OF PRESS IN KERALA
history of journalism in Malayalam goes
back to slightly more than a century and
a quarter. Journals and periodicals in
Malayalam were first started by missionaries,
in most cases solely with the purpose
of propagating religion. Their contribution
to the development of Malayalam prose
and the promotion of journalism, however,
has been considerable and should be remembered
June 1847 witnessed the primordial birth
pangs of Malayalam journalism as
eight cyclostyled sheets in demy octavo size
were churned out from a press at Illikkunnu
near Talassery. The mast-head proudly
announced the new-comer's name as Rajyasamacharam.
Reading matter was spread across the pages
with neither columns nor cross-heads to
break the monotony.
the mast-head nor the print-line of the
Rajyasamacharam featured its editor's
name; nor was the publication priced.
The credit for this pioneering venture
goes to Dr.Herman Gundart, the renowned
western scholar. Dr.Gundart was then the
motivating spirit behind the German Based
Mission Society. As an opening statement
in the first issue emphasised, the reading
matter was exclusively devoted to matters
religious. By the time it ceased publication
at the fag end of 1850, forty-two issues
had seen the light of day.
October 1847 Gundart stated another publication
called Paschimodayam. Like its predecessor
the Paschimodayam, too, was cyclostyled,
but it carried articles on geography,
history, natural science and even astrology.
It had a formal editor in F.Muller. The
annual subscription was one rupee. There
was even a change in size and format -
the Paschimodayam appeared in royal
octavo garb. It would seem to have ceased
publication around mid-1851.
scene now shifts to central Travancore
from where early in 1848, the first printed
magazine in the Malayalam language - the
Jnananikshepam - hit the news stands.
This eight-page magazine was printed at
the C.M.S. Press operating from Kottayam
way back in 1821. Arch Deacon Koshy and
the Reverend George Mathen were behind
this new publication which served alike
the cause of propagation of religion and
the dissemination of knowledge. Obviously
as a result of this diversification of
the reading fare it was well-circulated
among the Christian, Hindu and Muslim
periodical, Kottayam-based, made its appearance
around this time. It was the Vidyasamgraham
brought out under the auspices of the
Kottayam college. This magazine started
publication in 1864 and went on till 1867.
were underway in the meantime to start
a "newspaper". Ironically,
the first of this genre to be published
from Kerala was in the English language.
A pioneering foursome embarked upon a
publication entitled the Western Star
from Cochin in 1860. Charles Lawson, who
had left England after completing his
studies, took over as the paper's editor.
This was Lawson's maiden essay into journalism.
The assignment obviously stood him in
good stead when he migrated to Madras
to launch the Madras Mail in later years.
years later in 1864 a Malayalam edition
of the Western Star started publication
from Cochin under the banner Paschimataraka.
The new paper was edited by T.J. Paily
in the first instance and later by Kalloor
Oommen Philippose Asan. Yet another paper,
the Keralapataka, made its appearance
fromCochin in 1870. In course of time
these two publications merged to form
the Paschimataraka-Keralapataka. Under
the able stewardship of Ommen Phillipose
Asan this merged publication mounted attacks
on the peccadilloes of the bureaucracy
of the day and is seen to have survived
right up to 1886.
Western Star continued to be published
from Cochin for a long time. In due course
there was a change in the ownership of
the paper. This was
followed by a change in location. The
publication base was shifted to Trivandrum.
Thereafter its appearance
1867 two papers were started from Kottayam.
One was in Malayalam and was titled Santishtavadi;
the other the Travancore Herald,
was in English; both were printed from
the C.M.S. Press. The Santishtavadi
was outspoken in its criticism of the
powers that be, and soon fell foul of
the Travancore Government which ordered
its closure. Thus, quite unwittingly,
the Santishtavadi created history
in Malayalam journalism by becoming the
first martyr to the cause of freedom of
next in the line of Malayalam papers was
the Satyanadakahalam which started
publication modestly as a fortnightly
from Kunammavu in October 1876. It was
published under the auspices of the Italian
Carmelite Mission, with the Rev.Fr.Candidus
designated as its first editor. This 16
page fortnightly featured a wide range
of topics in its columns, from international
affairs to local news and from Government
pronouncements and court proceedings to
mission news. The publishing centre was
once shifted to Varappuzha and then to
Ernakulam. The latter occasion coincided
with a diminution of its name to plain
changes in the Satyanadom's periodicity
followed. From 1900 it was issued thrice
a month. Four years later it was converted
into a weekly. In 1926 a change in format
was introduced and the Satyanadom
joined the early ranks of 'illustrated
weeklies'. The fortunes of Kerala's oldest
existing newspaper underwent a change
characteristic of the times in 1970 when
it merged with the Kerala Times and started
issuing as the latter's Sunday edition.
During the course of its independent existence
over slightly less than a century the
Satyanadom had made notable contribution's
to Malayalam literature and in the socio-political
the three decades since the Rajasamacharam
made its first appearance though a good
number of publications followed they were
in the main characterized by a high rate
of infant mortality. Besides, they were
not "newspapers" in the strict
sense of the word; their emphasis was
more on literary and religious topics
as distinct from hard news as we understand
it today. Their periodicity was yet another
factor which detracted from their intrinsic
relevance and importance as newspapers.
