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Latest revision as of 11:17, 3 November 2017

interviewEE* Name: Coomi Kapoor

  • Occupation: Jounralist


Medium: Video + Audio recordings* Format: Audio .wav

  • Language: English with smatterings of Hindi expressions
  • Location of Interview: Residence- Nizamudin East
  • Date of the interview: 18 February 2016

Clip name/DURATION: * kf_CKapur_raw.WAV

  • Length 00: 53:15
  • Bit rate: 1411kbps
  • Size: 537 MB
  • Date modified: 18/02/2016

Interview Start

0:03 [Kai] Interview with Coomi Kapoor on the 18 Feb 2016 at her home in Nizamudin East. 0:12 Coomi, if you could start by telling me little bit about where you came from and how you began in journalism and when.  

0:18 [CK] I was living in Bombay, no connection with Delhi. I was a science student, my father wanted me to do medicine but I didn't...so I took zoology, chemistry. Then I didn't want to continue in science and I thought I'd go...In those days our generation a lot of people were going into advertising, and I wanted to go to advertising. And mother sent me to meet somebody she knew in advertising at the famous Pochkhanwala, which was the artists' hub. 0:59 He said, 'why do you want to go to advertising? Why not journalism?' There were no women in the field at that time.

1:10 [Kai] In advertising?

1:11 [CK] In journalism. 

1:12 [Kai] In...okay.

1:13 [CK] in any case, I must have been easily persuadable. I did my...I did an evening course in journalism from Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Bombay. After that I applied to Boston University and did my Masters in Journalism from there. I came back to India. I applied in the newspapers- The Times and the Indian Express in Bombay. But no response from either. 

1:48 [Kai] This is which year?

1:52 [CK] 19.. I think 1971. Then my brother-in-law [Subramanian Swamy] was in Jana Sangh Party and he said, 'why don't you come to Delhi. There's a paper starting now by the Jana Sangh...RSS' 

2:15 [Kai interrupts] Malkanis' Group 

2:14 [CK] Malkani (starts to agree but corrects)...Malkani wasn't there at that time, called the Mooo… 

2:19 [Kai finishes] Motherland. 

2:19[CK continues] Motherland... So I…

2:21 [Kai asks] So it started only in 71 or so?

2:23 [CK] 72 is it...ah ah no Organiser was there for a long time but they started in 71 . 

2:34 [Kai asks] So you applied there…

2:35 [CK] I....they were happy to have me.

2:40 [Kai asks] And who was the editor at that time? 

2:41 [CK] You see...They had an idea that they were going to be making it non...not blatantly partisan as was the Organiser, which is the weekly paper but it was supposed to be like a general paper but they felt that all newspapers in Delhi were overawed by this establishment so they would not give negative {really loud thump of a cup hitting saucer which drowns out the word} views (?) of Mrs Gandhi who was very strong in those days. Aaaa so I joined ...I came to Delhi, joined the Motherland. It was a very good experience. 

3:20 [Kai] Where was…was...it...was it near Caxton Press it was? 

3:22 [CK] in Jhandewalan

3:24 [Kai interrupts] Caxton Press was nearby 

3:25 [CK] what is there at Caravan...the old Caravan 

3:29 [Kai] Yes, yes... 

3:29 [CK] You know that road…where Deendayal Upadhyaya that was the office.

3:36 [Kai] yes, yes, I know...I used to go to ...my father was a journalist, so I used to go to… 

3:38 [Ck] Where…where...where was he?

3:39 [Kai] He was a foreign correspondent for German papers, but he ...before that he worked for the German Embassy's magazine, which used to be printed at Caxton Press. 

3:48 [CK] It was where the present Deendayal Upadhyaya thing is. The original building was the Motherland.

3:57 [Kai] And who was the editor? 

3:57 [CK] Editor...they wanted to be respectable at that time so they ...the editor was a gentleman Mal...Mankekar...K. R. Mankekar...who was the resident editor of the Times of India. And there were two sets of people there. There were people like me who were chosen purely on ...you know... professional basis and there were some who had come because of their connection with the RSS. Malkani was the deputy editor.

4:30 [Kai]And did he have RSS connections

4:32 [CK] Of course, Malkani was earlier the editor 

4:34 [Kai] No, I mean this Malkekar. 

4:35 [CK] Not at all...not at all. He was with Times of India for many years, before that for some other newspaper...senior...well. But a lot of his contemporaries felt, sort of, that it was very 4:54 to join, because you know RSS was looked upon as in those days 

5:01 [Kai interjects] beyond the pale...

5:03 [CK] Beyond the pale. For some rhyme or reason, in those days, they were certainly joining it. But the Congress...I mean it wasn't considered at all reputable to be in Motherland. A lot of people wouldn't talk to you. 

Keywords: background Bhartiya Bhawan, Bombay Boston University few women in journalism looking for job Jana Sangh starting a Motherland not blatantly partisan Caxton Press Kai’s father K. R. Mankekar being at Motherland not reputable

5:27 [Kai] So how did you feel about that since you had done a professional degree?

