(BiharTimes)The state of Bihar owes a great deal for its birth and development to the newspaper 'The Bihar Times' whose publication started in the year 1894 to give a boost to the demand for the separation of Bihar from Bengal which comprised of the the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Assam. In this congeries, Bihar was a non-entity as all attention were given to Bengal, Calcutta, being the centre of administration.
After the decisive battle of Buxar, the Emperor, Shah Alam of Delhi throne transferred the diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to East India Company whose centre of activities was Calcutta. As such, there was little education in Bihar and the State was socially, educationally and economically backward and exploited.
It was in the year 1889 that Late Sachchida Nand Sinha went to England for doing Bar-at- Law. There, he became a butt of ridicule when he called himself a Bihari, coming from Bihar which had no existence on the map of the country. This humiliating experience provided a spur to Dr Sinha to strive for a niche and separate identity for the state of Bihar. In 1893, having successfully completed his Bar-at-Law, he returned to Patna and took a vow to rest content only after making Bihar-a separate administrative unit. But the struggle for Bihar like all other struggles also brought stiff opposition in its wake as volatile Bengal was not agreeable to separate identity for Bihar.
Nevertheless, the idea for separation of Bihar started taking shape and for spreading it and eliciting public support in its favour, publication of a weekly journal ''Bihar Times'' was started in the year 1894 with the support and cooperation of Nandkishore Lal of Gaya, Rai Bahadur Shreekrishna Sahay and famous journalist, Mahesh Narain who became its editor. In the initial years, this weekly journal exclusively devoted itself to the struggle for separation of Bihar from Bengal and this movement became widespread. After sometime, Dr S N Sinha and Nandkishore Lal submitted a memorandum on behalf of many local institutions to Lt governor Alexander Mackenji for separation of Bihar from Bengal. In 1906, Rajendra Prasad who was secretary of 'Bihari Club' of Calcutta, organised a conference of Bihari students at Patna in consultation with Sachchida Nand Sinha and Mahesh Narain.
In this conference, a student committe was formed to give fillip to the separatist movement and thus it gained great momentum. In 1907, Mahesh Narayan died but the movement got backing of Maulana Mazrul Haque, Ali Imam, Rai Bahadur Brahmdeo Prasad, Hasan Imam. With their help in 1908, the first convention of Bihar State Sammelan was held at Patna in which a resolution was unanimously passed to separate Bihar from Bengal. The same demand was repeated in its second convention at Bhagalpur in 1909. After a few months of this convention, Dr S.N.Sinha and Mazrul Haque were elected members of Imperial Legislative Council from the quota of Bengal Legislative Council and Muslim minority seat. By this time, the separatist movement had got recognition in the eyes of British administration. It was at that time that the then law member S.P.Sinha resigned from his post and Vice-Roy Lord Minto made Consultation with Dr Sinha to fill up the said post. Dr Sinha suggested the name of Ali Imam who was appointed Law member in place of S.P.Sinha. Ali Imam proved very helpful in furthering and giving legal boost to the idea of separation. In 1911, in Delhi Durbar, George V was going to be declared Emperor of India.On this occasion, the Secretary of India affairs wrote a letter to Govt of India in which he emphasised the demand of the Biharees terming them''healthy and law-abiding who were different to Bengalese in their origin, language, propensities, land and thinking.'' It was also communicated that on 12th December, a Lt governor in council separately for Bihar and Orissa would be appointed. This was announced in the Delhi Durbar to everybody's satisfaction amidst great rejoicings. Thus Bihar and Orissa became separate administrative unit under Lt Governor in council from 1st April,1912. In due course, Orissa was also separated from Bihar from 1st April,1936.
' Bihar Times' played its role effectively, true to its purpose, in educating the masses to struggle for creation of Bihar. This journal took up the cause of Bihar and nourished the idea that the separation of Bihar from Bengal would provide the necessary relief to the Bengal administration which will be convenient to Govt of India and in due course 'Bihar Times' influenced other newspapers of neighbouring states also in moulding them towards the idea of creation of Bihar. With the death of Mahesh Narain, it got a big jolt, nevertheless, the paper continued to come out and much later it took the form of 'Motherland' and it still continues to serve the state of Bihar in its new avatar on internet and thus the history of this paper originates from 19th century and traversing its long journey through 20th century, it will now enter the 21st century after a year with a renewed and added zeal to serve the friends of Bihar in India and abroad in the new age of information technology.
*The writer is Retd Professor, M.I.T Muzaffarpur.