Ditokcherra; NF Rail Planning To Airlift Them Via Air Force
This story was the beginning of what will be remembered as the most devastating natural calamity of all time that Barak Valley has ever faced. Urban floods demolished households and people were left stranded. This was the most difficult time for our reporters too as their own residences were underwater. They continued to work and despite the disconnection of Internet services due to the help of friends and wellwishers in Delhi and Mumbai, Barak Bulletin continued uploading stories. Instagram handles of platforms based in Delhi and Mumbai tagged Barak Bulletin to know about the flood situation. More than 75 stories were published from the ground during the flood. Collectively, the flood was the biggest news event of 2022 unfolding in Barak Valley.
7. IRCTC’s Pilgrimage Special Train; Silchar To Vaishno Devi To Golden Temple: 10 Nights Starting At Rs 10,395
Stories around Railways always fetched above-average readership. People have a special interest in knowing about new trains and initiatives. This was a story on IRCTC’s exclusive pilgrimage special tourist train for Vaisnodevi covering Amritsar from Silchar for 10 nights.
8. Ambicapatty Boy Dresses As Arabian Sheikh On His Wedding Day, Irks Bajrang Dal; Remarried The Next Day Wearing “Hindu Traditional Clothes”
Every year we find some unusual stories made into the list of the top ten most read. Prasenjit Saha went to his marriage wearing Thawb, a traditional dress worn by Muslim men, especially in Middle Eastern countries. That drew strong reactions from Bajrang Dal and other right-wing groups. Bajrang Dal members claimed that this trend can jeopardise the culture and so, they urged the duo to remarry. Saha, however, argued that he was not remarrying, but was just following the rituals of Bashi Biya. Images of his father in skullcap, praying in Mecca’s direction added fuel to the fire. Apparently, Saha senior converted to Islam and then again did a Ghar Wapsi. It seemed less of a wedding and more like a scripted controversial episode of a comedy series. People read it.
9. Manipur Releasing Water! “Please Don’t Pay Heed To Such Rumours,” Cachar DC
It has been our constant endeavor in Barak Bulletin to bring the facts out in the public domain. In this process, we encounter misinformation that misleads the general public. While on one side, the whole of Barak Valley was grappling with the situation, there were a few busy in rumour mongering. “Manipur releasing water” was one such rumours that started creating panic and this was the story that had put the speculations to bed. Deputy Commissioner of Cachar Keerthi Jalli and Professor, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Assam University Silchar, Parthankar Choudhury explained with facts that it isn’t possible for Manipur to do any such thing.
10. Karimganj Man Reaches Silchar With His Modified Lamborgoni; “Will Gift It To CM At Circuit House,” He Says
The cabinet meeting in Silchar was a significant event of 2022 for Barak Valley. Chief Minister of Assam, Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma made announcements depicting the future of Barak Valley. The event was closely followed and the reports on the same have been widely read. But what stood out as one of the most-read stories of 2022 is Nurul Haque’s modified avatar of Lamborghini. On November 29, people of Silchar town gathered in large numbers to get a glimpse of the Swift car that Nurul remodeled as Lamborghini. He brought the car to Silchar to gift it to the Chief Minister of Assam. Himanta Biswa Sarma being the people’s leader that he is, walked into the vehicle making it an iconic moment of the entire journey. One could argue how is it that the Assam Police allowed the car to ply from Karimganj to Silchar as it is completely illegal to resort to such modification. But then he has not just driven to Silchar, went on to hand it over to the CM at his residence in Guwahati. This is Assam’s 2022 in a nutshell, if the CM feels it is all right then it is alright!
Exclusive Interview: What Made MLA Krishnendu Paul Say, “Silchar Leaders Didn’t Work During Floods”? This is the most-read question and answer published in Barak Bulletin in 2022.
When it comes to the top 10 newsmakers (individuals) who were searched multiple times and read widely on Barak Bulletin by the 20 lakh readers: (More than one story)
1. Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, CM, Assam.
2. Keerthi Jalli, Former Deputy Commissioner, Cachar
3. Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, MLA, North Karimganj
3. Siddhartha Sankar Nath, Former Principal, Cachar College (same number of impressions as Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha)
4. Anshul Gupta, General Manager, NF Railways
5. Ashok Singhal, Minister, Assam – (Former Guardian Minister of Cachar)
6. Professor Parthankar Choudhury, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences
7. Rajdeep Roy, MP, Silchar
8. Ramandeep Kaur, Former SP, Cachar
9. Rohan Kumar Jha, Deputy Commissioner, Cachar (transferred in July 2022)
10. Abub Mazumdar, Businessman and alleged kingpin of many syndicates.
- The day Abub Mazumdar was arrested and Cachar Police announced that Mazumdar is “Kingpin” of illegal syndicates operating through Cachar, Barak Bulletin published this image featuring Abub Mazumdar. As it can be seen, he was one of the delegates from Mizoram meeting CM Himanta Biswa Sarma in Delhi.
2. A tea garden worker in Assam at the feet of Police personnel pleading for survival. The cries went unheard as the government went on to cut around three million tea plants to make plain land for the proposed greenfield airport.
3. The spot where six Assam Police personnel were martyred on July 26, 2021, is now under the custody of Mizoram. Not only did the Mizos cross the constitutional boundaries of Assam, but they also converted that particular spot as a dump yard. This is happening when both Assam and Mizoram sign agreements assuring the status quo is being maintained.
4. The below photograph captured by Partha Seal was published in Barak Bulletin when the discourse around man-made floods was at its peak. This was not a planted photograph, in fact, the photographer along with other members of the press was sailing as a part of CM’s convoy when the photograph was captured. As flood started taking communal colour, this photograph promoted brotherhood.
5. Iconic photograph for more than one reason. Here is Himanta Biswa Sarma, the chief minister of Assam walking on the inundated roads to survey the flood condition at the heart of Silchar. He sees his former colleague, two-time MLA from Silchar, Dilip Paul on the other side of the road and calls ‘Dilip Da’ for a handshake. This happens when BJP workers framed Dilip Paul as the mastermind of the Bethukandi dyke breach. Paul lodged an FIR against those BJP members.
6. An image from the eviction drive at Ichabeel, Patharkandi. The administration went on with the drive before the announced deadline under the leadership of the circle officer.
7. Gross violation of the August 5 joint agreement signed by the Government of Assam and Mizoram. Mizos have built a village at the conflict zone. This is the zone that according to the Government approved topography, is within the jurisdiction of Assam but is now under the custody of Mizoram. It was to reclaim dominance in this zone, Assam sent its forces on July 26, 2021, which saw the death of six Police personnel.
8. The visual that still appears in the nightmares of the people of Barak Valley. This is river water flooding into the town through the Bethukandi dyke that was cut by the locals for water to recede a month back.
9. Keerthi Jalli signing off and Rohan Kumar Jha taking over charges as the deputy commissioner of Cachar. It was one of the rare occasions when not just Jalli’s office but also many residents broke into tears as the widely popular DC left for Kamrup.
By Anirban Roy Choudhury on behalf of the executive editor of Barak Bulletin – Archana Bhattacharjee