5:28 [CK] I I I...I'm glad I started there because it gave a kind of experience I would have never got in a mainline newspaper....because there were 3 or 4 journalists....4 or 5 reporters....so I did all the beats...things which I wouldn't have done...for a women.

5:50 [Kai] for example...what were you put on to?

5:51 [CK] Covered things ...covered many things....but I also had to cover the municipal corporation. You see in those days there was usually one woman per newspaper. And the woman usually did the features, you know...flower show and the prizes and things like that...didn't do beats and things like that ...but Motherland was the paper which didn't have the luxury, you know, of anyone being slotted in a particular thing. So I had to do beats plus. 

6:27 [Kai] You worked the local politics.

6:28 [CK] Local politics was one but I covered a lot of other politics because there were two elections—first there was the Assembly Election then was the Parliament Election. So I was put...thrust into the middle of the thing and also the Motherland was able to write far more freely than you would anywhere else, even the Express so like and my first one...my first scoop was ... you won't know all these but Nagarwala Case ... I mean this was much before your time. 

7:03 [Kai] No its not.

7:05 [CK] But like, you know. We did a serious pointing out that the story that the Government was giving out that Nagarwala was ... (note: delete 'was' for correct reading of the sentence) impersonated the the...Mrs. Gandhi's voice...had taken out the money was highly implausible...in fact, since I am Parsi, I had gone to Parsi Anjuman where he stayed and that man said that he had a speak (sic) impediment. I knew Nagarwala actually...he's a family friend. And there's no way he could imitate Mrs Gandhi's voice. I met him in jail also. I was going for another story and thing...So I mean there was quite a lot of freedom to do stories. I was on the campus 

7:48 [Kai] You interviewed him in jail and wrote about that?

7:48 [CK] I did. I talked to him and I wrote about it but I had to say, I was told to say that I had gone with a Jana Sangh Counsellor - Jail Counsellor, who was a BJP. So he said...since I wasn't supposed to have been there, he said, 'you say as told to the other man.' That is what he was saying. Uhmmm so anyway I was there for two years and then I applied for a job in the Indian Express. 

8:23 [Kai] And why...because you thought you had more experience or …

8:26 [CK] No...there's a difference ...I mean...To be in Motherland was a handicap. You know I can remember even you're you were doing pro-stories...I remember the Bangladesh War ...you know...relief collection and all, I was sent to do a story to meet Padmaja Naidu. As soon as she heard the name Motherland, she refused to talk to me. And people were a little intimated and scared.

8:55 [Kai enquires] This was the time as I recall there were three party affiliated [papers]...Patriot, National Herald, Motherland. Any others? These were the three main (last bit overlaps with CK's agreement) 

9:06 [CK] These were the three mains...the three ones. So in any case I applied for a job in the Indian Express and Frank Moraes was just leaving so he deferred me to the man who was just coming...Mankekar who was quite impressed with my clippings. 

9:29 [Kai asks] Hang on...Mankekar (a bit confusing attempt to pen the correct identity of the editor by both, Kai and CK)

 9:31 [CK] I'm so sorry. Mulgaokar...Mulgaonkar...It was [S.] Mulgaonkar. He was just joining there. He took me on

9:40 [Kai asks] as? 

9:40 [CK] As a reporter but, in fact, since I was getting a salary, I remember he said....(leaves the thought incomplete and rephrases it) I thought I'll have to take a cut in the salary because the salaries were very low in those days. And in Motherland… 

9:49 [Kai asks] Approximately? in the hundreds or

9:50 [C K] No, If I'm not mistaken I started in Motherland with 400 rupees. And all my money used to go on scooters because I lived in the IIT Campus with my sister and my chief reporter was originally to get me out so he would send me to the university, then he'd send me to somewhere Jamia Milia, somewhere where women were allowed.

10:17 [Kai] And you weren't reimbursed for transport? 

10:19 You got some things....you weren't reimbursed...I mean it was counted as part of your salary but I think it was 400. What I do know is when I went to the Indian Express, they weren't paying very well So I thought I may have to take a cut. But Mulgaonkar said, 'no, I'll give you more than what you're getting.' So when I came in I found I was getting more than everybody else as the Chief Reporter.  So the male reporters were all fuming and …

10:56 [Kai] Any other women reporters at the time?

10:59 [CK]  You see in every newspaper there was one woman. In the Times of India, there was Usha Rai...In the Hindustan Times, there was Barkha Dutt

11:12 [Kai corrects] not Barkha... her mother...? 

11:14 [CK] aaa. sorry...what's her name?

11:16 [Kai adds] Prabha 

11:17 [CK] Prabha Dutt. Prabha Dutt... In the...Indian Express, there was Razia Ismail and so that the woman slot was there. So but when I came in, in any case, my colleagues were so aggressive, they said, 'you're going to do night duty.' I said, 'yeah, I was doing night duty for Motherland, I'll do it over here.' Before that women weren't doing night duty. And it was one way of keeping women out of the profession because you...what is his name...the news editor...Piloo Saxena ...he had a glib explanation which they all used to give, which is that you know, under the Factory Act we'll get into trouble if we keep a woman late at night. So that's why we don't take woman...because they can't do night duty. 

