Wednesday, 5 August, 2020
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OPINION

Vinaya Kasajoo: A Believer In Media Power



Harsha Man Maharjan

Born in Tansen, Palpa on 18 July 1947, Vinaya Kumar Kasajoo was a dynamic person interested in many subjects and fields. He was a journalist, media trainer, technology enthusiast, development communicator, advocate of rights to information, blogger, writer of children literature and collector. After he passed away on 26 November 2019, many people have written obituaries about him focusing on his versatility. Based on his passion in journalism, development journalism, community media and information communications technologies, we can present him as a person who believed in the power of media and technology.
His transition from analogue to digital is interesting. He bought a German-made typewriter with a British lahure in 1968 while he was working as a teacher in a school in Ridi, Gulmi. This analogue typewriter was handy and was helpful in preparing exam questions of the school where he was teaching, and typing chapters of the rare books bought from Lucknow as demanded by students. When he started to publish a periodical Shreenagar around 1971, he had to visit Varanashi and Gorakhpur to print some of their issues. This changed after he established his own printing press Kumar Press around 1973 investing 20 thousand rupees. Then he published newspapers, books, leaflets and pamphlets in this letterpress. In 1995 he bought a small black and white tablet computer, which he bought when he went to the US in International Visitors Program.
I think I met him for the last time in 2017 at his home at Sanepa. When I visited Nepal to do my fieldwork on media and technology in Nepal as a graduate student of Kyoto University, he was in the list of people I had to interview to know about the digital transitions of Nepali newspapers. During this meeting on 26 January 2017, for about two hours, he shared his knowledge about the transition of Nepali society from analogue to digital technologies. We talked about many things: media (newspapers, and magazines), technologies (typewriters, printing presses, computers, and mobile phones), and journalism (print and online).
His involvement in left politics encouraged him to publish his own newspaper, Satya in 1983. During the referendum in 1981, he published leaflets and pamphlets in his printing press for democrats. But his involvement in politics gave less time for him to publish his newspapers. Then he thought to register a new newspaper after the referendum. However, getting a new newspaper registered was not easy for him: even when the government had opened the registration of new newspapers, Chief District Officer did not register it. At last, he was able to register Satya, after Kamal Raj Regmi helped him.
Satya was published from 14 April 1983 till 10 February 1995. As mentioned by Pramod Pradhan in his book on the contribution of Vinaya Kasajoo in children literature, he chose this name as the most popular Soviet newspaper Pravda means Satya in Nepali or truth. Kasajoo was apprehended twice for publishing contents in Satya in 1985. First, from May 18 to June 10 1985, he was jailed for publishing news supporting the movement of teachers. Second, he was charged with sedition for publishing a poem containing a ‘controversial’ line in volume 95 of the newspaper published on the occasion of Teej, and put in prison from 22 September to 6 October 1985. In February 1995, he celebrated its 500th issue and closed it. By that time, he had already edited a rural newspaper, Deurali.
The main aim of Satya was political change, but, Deurali had another motive: community development though media. The idea of this newspaper began in a workshop co-organised by Nepal Press Institute (NPI) and Asian Media Information and Communication Centre(AMIC) around 1986. During this program Bharat Dutta Koirala, Executive Director of NPI, informed him that an organisation from Netherland was planning to publish a newspaper for rural development in Gorkha and requested him to work in the newspaper. Vinaya inquired whether the newspaper can be published in Palpa instead of Gorkha. Then Bharat Dutta Koirala requested him to prepare a plan explaining the nature of newspaper and the way he was going to publish it. Vinaya prepared a plan during the workshop, however, the idea did not materialise as the funding was shifted to Iraq after the Gulf war.
He edited and published Deurali, on 27 April 1994 on behalf of NGO called Rural Development Palpa (RDP). This organisation secured the fund from the Asia Foundation for the first three years, and periodic financial support from a Danish organisation, MS Nepal. He conducted Barefoot Journalism Training for non-journalists so that they could send news they cared for, to the newspaper. By 2001, 600 individuals received such training. As the newspaper used simple and informal language from the beginning, it became very popular among readers including neo-literates.
Some of books he wrote include Samudaik Radio: Sthapana ra Sanchalanko Lagi Sahayogi Pustika, Suchana Prabidhiko Sakti ra Nepalma Yesko Upayog, and Mediako Loktantrikaran. The three books were written for laymen to inform them about the importance and power of media and technology. The first one is targeted to people who are interested in community radio. The second book has two parts: one, providing general information about information technology, and other, the growth and potential use of IT in Nepal. The third book highlights the democratisation of media in Nepal such reform of government-media, easy access to means of communications, and end of media monopoly. He served in many posts including director of Media Services International, a member of High Level Media Advisory Commission and the Chief Information Commissioner, and National Information Commission, Nepal.
The death of Vinaya Kasajoo is an irreparable loss to Nepali society. He not only studied, and thought, about the use of media and technologies for social change by empowering people and community, but also practiced and encouraged others to do so. There could be many ways to pay tribute to him. We can collect his articles on the field of media and technology, not yet collected in book form. We can publish his manuscripts and dairies. We can preserve different machines he used such as typewriters, printing presses, and computers. Researchers can work on his biography to know his life and time, using the materials he donated to Martin Chautari and Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya, the huge digital archive he created in his computers and the materials he published, edited, translated, and memories he left with us.

(Maharjan is affiliated to an academic NGO Martin Chautari and writes on issues related to media and technology.)  

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