Keralam (1866), the Malayalamitram,
the Tiruvathancore Abhimani, the
Kerala Deepakam (all 1878) and
the Keralachandrika fall in this
category of pioneering precursors. Also,
the Keralopakari published from
Malabar, which had the distinction of
being the first printed magazine issuing
from this area. Incidentally, the Keralopakari
was printed from the Basel Mission Press
located at Mangalore. Most of these early
journals were fired with the zeal of Christian
fell to a Gujarathi's lot to launch the
first systematic "newspaper"
in Malayalam. Devji Bhimji started a printing
press at Cochin in 1865 under the name
of the Keralamitram Press. In running
the press Devji Bhimji had to face heavy
odds. There was the obvious disadvantage
of embarking upon a hitherto uncharted
course. But more discouraging was the
unhelpful attitude of the authorities.
In an unprovoked gesture the police authorities
slapped an order on Devji Bhimji requiring
him to submit all matter meant for printing
for the prior scrutiny and approval of
the authorities. On his preferring an
appeal seeking reconsideration of this
blanket order the authorities retaliated
by forcing closure of the establishment.
Bhimji was not daunted. He approached
the Divan on at least six occasions for
a redressal of his grievances. But the
Divan was averse to rescinding the censorship
orders. In exasperation Devji Bhimji now
turned to the British Resident, Henry
Neville, for justice. His perseverance
paid at last after almost a year of forced
closure of the press when the British
resident prevailed upon the authorities
to withdraw their orders.
Bhimji was not a new-comer to journalism.
He had co-sponsored the English Western
Star in 1860 and the Malayalam Paschimataraka
in 1864. At the time of starting his press
Devji Bhimji had wound up his interests
in these two publications. But one should
assume that his experiences in this field
were happy for he was already toying with
the idea of starting a paper on his own.
This blossomed into reality with the launching,
on New Year's day of 1881, of the Keralamitram.
a number of respects the Keralamitram
can be hailed as the first "newspaper"
in the Malayalam language. In the initial
stages the paper was issued thrice a month;
later on it was published as a weekly.
The paper provided a wide range of reading
fare, which by contemporary accounts maintained
an exceptionally high standard. There
was a marked tilt in favour of featuring
news. Due weight was also given for language
and literature, criticism and articles
on general topics of public welfare.
Keralamitram was fortunate in that
it had as its first editor none other
than Kandathil Varghese Mappilai who later
founded the Malayalamanorama. With
Kandathil Varghese Mappila's flair for
journalism and Devji Bhimji's acumen as
an entrepreneur it is no wonder that the
new publication made a lasting impact
on Malayalam journalism. As an aside,
Devji Bhimji also tried his hand at running
a Marathi magazine entitled Keralakokil
from Cochin. On his death in 1894 the
Keralamitram was run tolerably
well for quite a number of years under
the stewardship of an adopted son.
pattern of development and growth of journalism
in the Malabar area was more or less similar
in nature, with the difference that journalistic
ventures were less profuse. An English
weekly entitled the West Coast Spectator
started publication in 1879 from Kozhikode.
The weekly was printed by Vakil Poovadan
Raman from the Spectator Press. It was
edited by an Englishman, Dr.Keys. In later
years the weekly was rechristened the
Malabar Spectator and was quite
significant development was the publication
in 1884 of the Keralapatrika weekly
from Kozhikode. The idea of a weekly was
conceived by Chengulathu Kunhirama Menon,
possibly after attending a conference
of the Indian National Association held
at Calcutta in 1884. Kunhirama Menon himself
claimed that the Keralapatrika
was the first "newspaper" in
Malayalam in the Malabar district. It
was printed from the Vidyavilasom Press
and had the active backing of a number
of prominent personalities of the day.
Keralapatrika was essentially a
pace-setter in Malayalam journalism. Chengulathu
Kunhirama Menon wielded a powerful pen.
To him freedom of speech and expression
was a sacrosanct article of faith. The
press was a vehicle for educating, uplifting
and cleansing the public and the administration.
He scanned the corridors of power for
graft, irresponsibility and callousness
and came down heavily on the erring. It
is recorded that the Maharaja of Travancore
was so impressed by the crusading spirit
of the Keralapatrika that he subscribed
for 200 copies for distribution among
the officials of his administration.
Kunhirama Menon is sometimes called the
"father of Malayalam Journalism".
His weekly featured news on international
affairs, politics and other public occurrences.
Literature and literacy criticism received
their due share in the Keralapatrika's
columns. An instance has been recorded
where the Keralavarma Valiyakoyi Thampuran
took exception to the severe criticism
of some of his literary works in the columns
of the weekly. The Valiyakoyi Thampuran
hit back by ordering cancellation of the
subscriptions for the government officials
a newspaper, especially in the regional
Malayalam language, was no picnic. The
elite preferred English and would ill
be seen browsing through a Malayalam newspaper.
Advertisement support for the press was
then practically an unknown factor. Powerful
patronage, especially from royalty, could
ill be spurned in the desperate bid to
keep the paper going. But when it came
to principles the father of Malayalam
journalism was not one to countenance
management of the Keralapatrika
changed hands in 1938 some time after
the death of Kunhirama Menon. Among the
editors of this period were Sanjayan and
Koyippalli Parameswara Kurup. After independence
the paper was shifted to Ernakulam. Publication
was suspended after a few years.
Spectator Press of Kozhikode came out
in 1886 with a Malayalam periodical entitled
the Kerala Sanchari. It was edited
by Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar, otherwise
well-known by his pen-name "Kesari".
