The Emerging Face of Development Journalism In India

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The Emerging Face of Development Journalism In India

Muneeta Aneja is a leading Journalist who has written numerous articles for The Times group for various editions and multiple supplements. She has been associated with the field of Journalism since the year 2017 and has worked with top media houses and national and international websites. The majority of her articles have given voice to the voiceless, and marginalized, and have focused on the revival of lost Indian heritage, and its protection. Her articles have dealt with topics like Mental health awareness, Indian heritage sites, their Archaeological importance, the revival of folk art, development Journalism, coverage of rural areas and their plight, cybercrime awareness, women empowerment, etc.

On the 29th of October, 2023, she came forward with her book “Chhattisgarh- The Land of Hidden Mysteries”, which is available on Kindle in India, and in paperback format and Kindle in worldwide territories as well. The offline distribution of the paperback and hardcover format of the book 

has started across the nation too. 

In an exclusive Conversation of India Buzz with Muneeta, she revealed some startling facts about her book and answered some of our questions. 

1. Why has development Journalism always been your cause, and what made you compile this book? 

According to statistics, 65% of the Indian population resides in rural areas, and their coverage in national media, especially print media is less than 0.07%. These villages only become the center of attention when a catastrophe falls on them, or they are included in a policy formulation, but no one cares to investigate the implementation of those policies. Rural India is still deprived of basic infrastructure and amenities, and therefore they stay deprived of employment opportunities, solely depending on agriculture as their basic livelihood, and are becoming poorer by the day. When you’ll interact with a villager, you’ll witness the innocence, and how they yearn to state their voice in front of this world. They want to talk about the issues that are bothering them, but no one gives them any attention until the elections come up.

76.67% population of Chhattisgarh resides in rural areas. The tourism of the state is heavily affected by the Naxal Stigmatization. Dantewada and Bijapur secured 2nd and 3rd positions as districts with the lowest literacy level in the nation. On the contrary, Chhattisgarh is one of the richest sites globally, which carries unleashed potential. From the 1500-year-old brick temples in pristine condition to rotating Shivalingas, to the widest waterfalls and the most ancient Amphitheatre of Asia, this state has it all. We host the longest festival in the world, and the unique tribal practices would win the hearts of millions. But very rarely, people get to know about these tourism sites, and my aim with this book is to unravel those hidden secrets, so that they can be discovered, and the rural economy would get an instant boost with employment generation as the villagers would start opening stalls, as the tourists arrive, thereby increasing the chain of rural income circulation. Villagers would start sending their kids to schools, and take a break from the monotonous habit of alcohol consumption, focusing on their business, thereby increasing the happiness Index as well. I have raised alarming questions on the crippling issue of Naxalism in the state. Everyone knows about the Udaipur and Mysore Palaces, but how many know about the Kanker, Bastar, and Kawardha Palaces? With this book, I wish to bring them to attention. 

2. Did you make any mention of the issue of Naxalism in this book? 

Yes, I have mentioned some of the major Naxal attacks in Chhattisgarh, and it took me deep research and constant interviewing from all kinds of sources, to jot down my review on it. There are alarming questions that had to be raised on the crippling issue of Naxalism, and I didn’t hesitate to put them forward. The entire Red Corridor and its ambit have been described in my book. 

3. How did you cover these sites, and how much time did you invest in this manuscript?

I have been covering Chhattisgarh since May 2022, and I completed the coverage of the sites by July 2023. I’ll be really honest, I covered 75% of Chhattisgarh via my two-wheeler including valleys like Chilpi Ghati and Keshkal, despite the weather or any hurdles. Driving as a solo woman, documenting, interviewing, and capturing pictures is not an easy task. Sometimes, my vehicle used to break down amid a lone village, and I had to stretch it up to 4 to 5 kms to search for mechanics. I used to leave my home by 7 am, and I have driven 230 kms a day, at a time. For 25% of the state, I have relied on buses. Simultaneously, I was scanning through the Puranas, mythological epics, local folklore, and archaeological references, to cite the mention of Chhattisgarh in it. I learned Archaeology to understand the minute details and figurines myself, the architecture of the temple, and the empire that would have built it. India is a nation where we celebrate plurality, under the umbrella of secularism, and therefore I tried my best to cover the sites related to all the religions, as per my knowledge, and combine them as “One Nation: One United Heart”. I was constantly editing and paraphrasing the work as well, and I used to invest 18 to 22 hours a day in this work. Up till September, I was done with the editing, paraphrasing, picture selection, and alignment. 