Key words

About Motherland- its nature, freedom to write maverick nature some people wouldn’t entertain, eg. Padmaja Naidu Nagarwala Case shift to Indian Express salary

12:11 [Kai] In Motherland did you experience any tussles? 

12:15 [CK] No, no I had to work for my...that's why I got a very good experience because I was a new reporter I just did about everything including of course night duty and all that....so there was no question of this...There was shortage of manpower and you had to pull your weight. So same in Express, they put me on night duty. They gave me beats. 

12:35 [Kai] And what beats did you get here? Anything new?

12:37 [CK] I started in university...corporation also for a while. I did everything but that was unusual for a woman because earlier I'd said that woman was usually doing, you know, Monday...they used to have a diary and like pieces and things like that. It wasn't usually beat reporting and....this late night duty etc. 

13:04 [Kai] And were you building a network by this stage among politicians or were they pushing you to exploit your connections with the Jana Sangh 

13:13 [CK] No no...I didn't have any connections with Jana Sangh. I mean I knew the people who were there…

13:16 [Kai]....your brother-in-law ?

13:16 [CK] Ha....but he wasn't very high in those days in the party. No they weren't ...there was a clear distinction, which still is, I think. It was more then 13:28 [phone rings] 

13:29 [Kai] You said that your connections with Jana Sangh were not particularly strong so 

13:35 [CK] I mean I knew them. I knew them, I'd been covering them but that wasn't the reason...that had anything to do. They put me onto it for local reasons. There was a difference. You see, unlike now when people jump straight into the national politics, there was a clear cut class divide. The reporter who covered the local…

13:56 [Kai adds] as a junior person

13:56 [CK] as a junior person, then you went into bureau and then you started covering the national parties, and parliament and all that. 

14:06  [Kai]...but was crime useful in getting police contacts? Did that help you later at all or not? 

14:11 [CK] It always helps you. Yeah. There's crime...even though politicians whom I covered in the corporation and later on it was then called the Delhi Administration. They also grew up to join the national politics. So then...So anyways I was covering those. 

14:40 [Kai] And now we're in the run up to ...this is about 70...You went to Indian Express in what...? 73  or 74.

14:45 [CK] You know, I'm very bad with dates. 

14:49 [Kai] Well, how long had you been there?

14:49 [CK] It was December 73 yeah...72...December 72. I think.


CK’s work profile at Express Women not allowed night duty nor beats covering municipal corporation any advantage of connections with Jana Sangh class divide among journalists Prabha Dutt Razia Ismail

14:59 [Kai] So say a bit about the approach of Emergency and how much shock or …

15:09 [CK] It was a shock but like let me tell you that the situation in Delhi was such...that as I told you I was treated by certain quarters in government and establishment as untouchable because I worked in the Motherland.

15:23 [Kai corrects] ...because you had worked in the Motherland?

15:24 [CK] no...no...yeah...not so much but when I was working in Motherland (Kai says 'right' in the background). The papers generally towed the establishment line and the coverage was, if you see the newspapers of those days, they're so dull. He said ....what ...somebody made a speech was the lead, you know...conventional thing. You might add a good exclusive story, coloured story, or featured story always inside. By-lines were given almost never almost very infrequently, you know, some big thing. It was...at the same time a very clear cut class divide. What the bureau did was put on the front page, what the reporters did was inside. It wasn't really a judgement of the news value of a story, news interest of a story. So...at that time most of the newspapers...Hindustan Times, The Times of India...not the Statesman, the Express...they were considered pro-government papers. So...I mean it was considered sort of outside the pale and beyond the establishment if you were doing a negative view. Censorship of any type, it was just that feeling that the Congress is the Party and Government and you know and others are…

16:53[Kai] But the Statesman for example was still a very respectable paper but yours was very {Kai's sentence is drowned by CK's sentence} 

16:57[CK] No it was respectable....it was respectable. They were all respectable but there was a feeling that you should be part of the establishment...everybody. Not the Statesman to such an extent. It was an old tradition. Express was okay...more considered a maverick paper. 

17:15 [Kai] And Express at this time in the immediate pre-Emergency was was was not seen as...because of Goenka of being close to the Jana Sangh and RSS? 

17:30 [CK] You see, Goenka had earlier been with the Congress but at this point it was a run-up to the Emergency. Goenka was pro-JP. So Motherland was out-and-out hitting out at the Government about the Maruti, about Nagarwala, all that and that alone writing about these things was considered considered infra-dig (???CHECK)17:51 you know...aaa Express did it and a mainline paper doing it not to the degree of Motherland, where you could just you know, you didn't really have to check too much ...you could...aa…Express was also doing it because now Goenka was with JP and the Movement, So it  started becoming anti-national and I think Goenka had got a loan at that stage from Rajmata of Gwalior, who was also in the Opposition but that didn't, I mean, didn't affect him because he was naturally, tendency by that stage to be anti-the government. So we were much freer in what we could write than the Times of India. There was no censorship or anything of that sort. It was just that the people didn't do. Express was, you had the freedom to do it, certainly. You didn't have the freedom to do it in Hindustan Times, and the Times of India. Just went along, you know, with people...what a particular politician was saying or what a particular political official was saying or the ...there wasn't that much investigation either...little bit here and there and then Emergency came. 