The sharp humour and witticism characteristic
of the new periodical mark a turning point
in our journalism. Typical was the paper's
approach to officialdom, lashing out with
humorous jibes and ill-concealed wrath
at the high-handed and complimenting and
encouraging the just. Moorkoth Kumaran
was associated with the periodical for
some time in 1897 as its editor. The Kerala
Sanchari later on merged with his
Mitavadi published from Tellicherry.
year 1886 stands out in the history of
Malayalam journalism it saw the birth
of the Malayali from Thiruvananthapuram.
This new recruit to the ranks of periodicals
was the official organ of the Malayalee
Social Reforms League. In Pettayil Raman
Pillai Asan the new magazine found an
able editor. In due course his mantle
fell on C.V.Raman Pillai, yet another
literary giant. Though the sheet anchor
of the Malayali was social reforms,
it spear-headed the crusade for political
and civil rights with equal zest.
Malayali was especially critical
of the administration in Travancore. The
critical posture assumed such an alarming
gradient that the sponsors of the paper
feared official retaliation. In a pre-emptive
move the publishing centre was thereupon
shifted to Thangasseri, near Kollam. This
was a British enclave where the writ of
the Travancore regime did not hold good.
For a short period in 1911 the Malayali
came out as a daily newspaper.
political atmosphere had in the meanwhile
become tense. The struggle for responsible
government had been launched and was gaining
in tempo. At this critical stage the Malayali
was shifted back to Thiruvananthapuram
to enable the paper to play a more positive
and immediate role in the struggle. M.R.
Warrier took over editorial responsibility.
The paper was now issued as a daily. In
no time its popularity and circulation
was not long in coming. Intimidation was
the first weapon deployed. The editor
was set upon by goondas in broad day-light
and manhandled. Such sporadic instances
of personal violence only helped to stee
the determination of those working behind
the Malayali. The onslaught against
the government was further escalated through
its columns. A stage came when the government
threw caution: to the winds and prohibited
publication of the paper. The press and
offices were locked and sealed.
the time being the political movement
for responsible government in Travancore
was deprived of a strong prop. Nevertheless
the conscience of the people was roused
and the movement gathered strength and
inspiration from within itself. The Malayali
was forced to hibernate till independence
was attained, when it re-started publication
from Thiruvananthapuram as a daily. Proprietorial
control of the paper then passed on to
the Nair Service Society and the centre
of publication was moved to Changanacherry.
The Malayali ceased publication about
a decade ago.
second oldest newspaper in Malayalm-the
Deepika-was launched from Kottayam
in 1887 under the banner Nasrani Deepika.
Its periodicity underwent a number of
changes over the years to emerge finally
in 1938 as a full-fledged daily. This
change in periodicity also coincided with
an abbreviation of its name to the present
Malayalamanorama started publication
from Kottayam in 1890, initially as a
weekly. The paper was floated by a joint
stock company, perhaps for the first time
in India. Its first editor was Kandathil
Varghese Mappilai who brought with him
the rich experience of his previous association
with the Keralamitram of Cochin.
In the beginning, the weekly was predominantly
literary. Its transition to a newspaper
of general interest followed quickly.
Its rise to a formidable institution with
weighty contributions to the social, economic,
political and cultural life of Kerala
paper was converted into a daily in 1928.
In many instances the Malayalamanorama
actually gave the lead to mass movements
of the period.
the wake of the political movement swept
Travancore with the fury of a hurricane,
the authorities were perturbed at the
growing influence of the Malayalamanorama.
In a dramatic move the Government confiscated
the paper in September 1938. The editor
was sent to jail. An unpopular rigime
whose base was fast eroding under the
impact of the people's urge for responsible
government struck at the very roots of
democracy and in the process gained a
resurrection of the daily phenomenal in
the sense that with a short period both
soared to lofty heights in popularity,
circulation and repute.
near namesake, the Manorama, was
floated in 1891 from Kozhikode under the
auspices of the Kerala Mahajana Sabha.
This fortnightly was a self-styled vehicle
of reforms in the socio-political field
and had the backing of members of the
Zamorins, family and other prominent personalities.
Leading writers of the day contributed
to the columns of the fortnightly which
maintained a high literary standard. After
undergoing many vicissitudes involving
change of ownership and editors the Manorama
finally folded in 1940 under the impact
of newsprint shortage.
last decade of the nineteenth century
was uneventful for Malayalam journalism
in the sense that no 'newspaper' other
than those mentioned in the preceding
paragraphs commenced publication during
this period. But this decade, nevertheless,
accounted for a memorable crop of literary
magazines. One was the Sujananandini
started in 1892 from Kollam. Kandathil
Varghese Mappilai and others joined hands
to launch the Bhashaposhini in
1897 as the official organ of the Bhashaposhini
Sabha. The same year the publication of
Saraswathi from Tellicherry under
the able editorship of Moorkoth Kumaran.
the one event of the pre-1914 period that
deeply stirred the feelings of the people
of Kerala and roused their political consciousness
was the deportation of K.Ramakrishna Pillai,
editor of the Swadeshabhimani published
from Thiruvananthapuram. The Swadeshabhimani
was started in 1905 from a suburb of the
State's capital. Ramakrishna Pillai was
inducted as its ediotr of a number of
other publications, including the Keraladarpanam,
the Malayali, the Keralan,
the Sarada and the Vidyarthi
and had already made a mark as a brilliant
columnist and literary critic.
a few months Ramakrishna Pillai acquired
ownership of the press and shifted his
base of operations to Thiruvananthapuram.
