"Pen is mightier than Sword"
With masters in English literature, post graduate diploma in journalism and LL.B from Delhi University, Anto Akkara has been a journalist with international media for a quarter century. The journalist author who firmly believes that 'the pen is mightier than the sword' has reported extensively from hotspots in South Asia on human rights concerns, religious issues and social problems.
He has covered extensively from the ground the massive Gujarat earthquake, 2004 tsunami devastation, Sri Lankan war, oppression in Myanmar, and birth of democracy and devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015. In the process, he was won a dozen national and international media awards.
In 1992, he won the ‘Media in your Country Award of International Network of Young Journalists for his article on the plight of the media caught between the devil and the deep sea in troubled Kashmir, and travelled to Brazil to receive the award. He won the ‘Media in your Continent Award in 1995 of Geneva-based UCIP.
While the Mumbai-based Examiner weekly conferred its Silver Pen Award to Anto on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Indian Independence, Anto was chosen for the Raoul Follereau Award of AIFO Foundation in Italy instituted in memory of a valiant journalist – from worldwide nominations for his committed reporting on stigmatized lepers, AIDS infected and social concerns.
He has to his credit several 'leader' articles for the Times of India - like 'tribals are not museum pieces', 'open prison called Myanmar' and ‘Lankan landmine’ etc - on sensitive topics and his international investigative reports have been carried even in Washington Post and New York Times.
Telling people’s stories has been the journalist's passion. This inspired him to take a step higher beyond journalism and be a voice for the voiceless with life-changing advocacy for the hapless victims of Kandhamal conflagration in Odisha state in eastern India.
When the national media forgot the simmering anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal jungles of Odisha from August 2008, it was Anto who stirred the national conscience with his investigative book 'Kandhamal - a blot on Indian Secularism' after repeated arduous trips to the Kandhamal jungles.
Since veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar described the book as 'one of the must-read books' at its launch in New Delhi in April 2009, it has been hailed by cross sections. During the Bangalore launch, Justice M F Saldana said that given the objectivity of the book, it should be treated as an 'official report' of the Kandhamal violence and the government should act on it. K G Kannabiran, president of People's Union for Civil Liberties, hailed the book as 'a charge-sheet on Kandhamal' during the launch in Hyderabad. Renowned litterateur Sukumar Azhikode recommended the book to be made a 'text book' at its release at the Kerala Sahitya Academy. Given the impact the investigative book made, the author had a personal audience with P. Chidambaram, Home Minister of India who not only visited Kandhamal soon after receiving the book and he even told Indian Parliament in July 2009 that what happened in Kandhamal was 'a blot on the face of Orissa' – quoting the title of the book.
After laying bare before the nation the 'true story' of Kandhamal as 'The Hindu' remarked, Anto's second book on Kandhamal titled 'Shining Faith in Kandhamal' was released during the Catholic Mission Congress in Mumbai in October 2009.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop and president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) in his 'Foreword' to the book described it as 'A Book of Revelation'. "Shining Faith in Kandhamal reveals a true journalist who cannot remain a mute spectator in the face of inhuman atrocities. Love and responsibility for one's fellowmen finds expression in concern for the truth," pointed out Cardinal Vithayathil.
Released by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for Evangelisation of People’s of the Vatican in February 2013, 'Early Christians of 21 Century - stories of incredible Christian witness from Kandhamal jungles', recounted the incredible Christian witness amid brutal persecution in Kandhamal.
On the 5th Kandhamal anniversary in 2013, the journalist author brought out 'Kandhamal craves for Justice' drawing national attention to the travesty of justice. While Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, former chief justice of Delhi, acclaimed that "The book has a story to tell", The Tehelka magazine noted that in the book, the author "tells the horror and its aftermath"
‘Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?’, brought out in May 2016 has been the journalist author’s masterpiece on Kandhamal, exposing the Kandhamal fraud perpetrated by the Hindu nationalists and exposed the shocking travesty of justice with seven innocent Christians fraudulently convicted to life imprisonment for the Hindu leader’s murder that triggered the Kandhamal conflagration.
The investigative book with Foreword by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar made the media rewrite the Kandhamal Christian conspiracy script with The Telegraph bringing to national attention ‘Kandhamal Tale in New Light and leading Odia daily 'Sambad' declaring that "People have been fooled' with the orchestrated Hindu nationalist propaganda that the Hindu leader’s murder was a Christian conspiracy.
During the release of the Malayalam translation of this book, Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of southern Kerala state, called for ‘a fresh probe’ into Kandhamal as seven innocent Christians are languishing in jail. Apart from exposing the Kandhamal fraud, the author has been anchoring an online signature campaign for the release of the seven innocents of Kandhamal - six of them illiterates - drawing international attention to the abuse of the judicial system by the Hindu nationalists to perpetrate a fraud on the nation.
Winner of National essay contest-cum-debate organized by Indian Council of Philosophical Research on ‘Philosophy and Social Change’.
Media in your Country Award of International Network of Young Journalists for his article on the plight of the media caught between the devil and the deep sea in troubled Kashmir, and travelled to Brazil to receive the award.
Archbishop Casimir Award of New Leader magazine from Chennai.
Media in your Continent Award of Geneva-based UCIP for studying the satellite TV traffic jam over Asia and received it in Austria.
Silver Pen Award of 'Examiner' weekly, published from Mumbai, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Indian independence.
Journalism for Human Rights Award (honourable mention) of PUCL (People's Union for Civil Liberties) for exposing Grasim Rayons at Mavoor in Kerala for producing cancer along with silk in a cover story in ‘Down to Earth’.
Raoul Follereau Award of AIFO Foundation in Italy instituted in memory of a valiant journalist – for his committed reporting on stigmatized lepers, AIDS infected and social concerns and received the award in Rome.
Media Award of KCBC (Kerala Catholic Bishops Council) for stirring national conscience on Kandhamal conflagration.
Blessed Titus Brandsma Award for Journalism of ICOM - International Christian Organisation of the Media for his ‘stellar role in highlighting the gross denial of fundamental rights and freedom of religion in the Kandhamal jungles of Orissa’. The triennial award, conferred at the World Media and Journalism Congress at Panama City in October, has been instituted in memory of Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Dutch journalist and Carmelite priest who died in at Dachau concentration camp in 1942 for writing an editorial criticizing Hitler.