INTERVIEWEE* Name: Tarun Basu [TB]
- Occupation: Journalist
INTERVIEWER* Kai Friese [Kai]
Medium: Video + Audio recordings* Format: Audio .wav
- Language: English with smatterings in Hindi
- Location of Interview: India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
- Date of the interview: 30 January 2016 15:35:52
Clip name/DURATION: * TarunBasu.WAV
- Length 01:04:26
- Bit rate: 1411kbps
- Size: 650 MB
- Date modified: 30/01/2016
| 0:04 [Kai] : Interview with Tarun Basu on the 30 Jan 2016 at the IHC. Tarun start anywhere- tell me where you came from, was it Delhi or ...and how you got into journalism, and when
0:29 [TB] : Well, when the Emergency happened in 75, I was three years in the profession. [Kai in the background: so so]. I was as a very junior kind of a desk-man at the United News of India 0:40 news agency.
0:42 [Kai] : And is that where you started? Was that your first job?
0:43 [TB] : That was my first job. I'd just about, I think, got confirmation, conformations were not so easy to get those days but I'd just about, I think, got my confirmation. And then once you get a confirmation, you're straight away put on the night-shift. You know in some ways...
0:58 [Kai] : You're from Delhi originally?
0:58 [TB] : I'm from Delhi...born and brought up in Delhi.
1:01 [Kai] : Had you done some training in journalism or just come out of college
1:04 [TB] : I'd just come out of the college. I was a science student and I was a science student because the school where I was a student...the school was St Columba’s… they were experimenting with science for a couple of years. So I had no choice but to do science, although my interest was in humanities and English language. I wanted to do History but my father thought I was better off doing...Engineering at that time...that was the done thing at that time. 1:25 And then I did science from Delhi University, Chemistry in fact. But then that three years was too much for me and I started writing
1:39 [Kai] : In college itself?
1:40 [TB] : In college itself and then did some freelancing and then ... my father actually thought I would go into do post-graduate, MSc in Chemistry, which he got me because he knew a professor there and he thought I had got into MSc but all the time I was doing rounds of newspaper offices. And trying to plug my stories.
2:00 [Kai] : Okay. So what kind of things were you writing as a freelancer?
2:02 [TB] : General, I think at that time more issues regarding students' problems in education, problems in the University, problems in getting a job, you know the usual things that the students...I did some little music, as usual, you know, I was the Rolling Stones’ fan and that... I don't really remember.2:27 And the I'd got into the UNI. I just gave a test among other places and …
2:31 [Kai] : Where was it at that time? Was it at Khan Market or they'd moved to the...
2:34 [TB] : It was there at the Rafi Marg only where they are right now; and in fact there is a curious story in that, I don't know if its relevant. The day the ... there was a test in the UNI, I was at the Old Delhi- Delhi Public Library, opposite the Old Delhi Railway Station...leafing through some books etc. and then a page fell. Just a page fell...I just picked the page and it was something about the Vietnam War and I just, a page, glanced through it absent-mindedly and read it. And so when I came in the afternoon to UNI, one of the questions was on Vietnam War. Just about four hours later, so of course it was easy for me [Kai in the background: Stroke of luck there]. And I was psyched, and I was told later that I'd topped the test among 100 odd people. So that was my journalism story at that time. 3:26 I'd gone later to Berlin to do a Diploma in Journalism but that was in '76 only.
3:35 [TB] : During the Emergency I tried to get out.
3:37 [Kai] : You must tell me about that also.
3:38 [TB] : Yea yea, I will tell you about that.
3:39 [Kai] : And who was running the show at UNI when
3:42 G. G. Mirchandani...legendary General Manager, Chief Editor... G. G. Mirchandani. He was a former Government Information Officer (Note: He worked with Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting). I think he was a former advisor, at some point to Nehru (Note: G. G. Mirchandani was a Press Officer to Jawaharlal Nehru)
| ---Background of TB-- 3 yrs into journalism at the time of Emergency at United News of India
---being born and brought in Delhi---St Columba’s School---science background----scope of science more—parental pressure
---clandestinely working as freelancer
---types of stories TB writing
---general students’ issues, music
--Job at United News Agency
--- Test at UNI---- leafing through at Delhi Public Library---Vietnam War
G. G. Mirchandani-
| 3:58 [Kai] : But tell me a little bit about the set-up at UNI. It was...I mean ...owned or run by a...