He drew his powerful pen to expose the
true nature of palace politics and the
corruption and favouritism rampant in
the corridors of power. Ramakrishna Pillai
was singularly devoid of the craze for
power, position or wealth. In order to
buttress his attacks on the corrupt ramparts
of power, he got himself elected to the
Travancore Assembly from Neyyattinkara.
Dewan, P.Rajagopalachari, sensed the inherent
danger in having this opponent at such
close quarters. His ingenious mind contrived
a royal proclamation stipulating that
legislators should permanently reside
in their constituencies. Ramakrishna Pillai,
resident at Thiruvananthapuram, was unseated
on this technical count. The attacks on
the Dewan and the regime thenceforth become
move devastating. The Swadeshabhimani
ran a series of articles which further
precipitated matters. The Dewan reversed
his tactics, alternatively threatening
and cajoling the dauntless editor, but
of no avail.
royal proclamation was issued on September
26, 1910, deporting Ramakrishna Pillai
from Travancore and confiscating his press
and paper-a martyrdom for a righteous
journalist in the service of his countrymen.
The educated and politically conscious
section of the people were against at
this high-handed and undemocratic measure.
Ramakrishna Pillai was thenceforth known
and revered by the alias "Swadeshabhimani".
deported editor selected Kunnamkulam in
Cochin State as the launching pad for
his next journalistic venture. This was
the Atmaposhini. The Swadeshabhimani
edited this organ for two years till 1915.
Incidentally, Ramakrishna Pillai was the
author of a biography on Karl Marx, the
first one to appear in any Indian language,
and was hence a pioneer Indian to be inspired
by socialist consciousness. He also authored
a book on journalism, the first of its
kind in Malayalam. The Swadeshabhimani
died in exile at Kannur in 1928.
appearance of the Mitavadi from
Tellicherry in 1907 marks the next important
milestone in the history of the press
in Kerala. Moorkoth Kumran, who had already
tried his hand successfully at other journalistic
ventures, occupied the editorial chair.
The Mitavadi gained in stature
within a short period as a formidable
press organ in the Malabar area. Literature
and current affairs were its main forte.
Mahakavi Kumaran Asan's famous poem, Veena
Poovu was first published in the Mitavadi.
In 1913, C.K.Krishnan acquired ownership
of the paper and started publishing it
as a magazine from Kozhikode.
Mitavadi was in the fore-front
of the movement for social reforms and
the uplift of the weaker sections of society.
But in its approach to the national struggle
for independence the magazine adopted
an off-beat posture, aligning itself with
the British and opposing the national
movement. In the treatment of news the
magazine showed a keen awareness of the
relevant and the indispensable. The Mitavadi
actually published a daily news sheet
featuring the latest news from the war
front during the first world war. The
curtains were finally rung down on this
memorable publication on the eve of the
second world war.
origins of the Kerala Kaumudi,
one among the leading newspapers of present
day Kerala, can be traced back to 1911.
Its founder C.V.Kunhuraman was a multi-faceted
personality-a poet, a brilliant prose
writer, historian, journalist, politician,
all combined together. So boundless was
his energy and so all-encompassing his
ability that even while editing the Kerala
Kaumudi he contributed leaders to
other press organs. The paper initially
started publication from Mayyanad. Later,
it was shifted to Kollam and then to Thiruvananthapuram.
It was converted into a full-fledged daily
who rose to prominence as general secretary
of the S.N.D.P. yogam started publication
of the Desabhimani in 1915. [This
is not to be confused with the Desabhimani
of today, the official organ of the Communist
Party of India (Marxist)] The Desabhimani
rendered Yeoman service in pin-pointing
the grievances, political and social,
of the Ezhava community and seeking redressal.
With the emergence of Mahatma Gandhi to
a position of front-rank leadership of
the Congress, political activity in Kerala
felt a new spur. This was the period when
the national movement had become more
broad-based with the involvement of the
was drawn into the vortex of the movement
and soon became an important leader of
the Congress. Through the columns of the
Desabhimani he waged a relentless
war against injustice, inequality and
untouchability and for the cause of independence.
The apogee of his reputation and influence
as a journalist came with the famous satyagraha
at the Vaikom temple. The Desabhimani's
contributions to the agitation for temple
entry and to the non-co operation movement
were considerable indeed.
was yet another social reformer who wielded
a powerful pen and commanded a powerful
vehicle of expression. This was the Sohodaran
published from Cherayi in 1917. Ayyappan
encouraged rationalist thought and the
socialist doctrine. In the movement for
responsible government, for temple entry
and for inter-caste marriage the Sahodaran
was always in the fore-front. This periodical,
which made substantial contribution to
the renaissance of Kerala, ceased publication
took keen interest in the welfare of the
workings classes. Through his writings
he encouraged the building up of labour
movements. In fact, in 1933, he launched
a publication, the Velakkaran, modeled
along the British Daily Worker
and devoted in the main to the labour
movement. He was also associated with
two other publications-the Yuktivadi
and the Stree. As a regular columnist
of the Mitavadi and the Kerala
Kaumudi his writings helped to create
and mould enlightened public opinion.
Samadarshi which commenced publication
from Thiruvananthapuram in 1918 was a
powerful and popular vehicle of public
opinion. A.Balakrishna Pillai joined the
paper in 1923 as editor. He revetted his
attention on the corrupt and high-handed
bureaucracy of Travancore. The devastating
criticism in the Samadarshi went
down well with the reading public who
clamoured for more. But the authorities
were displeased and the owner of the paper
was faced with difficulties. It is said
that the notorious Travancore Newspaper
Regulations of 1926 were an offshoot of
Balakrishna Pillai's incisive criticisms.