19:23 [Kai] You remember the day, I presume...at work. 

19:29 [CK] Yeah...You see what happened was ...I'd mentioned in my book. June 25, I had been covering Mrs Gandhi's speeches in her roundabout [meaning the traffic roundabout in front of the PM’s residence] before that and Express was hitting out at the government after the judgement of June 12 and everywhere you were giving the story of both sides and everyone was, and I was covering many things but my beat was the Municipal Corporation. Municipal Corporation meant electricity board also. So that June 25 electricity went off.

20:09 [Kai] But you were at the roundabout or at the office? So did you have any inkling…or heard any rumours? 

20:13 [CK] No no, not at all. The roundabout was everyday but not on that particular day. June 25 she wasn't there. But earlier she kept coming there. You know, we used to go in the ...certain times when… 

20:26 [Kai smilingly shares] I went as. [CK: huh?] I went there as well with my father. 

20:31 [CK] Where was your father working? 

20:33 [Kai] He was working for German newspapers. 

20:37 So aaa...uhmmm What do you call it...the electricity went off so they asked me that the person who covering the ...

20:50  [Kai] This was what time of the day?...bijli went.

20:51 [CK] bijli went at by...in the evening. evening...so I phoned up the Deputy General Manager, I think his name was Piloo. He said, he'll see what he can do...this was not an infrequent thing. It did happen...power break downs. So he said... and the power came back. Power came back and I left that day. When I left. I left at the usual time... about...7:30...8, because I wasn't on the night duty...electricity was back. But when I ...early in the morning I got a call...it's all there in the book. From my sister's saying that...  you don't need to know, if you've read the book, you know. 

21:41 [Kai] Phir bhi bataye thoda. It's nice to hear… 

21:41 [CK] My sister saying that Swamy is....there's an arrest warrant for Swamy and they've already arrested other leaders. So my husband said, 'Why did he come over to my house', which was actually his house, which was his Parliament allotted house. But he was living in Greater Kailash. So he was supposed to come over and in the meantime a colleague from Motherland, Manohar, also phoned, and, I think my sister also told me that Malkani is being arrested and some other people.

22:31 [Kai and CK talk simultaneously] He said...so Virendra told him, 'why don't you come over.' This was about 6 O' Clock in the morning. Swamy came over ...may be 5 or something. Virendra took him on his scooter to his friend's house in Gole Market. And....he went across to the UNI so he knew the names of the people who were being arrested. So I did phone up my Chief Reporter, Mr Rehman, I said, 'Look,' because we didn't, I didn't have any transport of my own, and the normal process was when something major happened you were allowed to take the office van. It was used to distribute the newspapers, so it was [called] the ‘dog van.’ I said, 'can I have the dog van, I'll go to the houses of these people who have been arrested and get the reactions from the family, and what happened etc.' He said, 'no no no, don't do anything. Let's just wait and see. You know the paper hasn't come out. The electricity went off.' He said, 'we'll wait and see the situation.' 23:36 So I said, 'okay'. Then they...my sister phoned again to say, 'put on the radio. Mrs Gandhi is announcing that there's an Emergency.' Virendra, in the meantime had gone to...It's there in the book, you know, had gone on to Motherland. I think if you read the book...

24:07 [Kai] Ya ya I have read the book but [CK in the background states...that part is there] tell me about coming back to work and… 

24:14  [CK] So next day I went to work again... (long scramble for words) no...I had got a copy of...Virendra gave me a copy of the Motherland. 

24:30 [Kai] That he had helped to bring out.

24:32 [CK] and the Evening News and there were gaps for me that I wanted to fill. 

24:35 [Kai] by Evening News you mean the HT Evening News

24:36 [CK] Ha...HT Evening News. HT Evening News had the headlines from PTI, just PTI Reports 24:45</span> [Next FEW Mumblings are COMPLETELY UNCLEAR]</u> 24:50 And the newspaper office...Mulgaonkar was very hoity man never sat in his office and never moved out of it at any time.

24:59 [Kai] But now? 


Run-up to the Emergency nature of reporting before emergency HT TOI Statesman

Goenka pro-JP Maruti relative lack of censorship in pre-Emergency days June 12

25 June Indira Gandhi not on her roundabout. June 25 electricity went off call from sister about Swamy’s warrant Meeting with Virendra Chief Reporter Rehman’s wait and see advice declaration of Emergency Motherland editorial that Virendra help bring out

24:59 [CK] And I remember so well he was sitting in the newsroom with his head like this (CK probably enacted the position) and Piloo Sahib was handing him the PTI flashes . And we were bringing ...we were supposed to be bringing out a special edition but of course the electricity was off. The electricity kept going off. So we couldn't bring out anything and then....by the time electricity came back, there was another flash thing censorship 'you can't give anything without...'

25:34 [Kai] That came from PTI? 

25:37 [CK] Yeah PTI. 

25:38 [Kai] How did Mulgaokar address you all or… 

25:40 [CK] No, he didn't address us. 

