Sanjoy Ghose founded Charkha in 1994, giving shape to his dream of an equitable India that uses the democratic power of the media to give its unheard, disadvantaged citizens a voice.
Sanjoy’sown vivid, intense writings reflecting the realities of rural India during his years in western Rajasthan with theURMUL Trust and later with AVARDNE in the north-eastern region were well received in the mainstream press of the day. In 1990, he had started a monthly column, Village Voice, in the then-leading daily, The Indian Express.It is in this fertile soil that Charkha came to life.
In the early 1990s, India was at the threshold of change, growing in leaps and bounds with a newly liberalized economy. Sanjoy was dismayed at the alarming rate at which the gap between the vibrant, informed ‘India’ and the socio-economically backward, unheard ‘Bharat’ was widening. His belief that many more writers and writings would be needed to highlight the rising disparity led him to rope in other writers and voluntary groups across the social sector.
To disseminate the writings thus generated, the dedicated Gandhian put together a modest but efficient channel that he named Charkha, for it was intended to be a platform that would spin action into words.
With the buy-in of the editors of all major dailies, Charkha Features began to be carried extensively in newspapers and magazines across India. Social activists thronged the one-room Charkha office housed in a borrowed space in Delhi, keen to have their struggles and campaigns bolstered by media coverage, jubilant at encouraging responses and successes the articles were triggering.
In July 1997, the steadily growing but still nascent network was dealt a severe blow with the abduction of Sanjoy by the ULFA in Assam. The editorial team of two in Delhi worked relentlessly in those initial years despite the perpetual shortage of resources; inspired by the dream they had inherited from Sanjoy.
If the communities residing in the far-flung and conflict-affected areas are enabled to use the media creatively for highlighting their development challenges then they will be better able to become responsible for their own development because direct linkages are likely to establish between them and the Government officials/ like-minded people/ other organizations, thus bridging the gaps between them.