Panaji: After a 28-year press run, Sunaparant, Goa’s only Konkani newspaper published in the devanagri script, will cease to exist from 1 August.
After it was established in 1987, Sunaparant, in its early years, was seen as an icon of journalistic activism for Konkani language lovers and a breeding ground for young, fired-up journalists, who had just won the literary crusade against the more established Marathi language in the popular agitation for recognition as Goa’s official language. In this century however, the newspaper, promoted by former mining baron and now FC Goa co-owner Dattaraj Salgaocar appeared to be tottering. Its actual circulation had dropped to less than a 1000, its staff whittled down to 27 and its new raison d'être appeared to be harping back on its time-warped legacy, rather than playing out in print the goings-on of our time with credibility and panache.
“This is an emotional time for us. We are in the process of sorting out issues related to the closure,” publisher AM Gude told Firstpost.
Uday Bhembre, the longest serving editor of the newspaper in its early years said that it was a sad day for everyone associated with the Konkani movement, a year-long agitation which forced the then Goa government to accord official status to Konkani in devanagri script. Konkani at the time was a popular mode of oral communication, while Marathi had a halo of officialese to it.
“It’s very sad not only for me, but for everyone in the Konkani movement and those associated with Sunaparant… But we cannot do anything. If it was a matter of content alone, I would have sat behind it day and night to bring out the paper yet,” Bhembre told Firstpost. The newspaper's demise has roused a debate over the health of Konkani written in devanagri and a brooding sense of nostalgia among the pro-Konkani intelligentsia here, who claim a part of them had curled up and died along with Sunaparant.
Rajendra Dessai, who now edits Dainik Herald, a Marathi newspaper, was one of the many youngsters, who cut their journalistic teeth in Sunaparant as wet-behind-the ears trainees.
“I feel very sad knowing that Sunaparant is closing down from 1 August. The paper groomed a lot of journalists… However the newspaper cannot work on passion for the language alone, but it has to have good content too,” Dessai said.
Spoken in various dialects in the Konkan region, mainly Karnataka, Kerala and Goa, the 2001 census pegs Konkani speakers at around 2.5 million, out of which six lakh hail from Goa. The wide gulf between potential patrons and the below-1000 actual circulation of the newspaper throws up the question about whether Konkani speakers or more importantly Konkani lovers and the intelligentsia which so vehemently idolised the language, did patronise Sunaparant at all?
Bhembre, however claims the real factor which killed the paper was failure of the management to monetize the paper. “This is mainly a management failure, because if you start a newspaper and do not look on the commercial and financial side of it, then someday there could be a problem. Because the owners owned mines, they could absorb the loss, but there were no efforts to make the newspaper supportive,” Bhembre said, while also commending Salgaocar for sustaining the newspaper for more than a quarter of a century. Sagar Javadekar, a member state Marathi Akademi's provisional committee blames the death of the newspaper on demographic change and the youth veering away from vernacular languages.
"This is the beginning of bad times for vernacular newspapers. Sunaparant is only a sign," says Sagar. While Salgaocar’s office claimed he was out of Goa on business, the promoter released a note on the closure of the newspaper, blaming sustained losses as well as failure to elicit a response from Konkani readers.
“After 17 years, in 2004, I even bore further losses by making it more modern and with more colour pages. I was hopeful that the response would increase and we will make it a full-fledged daily like the chain newspapers of Maharashtra and other states dominating Goa’s media scenario.
“But, unfortunately, Sunaparant did not get the expected response from Konkani readership or advertisers though the Konkani movement has become much stronger in last 28 years,” Salgaocar said in the statement.
Ironically, while Sunaparant stifled over the years and eventually perished, another Konkani newspaper published since 1933 in the Roman script 'Vauraddeancho Ixtt', has clocked a self-claimed circulation of nearly 15,000 copies.
'Romi' Konkani is predominantly popular with Goa's Catholic community, which accounts for a quarter of the state's population, while usage of devanagri has been associated with Hindus, especially the upper crust.
The writer is the Goa correspondent for the Indo-Asian News Service
Updated Date: Aug 01, 2015 10:57 AM