25:43 [Kai] There was no meeting. 

25:43 [CK] There was no formal meeting at all. 

25:46 [KAI and CK speak simultaneously] [Kai] It was just conversation happening around it [CK] It was all we were all gossiping in the newsroom. You know how newsroom is like. So we were all, you know, quite stunned.  And two days the electricity didn't come back then we had to give it to the Censor so there was obviously nothing...the blank editorial and all you know about that. As I mentioned in the book, Kuldip [Nayar] called us for a meeting and he said that, 'you all should still file whatever is happening and keep it for posterity.'...I didn't follow [that advice]. And we went to the Press Club to this protest meeting. The youngsters like that... that time the younger lot of journalists were in Hindustan Times and The Indian Express, Statesman...to some extent. Statesman had a lot of old people. Times, you never graduated to the bureau till very late so the reporters were quite elderly. They were all sitting...Times reporters were sitting, you know, watching us but not taking part in the proceedings. It was basically the Hindustan Times and maybe few of the younger Statesman reporters, mostly the younger people...all signed the statement, protesting to the Government. The Times was pro-establishment and they were, you know, giving us dirty looks and they were the ones who went back and informed that this is happening. Then you know, Kuldip, was arrested. It's all there in the book.

27:34 [Kai] Virendra was also arrested also. How soon? 

27:35 [CK] Much later…much later. Warrant for Kuldip had come. So then basically you're told censorship is there, then you don't do anything. So basically we did nothing. We did handouts that were coming, we did that. There wasn't anything you could do because the few (CK searches for words) it had to be from senior level that, you know, decision to try in any way to defy the censors. It was in, where Edit Page articles where you sort of made a reference to, you know, dictatorships to try and bring out that point but little little things which one could do and one did like for example, I remember I had to go and interview the girl who had topped the board exam. Her father was in jail. So you couldn't say, 'her father's in jail' but you could say that, 'but the family is not celebrating because father is not at home,' you know things like that. 

28:52 [Kai comments] A very opaque reference. 

28:54 [CK] Opaque references. The .... we did do some stories later on like in Turkman Gate when in the rains, they were shifted to the new thing. Experts wrote about it. I remember writing about it. The photographs and all were there. 

29:13 [Kai] I mean this question interests me because there's such a received opinion that, you know, the Express and Statesman....stood up...were different but…

[CK interjects] yeah There was no way you could ...

[Kai] the fact that nothing was possible…


Mulgaonkar’s reaction censorship continued electricity shortage blank editorial Kuldip [Nayar]

Protest meeting at Press Club age group of reporters at HT, TOI and Statesman TOI being pro-establishment Keldip & Virendra arrested indirect protest reportage dictatorships interview of a board topper whose father had been arrested Turkman Gate

29:29 [CK] It was not possible because in Express case the censors stopped...took over the editions for very long ... so every day it was coming late so it wasn't even being delivered, so there was nothing you could do. What resistance was there was on the Edit page on the first page when they put a blank editorial and things like that but basically there was very little that we did.  What we did all started in 1977, from the reporters' point of view...there were a few edit page articles...very brave edit page articles but Express finest hours was in when the Emergency ...it was... 

30:12 [Kai interjects] When it was declared that it would end. 

30:14 [CK qualifies] It wasn't lifted but it was relaxed and elections were called

[Kai in the background]

[CK] Elections had been declared. Then I must say Mulgaonkar wasn't there by that time, if you remember. What do you call him...[V.K.] Narasimhan gave us full rein and we really did. I remember doing a lot of stories.

30:35 [Kai] It's that way...it's about three months.

30:38 [CK] No, no, just a month and a half. But it was...a month and a half in which we talked about...I remember interviewing all these people who had been tortured, interviewing the family on what they had gone through. Narasimhan allowed all of it. He did the sterilisation 31:04 [CK’s words UNCLEAR] and all that, which none of the others—Statesman was not doing it, by the way.

31:08 [Kai] even though…

31:09 [CK] Express was definitely far more open. 

31:14 [Kai] And you don't think TOI, or HT had started showing any spine by this stage? 

31:18 [CK] Not at all...not at all...

31:24 [Kai] Sham Lal's famous editorial… 

31:24 [CK] The editorial they did the day Emergency is lifted...it came. Not at all. Like Prabha (Dutt), that I remember, she showed something that when Ambika Soni became Chief ...Head of the Youth Congress, Usha had interviewed her. And Prabha could have interviewed her as well and she said, 'Usha, you have no shame to go and interview her...she put Virendra in jail and ...'. I remember that. So I mean little individual touches but there was no doubt that Express, I mean there was no doubt by that time everyone was buying the Express and cutting the circulation of the Hindustan Times, and I mean you know there were...Nandini Chandra, who was with me, this fellow—Vikram Chandra's mother. She said, 'Oh we're so sorry but we don't decide.' But they were really ready to pounce on her at the public rallies and meeting when you said, you were from the Hindustan Times. And the circulation of Express went up and up and up but we couldn't cope with the circulation. Hindustan Times... 