3. You mentioned about the royalties of the state. We never heard about them as such, would you like to elaborate? 

It is a matter of shame that we have failed so deeply in promoting our tourism, that we never interacted about the Royal families of Chhattisgarh or their legacy. I have personally interviewed the 900-year-old Royal Family of Kanker, and the book contains an elaborate interview, with pictures of the palace. Bastar Palace is indeed very famous in Bastar, and the king holds a similar status to the God, I have had an exclusive interview with one of the Rajkumar’s, and I understood the challenges of being a Royal too. We have interacted about the strong matriarchs of the kingly dynasties. The Erstwhile and Grand Royal House of Kawardha, and the transformed Museum and Disputed Royal Palace of Khairagarh are also mentioned. Their entire history, legacy, conflicts, and major news have been covered in the book. 

4. What would you consider, are the most interesting pointers of your book?

I think, decoding the unique tribal Practices of Bastar and interacting with the tribes and their culture would fascinate the audience. The 1500-year-old archaeological Marvels and brick temples in pristine condition would leave the readers awestruck. Sirpur, Tala, and Bastar would be loved by everyone. The Mythological tales and folklore related to the state are unique and would grasp everyone’s attention. The Red Corridor has been vividly explained, and the various kind of temple architectures, and their relevance has been pondered upon. The traditional fashion, food, accessories, fusion with time, folk art, folk music, folk dance forms, and folk instruments are also brought to attention. This book would be a good aid for aspirants who are preparing for the Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission. 

5. What kind of audience would like to read your book? 

Within 3 days of publication of the book, our book was ranked No.1 in archaeology in the Kindle Store. With the pace of Time, it started securing higher rankings and received the No.1 ranking in ancient history, and social and cultural history as well. Though the ratings keep on changing, but up till now, people have interacted about the boldness of the book and its in-depth research. It’s not a candy book that keeps you glued like any fictional tale, but it’s more of an encyclopedia and the latest and exclusive in-depth research to the gateway to the ninth largest state of our country, and an ultimate travel guide that interacts about more than 125+ tourism hotspot sites with 170+ HD glossy images. It deals with Mythology, Archaeology, anthropology, ancient history, medieval and modern history, Chhattisgarh under British rule and its separation as an autonomous state, the tourism sites related to all religions, picturesque destinations, art, and tribes. Above all, it also becomes a thriller with questions raised concerning development Journalism, the issue of Naxalism defined, and the unique tribal practices of Bastar and festivities that would leave everyone speechless. 

6. What message would you like to convey to your government and readers with this book?

To my readers, I would say that we aim to place India at a global level and interact about our nation with brimming pride, and therefore when you pick this book, you receive information and data, that has been collected with thorough and calculated research. It is my sheer hard work, and therefore if you want to include some never-revealed before information, then you can definitely pick this book. The pictures support the text, and provide a context to the references made. Therefore, you won’t be disappointed with a book that aims to educate you. And to the government, I would like to make a humble request, to kindly protect the archaeological Marvels, and protect them at any cost. Kindly conduct more research on the rich potential of archaeology that lies in Chhattisgarh, and carry out more such excavations. The tourism sites that lie in rural areas lack basic infrastructure, proper roads, and street lights, kindly get these issues fixed, so that people visit these sites, and it increases the chain of income circulation in the villages. Also, we need to work on the promotion and advertisement of such underrated tourism hotspot sites, so that they are discovered more. 

7. Would you like to conduct more such researches on other Indian states?

Definitely, it would be my honour and deepest privilege to support my nation at any cost, and document our wondrous states. This book on Chhattisgarh has been compiled with my budget entirely, and if the other state governments or the national government, private sources, renowned book publishing houses, pick me up for research and documentation of their state, than I would love to come up with more such in-depth creations.

8. Kindly share your book blurb.

Embark on a journey through the hidden wonders of Chhattisgarh – a land shrouded in mystery. “Chhattisgarh: The Land of Hidden Mysteries” takes you deep into the heart of this enigmatic state, exploring its ancient temples, archaeological marvels, and rich cultural heritage. Discover the ancient myths, 2300-year-old idols, unique Shiva Lingas, legendary Shaktipeeths, and old Durgahs that adorn the landscape. Marvel at the architectural prowess of the 1500-year-old brick temples, Buddhist monasteries, Jaina temples, and picturesque tourist destinations. Immerse yourself in the vibrant tribal traditions and their folk art. Learn about the infamous Red Corridor and the crippling effects of Naxalism on the state. Delve into the captivating tales of the Dandak forests of Ramayana, Mysterious caverns, and exclusive interviews with the 1100-year-old royal families of Chhattisgarh. Join the author on her fascinating journey, uncovering more than 125+ tourism hotspots and 170+ HD glossy images, unraveling the hidden secrets of this land. 

Link of the book in India:

https://amzn.eu/d/9Zk9NgX

Link of the book Worldwide/US:

https://a.co/d/bb661SQ

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