Ahead of the launch of his much-anticipated book Manipur Files, ace journalist Pranabananda Das spoke to Barak Bulletin on his creative process, his long journalistic journey and his passion for sports.
Many congratulations on behalf of the entire team here at Barak Bulletin on your Manipur Files.
How would you summarise the overall experience of documenting such a heart-wrenching story?
Thanks a lot. I must admit, it was not planned. When Manipur was burning since May, 2023, as a journalist it was my responsibility to keep watch on the development of this ethnic conflict. It was a routine day-to-day affair like many other scribes.
In this process, I also started moving deeper into this. As there was complete internet ban in the state, it was the toughest challenge for people like us to understand the gravity of the situation hundred miles away from the epicentre. And it was more challenging to collect non-biased information too.
For that reason, I started developing sources in the different establishments who are actively working on the crisis.
As is well known to all, in the mainstream media, we have some constraints to file reportage on such massive crisis.That was why I thought about documenting some of the stories from Manipur which are not in the public domain. And that is the reason why I started a series “Manipur Files” on Facebook from 26th July, 2023.
The stories got tremendous response from readers across the country. As the rest of the country was not aware about what was really going on in this beautiful land, many readers and my well-wishers then started proposing me to make these stories inside two covers of the book which might at one time have some historical relevance.
Within a short span of time, I decided to go for the book. It was totally an accidental venture you could say. I never ever thought that such a project was viable as I was busy with another book for the last 2/3 months.
After that, everything got initiated. The publisher was finalised and as Manipur has got attention of the rest of the Country as well as world, I decided to make it bilingual-in English and in Bengali.
I must add one disclaimer. As many are apprehensive regarding the content of this book, through you, I would love to clear the doubts. This Book is not about finding out the genesis of the ongoing Manipur Crisis or is in no way an attempted postmortem of the cause of the conflict. Through my write up, I did not even remotely try to blame anyone. This book is a tale of some gruesome violence against innocent civilians of which some are already in public domain and some are not.
Many also ask, then what was the necessity for an outsider to pen down these incidents? My humble response is that as a journalist I thought it to be my duty to tell the entire world about the magnitude of the violence and hatred that my neighbouring state has witnessed in the last 3/4 months. These stories will give a sense of the crisis as a lot many feel it is just an another law & order crisis in North East India.
I tried to to tell the world that such violence only affects innocent people who are in no way related with the issues.
You have had a prolific career as a Journalist. As you look back on your glorious journey, what are the highlights that stand out as you gaze far and wide?
I don’t consider myself a very good investigative journalist. There are many in this part of the world who have done some excellent investigative journalism. And the scope of investigative journalism in our region is very limited. Whatever I did in the last three decades of my career was only because of my professional responsibility. Not beyond that. So in any way, I won’t describe my journey as ‘glorious’. Rather, I believe the credit should go to all the media houses in which I worked for giving me the space.
The ongoing situation in Manipur is far from being resolved. As a keen observer of the conflict zone, what do you foresee in the immediate future for the state of Manipur?
I don’t want to comment on how the Manipur crisis will be resolved or what is coming. That is the reason in my book, I consciously avoided analysing the conflict as I feel the people of Manipur are competent enough to research on it and they will definitely find the way out. Being an outsider, any point of view of mine will only add fuel to the crisis. Let Manipur decide their fate. We only can help them out if sought. But interfering in their affairs may lead to a catastrophic consequence.
How would you describe your journalistic style? And who has been your guiding light and source of inspiration in this tortuous travel as a scribe?
I always love to talk with people. As I love to travel a lot, it was my passion to talk with people of different walks of life and regions.Just like that, I also try to communicate with the people in their own way.
In my professional journey, I have got tremendous support & contributions from my fellow colleagues, well wishers, friends, readers as well as my family members. They are the guiding force of my life. Whatever I have achieved till date is only because of them.
Lastly, tell our readers how you developed your passion towards Table Tennis?
Table Tennis is my first and last love. It all started in the early nineties in the tiny room of D.I.E.T., Udharbond,which was followed by the foundation of Table Tennis Club. Though now a days I have kept myself away from all the sporting activities, still the mesmerizing sound of ping-pong beats my heart.