32:40 [Kai] It wasn't attracting advertising as well or what?

32:43 [CK] Advertising in any case had been cut off, because in those days you relied a lot on government advertising. So the circulation was going up but it couldn't cope. So in those month and a half from January till March l.

33:01 [Kai] The reputation was built on ...

33:02 [CK] I mean it really went to town. No...even earlier they did but it was more in the edit pages and reporting…what could...but how much could you do. You could do a little as I said ...vague thing. Sometimes...I remember doing a story about a missing man because I happened to get a crime reporter and I didn't realise that it was just the time of the lifting of the ...you know January, and the police were so rattled, I couldn't understand why they're so rattled. I said, 'that he was taken into police custody and disappeared'. It turned out that this man had been bumped off in the same way that Sunder was bumped off. You know, Sunder was the convict...not convict...dacoit who had escaped from jail and Sanjay Gandhi had ordered his execution...bumped off. And this man was done the same way. 

34:12 [Kai] And why? What was…

34:13 [CK] They just killed off these people. 

34:18 [Kai] But he was a goonda...a dacoit or what was ....why would they want to execute him?

34:21 [CK] No, I don't think there was anything particular about him. I remember he was an auto rickshaw driver. I don't know why...but they were very rattled about we would actually report this case…I remember. And then I...later 37:40 on 

34:38 [Kai] You mean you got calls from the policemen or what? 

34:39  [CK] Yeah, I got calls from policemen and all because they were nervous because Sunderlal had also been done up...killed in the similar manner. 

34:52 [Kai] Was there any scene of underground cyclostyle magazines, pamphlets that were...and were you involved in that at all? 

34:58 [CK] Yes, there were...if you read the book, you’ll see. Yeah...you could say. We were living in VP [Vithalbhai Patel] House. The BJP, Jana Sangh knew they were going to be raided so there cyclostyling machine, they gave us to keep because we were living on the first floor.


Censorship and its impact on reportage relaxation in censorship during elections Narasimhan as the editor Express shining through its reportage Prabha Dutt Circulation of Express challenging HT Ambika Soni Nandini Chandra advertising and funding police rattled & case of Sunderlal & him being bumped off

35:18 [Kai] Achha, you had the cyclostyling machine?

[CK affirms] I had the cyclostyling machine.

[Kai continues] makes a racket though… 

35:21 [CK] It's all mentioned in the book. So the it....my husband helped them cyclostyle Nanaji made various calls to what people should do, how you should quarterise[?], how you should do this, that etc. Then his police officer friend gave him a copy of the banned Time magazine and the Newsweek. So those were circulated...cyclostyled there and then Virendra distributed them. …people in the coffee house, office and things like that. 

36:02 [Kai] But this didn't get confiscated once he was arrested or …

36:05 [CK] By that time....cyclostyle machine...they never knew about it. They...Actually I gave shelter to some…Balbir Punj, I think it's him only, who told the police that there's a cyclostyle ..that they are printing in their house.

36:25 [Kai] He told the police after he was arrested? 

36:26 [CK] Because...no. He was on the wanted list because he was a student leader from the Jana Sangh. He signed the 20-point programme but because my chief reporter told me that the CID man is saying, 'you're a relative of Subramanian Swamy and at your house illicit literature is being printed.' So he...uhmm...but the CID man covered up. A lot of people in those days were helping.  He ignored this. But yeah, literature was being distributed underground. And also papers like Opinion and all that were coming out...gave what happened in Parliament, which the national newspapers could not do because of censorship. 

37:26 [Kai] And....your husband was released also in this period ...before the elections? 

37:32 [CK] Yeah...before the elections.  

37:35 [Kai] And went back to work? 

37:37 [CK] Yeah...he went back to work.  

37:40 [Kai] And after the...Oh!  sorry...one small thing I was just curious about me. Where was the party on the day election results came out? You talk about a party in Press Enclave?

37:52 [CK puzzled] No, I don't talk about it. 

37:53 [Kai] I'm sure it was there or was it in another book...sorry...I've read several memoirs of this. But do you remember celebrating that... 

38:00 [CK] I remember I was at the office...I remember celebrating outside...celebrating in the office because we were busy getting results...Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg...it was like a festive day and there were crowds after crowds outside our office much more than Times of India

38:20 [Kai] So you stayed late that day? 

38:21 [CK] Yeah...in the office. It's all mentioned in the book. 

38:28 [Kai] Now in the...after the elections...so do you see that phase as a continuing kind of golden period of journalism? 

38:41 [CK] No, what happened after the elections and the Janta Party, suddenly there was a burst of freedom. As I have said, even before the Emergency came, Indira Gandhi's control was so overpowering that people were...the media were...it was limited amount of media...it was not very shrill, except for Motherland and party organs. They were not very interested in exposing the government or anything. If some accusations were made, then in the Parliament they were covered. ...didn't go out their way to do it on their own. But after the Emergency was lifted and the Janata Party came in, India Today came out. And I think Sunday started coming out at the same time and they started also doing a lot of investigative reporting...much freer political reporting than before...just as he said...you said, you know, behind the scenes etc and the newspapers also, especially Express


Cyclostyle machine being hid at CK’s circulation of banned Time magazine Nanaji’s call being published thru cyclostyle Virendra being tipped off by a CID friend Balbir Punj telling police about the machine release of Virendra Election results Janata Party in power reporting given more freedom change in the nature of journalism

39:48 [Kai] So there was a new kind of crusading journalism. 