The management of the paper was not prepared
to invite official displeasure and Balakrishna
Pillai had to resign in 1926. The Samadarshi
went on, taking care not to rub the authorities
on the wrong side and in the wake of a
fast dropping circulation folded in the
the series of infamous moves plotted by
the government of Travancore against the
institution of a free press the newspaper
regulation of 1926 deserves special mention
as much for its stringency as for the
opposition it generated among the reading
public. The regulation was promulgated
by Dewan Watts. The intense activity in
the journalistic field, sparked off in
the wake of nationalistic fervour, political
consciousness and the growing clamour
for responsible government, was inexorably
driving the princely regime on the defensive.
It was high time the press was gagged
and muzzled, so the Dewan reasoned.
regulation was draconian measure requiring
newspapers to take out licenses and deposit
a security as token of their bonafides.
Criticism of any member of the Travancore
royal family, the Travancore government
or the British king emperor would entail
forfeiture of the security and cancellation
of the licence. A fresh licence would
be issued at the discretion of the authorities,
but would require a further substantial
sum as security. A second cancellation
of the licence would be fatal to the publication.
Possession of copies of publications whose
licences were suspended was a punishable
Pillai, who had earlier been eased out
of editorial responsibility of the Samadarshi,
had in the meanwhile launched a new periodical
entitled Prabhodakan. Within six
month of its appearance, this periodical
was banned by the government of Travancore.
Balakrishna Pillai now started the Kesari,
later to become famous in the annuals
of Malayalam journalism. Scathing criticism
of the authorities was taken up with an
added zeal in the columns of the new publication.
With their misdeeds exposed to public
gaze the Dewan and his cohorts were put
in a tight corner. The newspaper regulations
of 1926 took shape against this backdrop.
reaction was instantaneous. A huge public
meeting was organized at Thiruvnanthapuram.
Legislators, editors and leaders participated
in the protest meeting. Resolutions were
passed denouncing the new measure. The
legislators decided to sponsor a resolution
at the next meeting of the Assembly opposing
the regulations and if necessary reject
the budget and tender their resignations.
Never before had a governmental proclamation
evoked such widespread indignation and
delegation of journalists waited on the
Regent Maharani to convey their protest.
But they were directed to the Dewan. Swarad
editor A.K.Pillai led the deputation
to the Dewan who, it must be conceded,
gave them a patient hearing. But the Dewan
could not give them any assurance to assuage
their apprehensions. The deputation came
back disappointed. June 26, 1926, the
day the new newspaper regulations took
effect, was observed as a day of mourning
by the people of Thiruvananthapuram. Within
days an unrelenting government invoked
the punitive provisions of the regulations
on three newspapers.
struggle was then carried on in the legislature.
A legislator attempted to introduce a
bill seeking withdrawal of the regulations.
The Dewan refused permission to introduce
the bill. A motion was then sponsored
at the budget session demanding that the
regulations be revoked. But by a clever
manipulation of the votes of official
and nominated representatives the motion
was thrown out. As a measure of individual
protest, Barrister A.K.Pillai resigned
from the legislature.
authorities now felt that the tide of
opposition had been effectively stemmed.
But the Kesari was recalcitrant. Though
the government had frustrated the spontaneous
public clamour to withdraw the newspaper
regulations, Balakrishna Pillai did not
concede defeat. His writings acquired
a hitherto unknown sharpness and crusading
fervour. He sought to mobilise public
opinion against the government and its
repressive measures. Sensing that the
situation would get out of their hands
if such strong dissent was permitted the
authorities clamped a ban order on the
Kesari was shortlived. But its
impact on public opinion and on the development
of Malayalam journalism was tremendous,
and out of proportion to its longevity.
To Balakrishna Pillai the press was not
only a vehicle to project news; it was
also a forum for educating the public
by disseminating knowledge and encouraging
free thought and open discussion. In keeping
with this view the Kesari gave
equal prominence to news and to novels,
short stories, book reviews and science
notes in its columns. In this respect
it marked a point of departure in Malayalam
journalism. With the Kesari banned,
Balakrishna Pillai bid good-bye to his
Malayalarajyam made a triumphant
entry into Malayalam journalism in 1929,
featuring in its columns API and Reuter
despatches and news pictures fed by foreign
photo agencies. It was published from
Kollam. An organized network for the distribution
of this daily was soon built up. The paper
even operated a bus service of its own
to keep the distribution channels well-oiled.
Modern printing equipments helped to give
the new daily a modern appearance in lay-out
and content. In fact the Malayalarajyam
was the first Malayalam daily to go in
for a rotary press. The illustrated Malayalarajyam
Weekly was a prestigious publication
of the times.
daily was edited by K.G.Sankar, who was
forced to resign from the Malayali over
a controversial editorial criticising
the Travancore government. He continued
his pro-nationalist stance in the Malayalarajyam.
A number of leading writers of the day
were persuaded to contribute regular columns.
In a short span of time the Malayalarajyam
became well-known and read as Kerala's
leading nationalist daily. But with Sankar
relinquishing control on ill-health, the
daily fell on bad days. Its nationalistic
posture swimming against the tide often
proves fatal, and this colourful daily
became defunct in the late sixties.
was a strange alchemy where dissent and
acquiescence proved equally fatal. The
Kesari personified the strong voice
of dissent. It stood for the freedom of
the press, for the freedom of expression.
It went down well with the reading public.
