When Emergency was declared, Nayar had been one of the first journalists to be put behind bars for his detailed documentation of human rights violations by the state.
Leaving behind an irreplaceable legacy in the annals of Indian journalism, veteran journalist and author Kuldip Nayar bid adieu to the world during the early hours of Thursday, 23 August following a brief illness, at the age of 95.
Today’s generation might not be very familiar with this stalwart of the Indian press – a distinguished contemporary of eminent journalists like Ajit Bhattacharjea and George Verghese, he carved a rare niche at a time when Indian journalism was just taking off.
As penned down by notable historian Ramachandra Guha, these three ‘gentlemen of the press’ were amongst the very few dissidents who had the journalistic integrity to honourably resist chasing ephemera and entertainment.
“These men are all in their seventies, which means they came of the age around the time India became free. All were shaped by the humane and inclusive spirit of the freedom struggle, and all joined the press when it was a trade that was neither glamorous nor well paid,” he had written for The Hindu in 2003.
One doesn’t have to be in the field to know what the 1975 Emergency meant for journalists and the freedom of Press in the country – a turbulent period that continues to be described as the darkest hour for Indian journalism. Countless press members, including Nayar, were put behind bars and tortured for their resistance against the state.
Particularly known for his illustriously long career as a left-wing political commentator, here are 7 things about Kuldip Nayar that made him a legend of Indian journalism:
1. Starting out as an Urdu press reporter, Nayar then went on to become the Delhi bureau editor of the iconic English newspaper The Statesman, and later the head of the news agency, UNI.
2. He had been at the forefront of covering every historic moment the country had seen – from the 1971 Indo-Pak war for the liberation of Bangladesh to the infamous Emergency of 1975.
3. In fact, when Emergency was declared, Nayar had been one of the first journalists to be put behind bars for his detailed documentation of human rights violations by the state.
4. Nayar had also been a staunch human rights and peace activist, who had been quite vocal about breaking the ice between India and Pakistan and led many peace-centred initiatives.
5. Nayar’s syndicated column, ‘Between the Lines’, was a true reflection of his dedicated advocacy for the freedom of the press. His political commentary was well known for being critical, vociferous and unabashed throughout his active years.
6. Besides being a member of India’s delegation to the United Nations in 1996, Nayar had also essayed the roles of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in 1990 as well as a nominated Rajya Sabha member in August 1997.
7. The man had authored many books, of which his autobiography, Beyond the Lines and other works like Distant Neighbours: A Tale of the Subcontinent, India after Nehru, Wall at Wagah, India-Pakistan Relationship, The Judgement, The Martyr, Scoop and India House reflected his vision of a new South Asia, one that had Pakistan and India on amicable terms.
The journalistic legacy left behind by Kuldip Nayar can never be replaced, whose integrity in an industry that is often criticised for a lack of it would forever remain a benchmark for members of the press and journalism students across the country.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)