39:49 [CK] There was, I would say that was there with the coming of these two magazines- India Today and Sunday Magazine. And the old hierarchy levels also changed because suddenly young people in the magazines, there was not that you had to be a reporter for so many years and then you're old and become the bureau and you cover the politics....mainstream. There were young people who were entering and covering politics… 

40:21[Kai] It became a more charismatic profession or…so would you say…at that time or so for young people? 

40:28 [CK] There were more ....there were slightly more openings...where were the openings ....Express was a lower paid than the Times so if you wanted to graduate you graduated to Times. At Times you got a higher salary but you would not have that much freedom to write. But all the salaries were low and these magazines came, the salaries increased suddenly you know...there was a burst of energy which was lacking in the earlier...

40:58 [Kai] And you stayed on with the Express or what was your trajectory after the Emergency? 

41:02 [CK] I stayed on with the Express, eventually I joined India Today and there were a whole lot of other papers also. 

41:08 [Kai] Achha, when did you join India Today and who was there then? 

41:09 [CK] I joined India Today in 19...much much later in 1982. I spent ten years in Express. I mean a little less than ten years because they never gave me my provident fund or whatever was due. I made the mistake of leaving a month or two early. 

41:28 [Kai] So you stayed on in the period when Indira Gandhi came back? 

41:32 [CK] Yes 

41:34 [Kai] And was that disappointing to you in terms of how Goenka behaved, I mean, Kuldip Nayar has told me, for example, of him [Goenka] calling him [Nayar] up and saying, 'I want to be friends with Indira again.' [ie. telling Nayar ‘you’re fired!’]

41:44 [CK] That's much much later. That was when I was with the Express... no I was not with the Express. I was with the Sunday Mail at that time. And that is never with Indira Gandhi. He never said it with Indira Gandhi. It was with Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi changed his [Goenka’s] tune...in 1984. Only in '84 for a limited time, he [Goenka] gave an interview and said he that, you know, that 'country's in the right hands etc.' Then of course he fell out with Rajiv Gandhi. But it was never with Indira Gandhi… 

42:18 [Kai] You didn't feel that he went soft on Indira?...at any stage? 

42:19 [CK] No, no, not at all. And the people he brought in...Shourie and all that were anti-Indira...so there was no ...he didn't go soft.  Rajiv...he was a little confused. Rahul Gandhi...Rajiv Gandhi...at one stage...when Rajiv Gandhi came to power, he [Goenka] backed him. And he appointed Suman Dube, editor of the Express...very briefly and then he fell out with him. 

42:58 [Kai] I thought....Suman...did he actually take the post? 

42:58 [CK] Yes yes. I was in Sunday Mail in those days. 


change in the nature of journalism entry of magazines loosening of hierarchy

CK joined India Today in 1982 return of Indira Gandhi Kuldip Nayar & Rajiv Gandhi

Suman Dube as in-charge entry of Arun Shourie and the changes brought in by him

43:04 [Kai] And who was in-charge in India Today when you were there? Who was the editor? 

43:07 [CK] Suman Dube was the editor. But Arun Shourie [Aroon Purie] was the real editor of the newspaper...of the magazine. 

43:13 [KC] Yeah, he was a hands-on editor at that time. 

43:15 [CK] Very much. He learnt a lot because he was ...took a lot of interest in the things which we hadn't really bothered about in the old days in journalism, which is display and you know...headlines were very staid and all that. India Today, Arun Shourie [Aroon Purie] saw the product as a, you know, from the viewer, intelligent viewers, readers' point of view. And he looked at all the blurbs, the headlines, the photographs etc. before they went for print, they showed it to him. And took a personal interest in those, He used to change them and all. There was not that much attention to detail in newspapers. We just wrote and printed. Arun Shourie [Aroon Purie] came...he did lot in...also in encouraging the reporters to...  

44:19 [Kai] Shourie [Confused by the Shourie/Purie confusion] in Express?  

44:20 [CK] Yeah, to write more freely. You know the very old conservative style of writing was...for example when there was a communal clash between two things...’certain communities’...and all that, it was all left very very. Ajit Bhattacharya wanted it. Whereas Shourie [Poorie?] wanted specific....more specific, which is I felt was necessary. And Shourie [Poorie?] also started carrying a lot of...after '77...a lot...you know as I said earlier whatever the bureau…is was important, it would be on the front page...that is some minister said in parliament...what some minister said about some policy decision ... all went on the front page. Features, interesting stories, scandals, investigation....the started coming on the front page...after '77 

45:28 [Kai] You think Shourie was important in that change? 

45:32 [CK] That was the general atmosphere but Shourie was also to some extent responsible. 

45:39 [Kai] Was there, I mean this is not terribly important but, did you have a sense of there being much conflict at the top around Shourie? 

