Times of Assam has never been an idea of a few years that was executed in a quick manner with some ordinary fellows. It was 2003 when I was discussing with Pallab Kumar Das, younger brother of late martyr Journalist, Parag Kumar Das, and Pallab Kumar Das suggested me the idea of a news portal with English as the language. He suggested that with the Assamese language on the web, we could give a gimmick for the Assamese netizens, but it won’t be worth any more. So English was the lone alternative.
For that initiative, I had to wait for six years after then. I was discussing the matter with several writers, intellectuals and netizens but resulted out no fruit. In late 2009, Mukul Mahant came up with some idea and emailed to thousands of Assamese netizens through a newsletter portal. We both waited for replies from the netizens for a couple of months but again, no fruit. To run a news portal, we needed a committee of people here and there, a domain carrying the identity and a server that can take loads of bandwidth. The money came as the biggest factor when everything out paper worked. Mukul Mahant had the hope that at least one hundred Assamese netizens living outside of India will contribute their few hours in a week and $25 in a year. Not even a single netizen replied to Mukul Mahant, and he just smiled and told me to wait for the week. I still remember it was March 2010.
When all the roads are closed, we get a highway. Chandan Mahanta, brother of Mukul Mahanta and a renowned architect from St. Louise (USA) who is a US citizen came to meet me in regards to the proposal. Knowing that no one replied Mukul Mahant, Chandan Mahanta told me to start and assured that whatever the server-related charges would be there he will pay.
And that made the starting. Through social media Orkut, I came across several other youths who shared similar thoughts, and together we decided to form a news portal, naming it Times of Assam. So did Pranjit Sarmah, an Assamese doctorate student at France with financial support. Others such as Priyankan Goswami, Jyoti Shankar Borah, Jt Wilchan Sarma, Pallab Konwar and Javed too pitched in with their own contributions. Any honest attempts at social entrepreneurship go through its hard days of rejection and criticism before tasting the first fragrance of success and recognition. Times of Assam, an attempt to have an alternate media platform for our burning state from a few common people with uncompromising attitude have gone through the same phase.
The idea of an online media platform to stand for the real issues of our motherland and bring them to the world around, took shape several years ago. However, for an idea to take wings, you need money, trusting partners and above all, honest expression and attitude.
From the very start, Times of Assam became a site for the classes and not the masses. Each and every article or write up was selected after several reviews and published with fearlessness. This resulted in the typical retaliation. It started with threats from a former minister & current MLA, followed by threats and criticism from Insurgents, politicians and even media-mafias. Things became really hard when I was nabbed by group intelligence personnel headed by IGP G P Singh under the command of ADGP Khagen Sarma on August 5, 2011, and kept in their secret custody for a week. Later, on August 11, 2011, I was arrested with the charge of Cyber Crime. That was the biggest blunder of Assam police forever. My own Facebook profile was hijacked by them by force, then changed to a reported profile and sought IP details of my account. I was tortured mentally by Assam police & judicial system by throwing me in lock-up for 16 days. As from earlier journalism experience, I was habitual to take such pressure and was smiling before notorious news channels’ camera who knew the reality from the very beginning. On the 17th day of official arrest, I was thrown to jail, which gave me another sweet experience that I needed most. Happenings on those days in jail are yet to be published which I will do later.
In the last two years of journey, Times of Assam experienced lots and gained a group of content contributors with their highest effort. Luit Chaliha, the most renown photographer of Assam, always came up with his finest shots. Times of Assam is thankful to Vikramjit Kakati, who referred Luit Chaliha to us. Priyankan Goswami has been the horse of long race with his best effort in writing most of the articles and exclusive reports. Manash Jyoti Dutta from Shivsagar contributed his finest snaps proving his upcoming talent. Another young guy Ankur J Das, who always trying to find something best for Times of Assam, can’t be excluded from the list of our respected contributors. Times of Assam is also thankful to Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, Editor of English weekly Blitz, and Swadesh Roy, Executive Editor of Daily Janakantha of Bangladesh. Both Choudhury and Roy gave an international boost to Times of Assam with their brave writings. Times of Assam is thankful to Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray, the renown Research Analyst of India, who contributed some great analytical report. In recent few weeks, Times of Assam got another open-minded person named Dilip Dutta, who came up with his brave articles shaking international forums and contributing a donation for coming year’s hosting fee. The most important part is that the aforesaid contributors never asked even a single penny for their contributions, and they contributed their content to Times of Assam for free. Words are not enough to say thanks to any of the contributors.
Still, we have miles to go. Miles to go before sleep. And we know, there will be more up and down in the future timelines. We know, there will be more pressures and attacks against Times of Assam in the future. And we are ready for it. Principle can’t be compromised.