|Owner(s)||Rashtra Deepika Ltd.|
|Editor||Fr. Alexander Paikada C.M.I|
|Founded||15 April 1887|
Deepika, a Malayalam language newspaper, is one of the oldest newspapers published in India. Started in 1887, it is the oldest Malayalam newspaper now in circulation. Deepika publishes editions from Kottayam, Kochi, Kannur, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. It was controlled by the Syro Malabar Church of Kerala from its inception till 1989. In August 1989, the Deepika and its sister publications came under the ownership of Rashtra Deepika Ltd., a public limited company. The readership of the newspaper is drawn mainly from the Syro Malabar Catholic laity. Msgr.Mathew M.Chalil is the Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) and Fr. Alexander Paikada C.M.I is the Chief Editor of the newspaper.
Deepika has an illustrious history of over a century. It was first published by a Syrian Catholic priest, Nidhirikkal Manikkathanar, or Father Emmanuel Nidhiri, or Nidhiry Mani Kathanar, under the masthead Nasrani Deepika. (Nasrani in Malayalam means a Syrian Christian). The first issue came out on 1887 April 15, which coincided with Vishu (the spring equinox festival according to Kerala tradition). The word "Deepika" in Malayalam means "lamp." Printing was on a crude handmade wooden press.
As its first name denotes, Deepika began as a paper of Syro Malabar Nasranis or Catholics of Kerala's Syran tradition. From its very inception it was run by Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), a religious order within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. In 1989 its control was transferred to a Public Limited Company, "Rashtra Deepika Ltd".
Deepika has a long tradition of going for bold innovations. It introduced many changes in Malayalam journalism. The following is but a sample of its impressive achievements:-
- First newspaper in Malayalam to be published on a daily basis.
- First among Malayalam newspapers to go online. It is still the largest Indian vernacular online newspaper.
- First Malayalam newspaper to devote a full page for sports and agriculture news.
- Rashtra Deepika, its sister-eveninger, is the largest circulated of its kind in India according to ABC.
- Online edition-Deepika.com, Deepika global, Deepika global Radio are also popular among Malayalees the world over.
- Altogether, Rashtra Deepika group has more than 15 million readers all over the world.
Kuttikalude Deepika, Business Deepika, Children's Digest, Rashtra Deepika Cinema, Streedhanam, Karshakan, are the other publication of the Rashtra Deepika Ltd.
Ownership troubles (2004-2007)
Pharis Aboobacker|M. A. Pharis, a real estate entrepreneur, came into the financially ailing Rashtra Deepika Private Limited in 2004 with a loan of Rs. 20 million following its decision to sell shares through private placement. The loan was welcomed as a relief to the company which was going through a resource crunch. The then Deepika chairman, Bishop Mathew Arakkal, had sent out a note to the share-holders dated 20 July 2006 in which he made the following statement: "I made sincere attempts to mobilize funds from within the community, but the responses were very disappointing. In these circumstances, I contacted Mr. M A Pharis, a Muslim NRI entrepreneur of considerable resources. He agreed to advance a small interest free loan of Rs. 20 million to RDL for two years. He said if we were unable to repay the loan, it would be considered as zakat." Pharis was allowed a seat on the board of directors and later was made a vice chairman of the company. In stages, he had advanced around 100 million to the company and was practically calling the shots in its editorial policy.Church could do nothing as Pharis's connections seem to be too far reaching. It was then the Church leadership came to its senses and found that their traditional newspaper was now taking up a totally different role and was acting more like the voice of a group in the CPI(M). In the group war between senior Kerala CPM leaders Pinarayi Vijayan and VS Achuthanandan, Deepika was acting as the unofficial mouthpiece for Pinarayi. It was a curious turn of events for the newspaper which led the Liberation Struggle in 1958 against the Communists. Church was also concerned about the track record of Pharis who had emerged as the real power centre within the paper. He had lot of opposition from various church groups also.He was able to manage Deepika single Handedly without even stepping into its office.Worried, the Church decided to raise money to repay Pharis. At one point there was an agreement between the Church and Pharis that the Church would retain its properties at the headquarters at Kottayam while all other offices and other properties of Deepika elsewhere would go to Pharis as part of the settlement. According to conservative estimates, the assets the Church was willing to part with were worth more than Rs. 200 million, that is more than double his actual investment. It showed how desperate the Church was to salvage its public image. The church was later pressurised to put advertisement in Malayala Manorama newspaper claiming that Pharis is innocent and that Pharis will handover the newspaper whenever the Church wanted which he did. Sathyadeepam, the official weekly publication of the Ernakulam arch diocese of the Syro Malabar Church, wrote a strong article condemning the affairs at Deepika and its loss to the Church because of mismanagement. Many other catholic periodicals also raised their voice for the restoration of Deepika to the church. As on 28 January 2008, the ownership was relieved from Pharis after a long series of hefty negotiations between the church and Pharis.
The Rashtra Deepika group of publications include the following:
- The Rashtradeepika - Evening Daily
- Business Deepika - Complete Business Weekly
- Karshakan - Agricultural monthly
- Sthreedhanam - Women's monthly
- Rashtra Deepika Cinema - Film Magazine
- Kuttikalude Deepika - Children's Fortnightly
- Children's Digest - Children's Monthly (English)
- www.deepika.com - Online newspaper
- www.deepikaglobal.com - Online English newspaper
- Chocolate - Educational Supplement
The current major shareholders include Deepthi Media Trust (Kakkanadu), Chavara Media Trust (Kakkanad), Deepika Printers Society, Srothas India Trust (Syro-Malankara Major Archeparchy of Trivandrum), St. Joseph's Trust (Thalassery), Syro-Malabar Archepharchial Trust (Changanachery), Mr. Joseph Kunju (Syrian Catholic NRI), Dr. Francis Cleetus (Syrian Catholic NRI), George Jacob Mannamplackal (Syrian Catholic NRI), C P Paul Chungath (Syrian Catholic Jeweller), Johny Kuruvila Padickamyalil (Syrian Catholic NRI) and several other Syro-Malabar dioceses and archdioceses.