45:51[CK] Yeah, there was a lot of conflict between Shourie and other editors in the Express. And Goenka played one against the other. 

45:59 [Kai] That did happen...because people seem very close to Goenka but Goenka also… 

46:03 [CK] No, no Goenka got rid of him twice. The only editor Goenka gave a totally free hand to and didn't interfere much was Mulgaonkar...because he was a personal friend. 

46:19 [Kai] So do you have a sense of this phase of journalism and the revival and money spending? 

46:27 [CK] More money was being spent going out to various places, getting stories, investigating and all...was more. 

46:37 [Kai] But you feel that phase came to an end as well and things returned to something dull or it was a good positive change which has...

46:46 [CK] No, no...it was a good positive change which went on. Then also Sunday paper started coming out. I started the Sunday Mail in 1984...wait '85. We started doing, putting on the front page and doing stories people wanted to read, you know, not basically he said...minister said this and minister said that. And before that we know that Saturday Sunday Observer ...all these Sunday magazines and newspapers and Sunday magazine and India Today all of them helped in, you know,... 

47:37 [Kai] Opening things up…

47:40 [CK] Opening things up and lightening journalism. 

47:45 [Kai] But you think in more recent years there has been a ...return or change in terms of... 

47:54 [CK] What has happened in more recent years is that the control of newspapers has gone from individualistic owners who were only concerned with the media business to corporate interests having some sort of say in newspapers. 

48:15 [Kai] Because they are the owners ... 

48:19 [CK] But loans have been taken or there are some kind of financial deals have often been made... 

48:21 [Kai]...which has an impact on …48:26 [CK] ...which has an impact. [Kai interjects] quite strongly if possible. [CK ] But you see the question of freedom now is that in old days there were few newspapers so it was easy to control... now it is impossible to control anything. One publication or television channel may go one way but there are so many going the other way...you know, I would say we have a great deal of freedom. 

48:54 [Kai] Because of the proliferation of sources 

48:57 [CK] Proliferation...no ...ha...of the media. Of course the social networks and all that have also helped encourage the...you can't keep anything....you can't hide anything. 

49:08 [Kai] But do you think that has come along with a kind of decline in the integrity or the quality of the larger masters {Check??} the larger brands

49:18 [CK] I don't think so really. No, I don't think so. 

49:25 [Kai] So by and large you think the Emergency experience has been well absorbed, people learnt lessons, reacted to it in a positive way. 

49:34 [CK] There's nothing you can do and I think even the governments realise that they can't control the media any more. 

49:39 [Kai] Well, except that they did for those two years… 

49:43 [CK] For those two years but that was a different time and there were fewer to control, easier to control. 

49:52 [Kai] Some people give the opinion, in a sense, that the owners, the corporate owners, for them this was a lesson that editors and journalists could be cowed and would draw back and draw a …the line. 

50:11 [CK] No, what happened is a different thing happened which was that in the Times of India when Ashok Jain left and Samir Jain came, he decided that the editor would not have freedom. So in the Times of India he was this...selling it as a product. And it is also true that the influence of the editor in several publications [Kai interjects: diminished] in some and not in all

[Kai adds: but the larger ones...Times of India became dominant]

[CK] Times of India is...Basically in the Times...Hindustan Times was always, by the way Times of India saw it as a product, basically it was a commercial decision...that what they thought were going to sell were going to sell. And not so much as control over pleasing the government or not pleasing. So there would be that to some extent but it was more that a group of business managers would decide what was the ideal product that would increase its market share. Whereas earlier, the old fashioned editor had the right to decide on his own what he ...how the paper would look. 

51:24 [Kai] Ha, that ideal has diminished [CK interject: in some] but continues to survive… 

51:31 [CK] ...in some Express for example, the owner had given total freedom to the …

51:37 [Kai] Express has got some of that character. 

51:41 [CK] It depends on what ...it depends on what ... Hindustan Times was ( read has) always never stuck its neck out....whichever government comes. But I would say that in a way the Indian media has greater freedom though, I mean, not everyone would agree, than for example, even the American Press, in the sense, that they are much more...there are sections which are much more ready to be irreverent about decisions taken by the government than the American Press.{this whole point reads a bit unclear....which has more freedom BUT I've typed it out as she says} For example when they went into Iraq, nobody questioned it really...whereas I don't think that would happen here, you know. There's always a section of media which is ready to criticise the government on any issue. There are far more points of view coming up. It is not such a chauvinistic you know media. 

52:53 [Kai] So [you’re] hopeful, basically… [CK: Hain?] So hopeful and...

52:58 [CK] No, I mean you also have a section...there will be a section which will be controlled by the government, there's always a section that is always willing [Kai interjects: controlled by the money or by government or both]. {Long silence} Great...

Interview ends.     


Change in the nature of writing under Shourie [mostly meaning Aroon Purie] and layout of articles conflict between Shourie and other editors Goenka playing them CK joined Sunday Mail in 1984

Winds and degree of change in reporting Ashok and Samir Jain HT being commercial

Degree of freedom given to reporters comparison with American Press and example of US entry into Iraq ends with awkward silence