Its popularity with the public increased
in direct proportion to its outspoken
views. But this very popularity alienated
it from the authorities. Their antagonism
increased in direct proportion to the
paper's increasing popularity. In the
showdown the Kesari succumbed.
At the other end of the spectrum there
was the Malayalarajyam which at
a certain stage of its brilliant career
inspired by nationalism, turned tables
and acquiesced. In the resultant alienation
from the mainstream of public opinion,
this meteor crashlanded into oblivion.
the Malabar area the tempo of the political
struggle in the early decades of the twentieth
century was quicker than socio-economic
reform movements. Political activity in
this area was imparted with a new dimension
with the outbreak of the first world war
and the spread of Home Rule ideas. The
All Kerala Political Conference held at
Ottapalam in April 1921 marked the beginning
of the move for a united Kerala which
became a reality in terms of law thirty-five
years later. At the time of this conference
the Gandhian movement of non-co operation
was in full swing and had a tremendous
impact on Kerala.
non-co operation movement was particularly
strong in Malabar where the Mappillas
were agitated over the Khilafat issue.
It was the course of the non-cooperation
and Khilafat movements that Kerala witnessed
what was probably the most tragic episode
in its freedom struggle, namely the Mappila
Rebellion or, has been increasingly called,
the Malabar Rebellion of 1921.
the suppression of the Malabar Rebellion
and until almost the end of the thirties
the purely political struggle for freedom
was on a low key. However, the spirit
of the people was kept at high tide through
the organizational activities of the Congress.
There was, in addition, considerable journalistic
activity of a political nature. This was
best illustrated by the starting of the
nationalist newspaper, the Mathrubhoomi,
from Kozhikode in 1923.
was then the publishing base of four Malayalam
and three English periodicals. In the
gloom that followed the suppression of
the Malabar Rebellion and the withdrawal
of the non-cooperation movement a psychosis
of fear seemed to have enveloped these
press organs. They were not prepared to
publish any item even covertly supporting
the national movement or faintly critical
of the British administration. What is
more, even local printing presses shied
at printing statements or pamphlets by
the avenues of communication thus effectively
throttled prominent Congress leaders thought
of the next best alternative-to start
a press and a publication of their own,
whatever the consequences. This entailed
the raising of capital and mobilising
a band of dedicated workers. The enthusiasm
of the times was such that these initial
requirements were met with ease. A limited
company was floated and the Mathrubhoomi
started issuing on March 18, 1923, thrice
a week, with K.P.Kesava Menon as its editor.
baptism by fire for the Mathrubhoomi
came soon with the Vaikom Satyagraha.
The demand was for the grant of right
of passage to the untouchables along approach
roads to the temple. The moving spirit
of the satyagraha was Shri.T.K.Madhavan,
himself a redoubtable journalist. In the
forefront of the enlightened leaders of
the forward communities who actively participated
in the struggle was K.P.Kesava Menon.
The Mathrubhoomi too, was in the
thick of the fight, as it was in every
phase of the national struggle.
the peak of the civil disobedience movement,
in April 1930, the Mathrubhoomi
started issuing as a daily. As practically
the only source of information for the
people of Malabar about the developments
in the national movements, its circulation
base was gradually extended to the remote
villages. But close on the heels of this
increase in circulation and influence
came official harassment. Following a
critical leader on the incarceration of
a political worker without trial, the
government swooped down on the paper demanding
a security of Rs.2000. The Mathrubhoomi
furnished the security in the interests
of continued publication, but as a measure
of silent protest left its editorial columns
blank for months to come.
article by Sanjayan, the well-known humourist,
criticized the high-handedness of British
army personnel at Cochin. This provoked
the Madras government and banned the daily
altogether. A state-wide agitation ensued
demanding withdrawal of the punitive ban
order. The government had no choice but
to withdraw the order. Likewise, the Dewan
of Travancore, Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer,
refused entry to the paper in the State.
The Dewan was not one to accommodate public
reaction. The Mathrubhoomi had
to stay out, and made a triumphant re-entry
nine years later in 1947.
periodical harassment by the authorities
the growth of the Mathrubhoomi
as a powerful organ of the press was impressive
indeed. It came out in 1932 with a weekly.
In 1962 the paper branched out into a
sister edition from Cochin. It had a number
of stalwarts occupying the editorial chair.
It ranks today as one of the fore-most
dailies of the Indian press.
significant Kozhikode-based paper of this
period was the Al-ameen which first started
publication in 1924 and began issuing
as a daily in 1930. The paper was started
by Mohammed Abdul Rahiman Sahib, the Congress
leader. The pro-nationalist stance of
the paper infuriated the authorities.
On more than one occasion the Al-ameen
was discontinued as a result of action
by the authorities. One such closure followed
the publication of an editorial exhorting
non-cooperation with the war efforts of
Britain. The Al-ameen continues
to be published to this day
Prabhatham started publication
from Shoranur with E.M.S. Namboodiripad
as its editor, and was the organ of the
newly-formed Congress Socialist Party.
Its license was suspended following refusal
to furnish security to government consequent
on the publication of a poem on Bhagat
Sing's martyrdom. The license was restored
later. The paper was shifted to Kozhikode
in 1938, but did not survive for long.
Deenabandu was yet another paper
which owed its origin to the national
struggle. It commenced publication as
a weekly in 1941 from Thrissur. The weekly
was edited by V.R.Krishnan Ezhuthachan.
The Deenabandu was trial-blazer
in the sense that it was one of the first
periodicals published from Cochin State
which supported the national movement.
The national sentiment was on the ascendancy.
