Asia Undercovered Q&A: Chandrani Sinha, India
This is our seventh Asia Undercovered Journalist Q&A, for paid subscribers, which allows local and regional journalists to share their thoughts on reporting, global coverage of Asia, and more. This month we speak with Chandrani Sinha, a freelance journalist based in Guwahati, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. She covers the region for national and global media outlets, include Vice, Mongabay, Washington Post, The Wire India, and more.
Northeast India is the region of the country to the north and east of Bangladesh, encompassing eight states with a population of 45 million – more than Malaysia, Taiwan, and about the same size as Spain. It is a region of incredible linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity, with 17 official, and dozens of unofficial, spoken languages. Despite this, it is often ignored by global media, and even Indian media, making Chandrani’s reporting a rare insight into this fascinating, important region.
Stories she’s covered include the stripping of citizenship of climate refugees in Assam, regional campaigning during the 2019 Indian election, and the failure to follow up on journalist murders. She speaks to us about her reporting, how she became a journalist and the challenges in covering NE India.
Nithin: How and why did you decide to become a journalist?
Chandrani: My journey as a journalist was a coincidence. I wanted to study psychology but the day I went for my admission, I was informed that all the seats for the psychologically batch were taken. And I had to get myself admitted in leftover seats; journalism. So I studied journalism by luck, or by chance.
When I came back to Assam after finishing my studies, my plan was to stay here for a very short period of time, because I was thinking to move back to the tier 1 cities for better career opportunities. But because of my family who were based in Assam that time, I had to stay back. And landed up in a job in a regional media platform, from where I started my career.
As a cub journalist I lacked confidence. I used to fumble while speaking with people. I'm a very introverted and private person. Slowly, when I started writing my stories, through it I found myself developing my confidence.
My passion for journalism didn’t come immediately with my studies. I felt it's my responsibility, as a person who is from Northeast India, that I should bring all the lesser heard voices to the mainstream media.
And this is a way how I can help my folks. I didn't know how to go with it. But as I grew, in my career, I met people, I understand, I realized, so it was kind of a self-awakening thing.
10 years being in journalism, and I think this is what I really want to do.