The Deenabandu made rapid strides
in circulation, beating even the dailies
based at Cochin. But it had to pay a heavy
price for its nationalist moorings. Its
editor and his staff were sent to jail
within a few days of the launching of
the Quit India Movement. Its publication
Deenabandu resumed publication
in 1944 on the release of its editor and
other staff from jail. But its travails
were by no means over. In the elections
held in 1945 the Government freezed newsprint
supply. The weekly went into an enforced
hibernation for eighteen weeks. On resuming
publication the Deenabandu was converted
into a daily. That the new daily continued
to displease the authorities is evidenced
by the fact that following an election
case the editor and one of its correspondents
were stripped of franchise rights for
Deenabandu had also to face stiff
opposition at the hands of the royal regime
in Travancore. The paper was officially
banned from this area. But the enterprising
workers of the paper smuggled copies to
Travancore through underground channels
located in the British enclaves of Thangassery
and Anchuthengu. The ban was lifted only
after independence. After a splendid innings
spread over 21 years the Deenabandu
finally succumbed to financial difficulties
and ceased publication in 1962.
nationalist phase was a fertile period
for Malayalam journalism. Newspapers sprang
up in quick succession, often to go under
with equal speed. The Lokamanyan
(from Thrissur) the Swarad (from
Kollam), the Yuvabharatham (from Palakkad),
the Kerala Kesari (from Thrissur)
and the Bhajebharatam are some
of the more prominent. Most of these publications
could not survive owing to financial difficulties
and in some cases following repression
by the authorities.
decade preceding independence was a period
of consolidation and growth for the press
in Kerala. Sporadic flings at journalism,
though not entirely unknown, became rare.
What was previously a buyer's market for
news was gradually reversing into a seller's
market. An element of competition started
surfacing, though in a rudimentary form.
Survival demanded not only adequate resources
but a planned, entrepreneurial approach.
Journalism was becoming increasingly politically-oriented
a natural offshoot was committed journalism.
Chandrika, started out in 1934
from Thalassery as a weekly. This organ
of the Muslim League blossomed into a
daily in 1939 and was shifted to Kozhikode.
The publishers later branched out into
a weekly also. The Desabhimani,
currently the organ of the Communist Party
of India (Marxist), began publication
on a modest scale from Kozhikode in 1942
as a weekly. It was converted into a daily
in 1946. The government of Madras banned
the paper in 1948; publication was resumed
in 1951. A sister edition was launched
from Cochin in 1968. Other publications
are the Desabhimani Weekly and
the Chintha, a political weekly.
the Travancore area the Communist Party
started its own publication, the Janayugam.
From modest beginnings this party organ
made rapid strides. Today a sister edition
from Kozhikode. The Janayugam Weekly,
the Cinerama fortnightly and the
Balayugam monthly are other creditable
sister publications. All these publications
terminated publication due to many reasons.
Yet another organ, the Navajeevan,
was launched into existence from Thrissur,
with Joseph Mundassery as its editor.
In the late sixties the paper was shifted
to Kozhikode, but did not survive for
Arch Bishop of Ernakulam brought out the
Malabar Mail from Ernakulam in
1936. This daily fell foul of the authorities
and was denied entry into Travancore during
the agitation for responsible government.
The Powraprabha issuing from Kottayam
in the late thirties wielded considerable
influence in the Travancore area. Its
publishing base was successively shifted
first to Mavelikkara and then to Kottayam,
with C.M.Stephen as its editor. This daily
became defunct after a decade or so.
Powradhwani was yet another Kottayam-based
paper. Started in 1939 by K.M. Chacko
this daily was always in the thick of
the struggle for responsible government
and commanded considerable readership.
After independence Chacko floated another
daily from Thiruvananthapuram entitled
Powrakahalam. But this was short-lived.
The Powradhwani itself stopped publication
in 1955. The Keralabhushanam was
launched from Kottayam in 1944 by K.K.Kuruvilla.
Prabhatam started out as a weekly
from Kollam in 1944, but was soon converted
into a daily. This pro-nationalist daily
had a life-span of about two decades.
The same year saw the birth of the Express
from Thrissur. The paper was edited by
K.Krishnan and with its pronounced nationalist
and socialist views gained extensive circulation
in Cochin State.
National War Front co-sponsored a daily
entitled Powrasakhi from Kozhikode at
the height of the second world war in
1944. The aim was to mobilize support
for the war efforts. After the war it
came out as a regular newspaper, with
B.C.Varghese, Varghese Kalathil and K.A.Damodara
Menon occupying the editorial chair on
successive occasions. This daily bowed
out in 1956. Among other notable newspapers
were the Kaumudi, the Kerala
Kesari, the Bharati, the Bharata
Patrika and the Bharata Kesari
(all published from Thiruvananthapuram)
and the Daily News issuing from Kottayam.
role of the press as a powerful instrument
of social change found acceptance with
a considerable section of the intellectuals
during the national struggle for independence.
This was a role complementary to that
of educating the public. The result was
a rich crop of periodicals sponsored by
individuals in some cases, and by movements
and organizations in others. Despite the
sectional approach of most of these periodicals
the fact remains that they played a decisive
role in awakening the masses from conservatism
and orthodoxy and pushing through social
Namboodiri Yogakshema Sabha sponsored
two notable publications, the Yogakshemam
and the Unni Namboodiri. The Namboodiri
community was steeped in conservatism
and living in lofty isolation from the
mainstream of life of the times. V.T.Bhatadiripad,
among others, wielded his powerful pen
to break this isolation and rid his community
of conservatism. These two publications
rendered yeoman service in the cause of
social reform. The stalwarts the Namboodiri
community contributed to the political
movement drew their basic inspiration
from these periodicals.
Vivekodayam was the official organ
of the SNDP and was edited by Mahakavi
Kumaran Asan. It ceased publication after
a number of years but was revived in 1967
as a magazine and published from Irinjalakkuda.
The Atmavidyakahalam edited by
Vagbhadananda Guru from Kozhikode in the
late thirties was yet another weekly noted
for its sharp attacks against superstitions
and conventions. It was also a powerful
organ of nationalist sentiment.
other notable puiblications: The Nair
of Kainikkara Govinda Pillai, the Sujathanandini
of Ryru Nambiar, the Mitabhashi
of C.V.Raman Pillai, the Subhashini
of C.P.Govinda Pillai, the Nair of Malloor
Govinda Pillai, the Malabari of V.C.Balakrishna
Paniker, the Aikya Keralam of R.M.Palat,
the Ramanujam run jointly by Mahakavi
Vallathol Narayana Menon and Kuttippurathu
Kesavan Nair, the Rasika Ranjini
co-sponsored by Kunhikuttan Thampuran
and Appan Tampuran and the Kavana Kaumudi
jointly edited by Pandalam Kerala Varma
and P.V.Krishna Warrier.
Nair Service Society floated a magazine
entitled Service in 1920. Its main
concern was social reforms. At the same
time the magazine carried on a sustained
propaganda against anachronistic social
conventions and injustices like untouchability.
In 1927 the magazine was shifted to Thiruvananthapuram
and began issuing as a tri-weekly. A dynamic
editorial policy helped to popularize
the new weekly. Besides the emphasis on
social reforms, the Service lent solid
support to the nurturing of the national
spirit. Unfortunately, the weekly had
to cease publication in 1934 following
press in Kerala may be said to have come
of age as independence dawned. It was
a far cry from the cyclostyled sheets
of 1847 to the full fledged dailies of
1947 increasingly harnessing modern techniques
of editing and production. Growth was
no longer haphazard, it was deliberately
planned. The aim now was to consolidate
with a view to reaching out to an extended
readership in a field which was becoming
has a sober and responsible press whose
comment and performance is restrained
and well-reasoned. Its role
during the last three decades since independence
has proved its maturity beyond doubt.
has rightly been said that the press discharges
a vital duty in a democracy by serving
as the mirror of public opinion held up
to the authorities so that they can see
how they look in the public eye and adjust
their actions and policies accordingly.
It is essential that in discharging this
duty the press is allowed all facility
and freedom to reach at the sources of
system of accreditation of press correspondents
to government is one of the many methods
which helps to provide and ensure this
accessibility to bonafide news, its investigation
and interpretation. On the reverse side
of the coin accreditation enjoins a sense
of social and moral responsibility on
the part of the correspondent.
accreditation system was in vogue in Travancore
as far back as the mid-forties. The Malayalam
press was in those days just getting on
its feet and only a handful of correspondents
were accredited. A member of the press
corps of that period recalls that the
accreditation facility entitled a press
correspondent access to the press room
installed in a corner of the government
secretariat at Thiruvananthapuram. Copies
of Government orders, notifications and
press notes were placed in the press room.
The correspondent was expected to go through
the materials and jot down whatever he
thought would appeal to his paper and
its readers. The enterprising, it is recalled,
would successfully cajole and Head Examiner
at the Government Press into showing them
the early proof sheets of the Government
Gazette and other notifications and come
out with scoops in their papers.
practice of feeding the papers regularly
with official press releases came into
being around 1952. Simultaneously press
accreditation was expanded to cover more
correspondents and the facilities were
increased. A major step was the extension
of free travel facilities in the buses
operated by the Transport Department.
With the advent of planning for economic
growth the potential sources of developmental-oriented
news had shifted to the rural areas of
the State. Easy access to these rural
centres of development was essential to
fill a vital communication gap.
Directorate of Public Relations now branched
out into the districts, building up an
information network at these centres.
With the help of this new channel of news
the press, especially the small newspapers,
could fill up a vital void in the rural
landscape. Other media communication were
not fully developed with the result that
literacy and political education could
be sustained only through the print media,
with the consequent emphasis on newspapers
and periodicals essentially geared to
meet rural needs.
significant break-through came in 1972
when accreditation was extended to correspondents
and photographers at district headquarters.
Hitherto this facility was available only
at the State headquarters at Thiruvananthapuram.
facilities now include free travel along
all routes over which the Kerala State
Road Transport Corporation plys its buses.
The accredited correspondents are also
entitled to a concession in rail fare.
Accreditation entitles a correspondent
to priority in telephone connections.
Government Gazettes and other Government
Publications are supplied free of cost
to the accredited correspondents at the
State Headquarters. Press tours are sponsored
for accredited correspondents to salient
developmental project areas and other
sources of potential developmental news.
Under an interstate exchange programme
press tours are also arranged periodically
to other States.
has been the first State to evolve a scheme
for extending financial assistance to
journalists who have been compelled to
retire on account of old age, ill-health
or other reasons of a similar nature (or
committee, chaired by the minister holding
the information portfolio administers
the fund. The Director of Public Relations
is the convener of the committee which
has five other members in including three
representatives of the Kerala Union of
Working Journalists, one representative
of big and medium newspapers and one representative
of small newspapers.
journalists pension scheme and general
pension scheme were recently introduced.