4:07 [TB]: UNI... both UNI and PTI were run by newspapers as a trust. You know PTI was the largest and UNI was set-up to basically give competition to PTI. And UNI was largely full of young people. And... who were brought fresh out of college and then as a General Manager at that time loved to say, "that we put you straight into the deep end...either you drown or save yourself." Very few of us drowned...there were a couple of people who drowned but mostly all of us swam and the hard way learnt our job. I mean most of us learnt our trade on the job, literally. And since we got very little money to support ourselves...I started off with 200 rupees per month...I was very grateful that Mirchandani gave me a job for 200 rupees a month. 4:51 He asked me two questions. He said, 'do you know English?' I said, 'well, passably yes.' He said, 'but you've done science.' I said, 'you can try me out!' And then he said, 'you're a Bengali?' I said, 'yes.' That was the time when there was this whole Naxalite thing going on in Delhi University. He said, 'are you a Naxalite?' I said, 'I have sympathies with them definitely, but I'm no Naxalite. I don't think I'm seriously interested in them, I mean, you know...their ideology'. So that was it and well most of us loved doing the night duty...because night duty gave us, of course, freedom. It was, you know, our own time and the dormitory facilities, I mean, the...were very primitive there. Actually, they put out some rotten kathiyas (beds) there, full of bed bugs and they put it out in the open or in a shed kind of a place. If it was winter, you had to stay there but otherwise most of us spent out time loafing around, drinking a bit and then getting to work. 5:49 So duty hours were 6 hours at that time and so the duty hours were 9 to 3, 3 to 9, 9 to 3, 3 to 9. And 9 to 3 was one shift and 3 to 9 was another shift. So we were on the 9 to 3 duty and when we did that 9 to 3 duty we stayed on in the office and then left only in the morning. Sometimes the extra night could be called 3 a.m. That person was a solitary person...the junior most person. I don't recall whether I was in the 9 to 3 or 3 to 9. 6:25 But on ...you know there was a lot of talk in the days prior to the days all this happened ...that martial law would happen...none of knew what actually martial law was really all that about...some vague idea that army would come in and there was a lot of jokes among senior correspondents because things were coming to a head...there was this JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) agitation, and 6:44 [Kai adds: there was a court case] all kinds of court cases...there were demos (read: demonstrations) everyday, you there was this Bhai Mati Lal Chowk (Read: Bhai Mati Das Chowk was renamed as Chandani Chowk), the golechakkar (roundabout) which is not called that now, leading upto Mrs Gandhi's house, where every day, there was, she addressed supporters and all that after arrest etc. So and then I still remember and when we were there...there were quite a few senior people ... there used to be a little, if you go to UNI, there was this shrubbery...I don't know now if (it is still) there..., which had a little wall which divided Vithalbhai Patel House from UNI and so people who, the seniors who drank there they had this little bar on the wall and they called it The Ed (corrects himself).. The Mughal Garden. 7:31 So it was called The Mughal Garden and there was this canteen at the back and there were these...all these Tamils and Keralite boys...Kerala boys who used to supply liquor to this and get them cheap. ---- [Kai: Okay]---- 7:45 So they were all our...this thing, you know, ... what are called?! I mean...so these are the people who got us the hooch. And whatever else we got and once in a while the seniors would invite us to join them and regale (us) with ...you know all the gossip, the latest political gossip etc. So many (much) of our grounding was by being allowed to, you know, socialise and sit with the seniors, have a drink or two in the so-called, The Mughal Garden and there. So there was talk there, I remember clearly that things were hotting up and anything could happen...there could be...there was no talk of Emergency as such, military could take over but everything was a joke...nobody took it seriously. 8:31 It was that, you know, we talk about it but it's never going to happen in India...that I clearly remember. It was that we'd talk about it. And there was all talk that journalists...that all newspapers would be shut and all that, and somehow I recall that, 'how did people know at that time?' But there was...India had not such any experience and I still remember, 8:51 I was sitting around the desk and I don't think I was on duty at that time. I was hanging around with two-three other people, we just liked to hang around at night and then there was this Arun Kumar who later joined politics. He still is. He was in the thick of the Janta Party Movement at that time and the United Front, and now I heard (sic) only some months ago that he has switched sides and is some part of some RSS...this thing. 9:19 So he talked about that, you know, 'kuch bhi ho sakta hai' and 'bandh ho jayega' (‘Anything can happen’ and ‘it can close’). I don't know where he got this information from. So thought we should be there to see, you know. If anything happens we should be there...that was the whole idea. 9:35 And then we got these little calls, no mobile phones as you know but calls started coming from places like Indore, from Jalandhar, and from other places, that 'kuch ho raha hai' (‘is something happening’)… ya … printing press bandh ho ja raha hai' (‘printing press will shut down’) but still we never took it seriously. Printing press was (9:56) bandh… so what, I mean, you know! Then somebody said, 'dekho yeh serious mamala hai soona hai Connaught Place mein police wolice jha rahi hai' (Read as: Look! This sounds like a serious matter. Police is going to Connaught Place). So then we sent somebody there, some reporter there, 'dekho koi ja raha hai?' Woh kehata, 'nahi nahi nahi kuch nahi hai.' (Read as: look is someone going there? He said, No no no there’s nothing) And by that time the senior reporters on the duty by night were drunk by then. I mean they would be in no position to go out anyways. 10:17 So then somebody told us that, tum log kyuni nahi jate? ' (‘why don’t you go?’) But we were too scared and we didn't want to go straight to Connaught Place and there was no conveyance at that time. None of us had a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler or any kind of vehicle
10:27 [Kai: not very far but!]
10:28 [TB] : Yea yea but at night, you know, mid-night...after mid-night I'm talking about. It was the mid-night.
| ---Set-up of UNI
---UNI & PTI (Press Trust of India) run by newspapers as a trust--- composition at UNI—young---learning on the go—rs 200/month
---- two questions asked by Mirchandani during interview--- about grasp of English and if TB was a Naxalite
---TB sympathised with them but not a Naxal.
---Preference for night duty
--- state of dormitory at UNI
---- talk of martial law but very vague understanding of the situation--- did not take it seriously
--- tensions increasing---JP agitation ---court cases--- daily demos at Bhai Mati Lal Chowk
--- makeshift bar- The Mughal Garden on the boundary between VP House and UNI---where seniors and juniors informally interacted ---- procuring hooch
---- thought of military take over over India not taken seriously ----implications of Emergency through gossip.
---Arun Kumar in sync with Janta Party spoke about Emergency possibility
---news of possibility of Emergency spreads---concern over phone pouring in about closure of printing press---still not taken seriously----but UNI guys, esp seniors already drunk by mid-night 25th June
---Nobody wanted to go to CP and check for themselves.
| 10:32 [Kai] : But this is the night of the 25th? (read 25 June)
10:34 [TB] : 25th. And then we got these calls (from)...it was Ludhiana, Indore, Bhopal, and then the UNI people started talk...calling in , 'I regret to let you know that our offices are also being, you know, the power has been cut off and we're hearing that newspapers are being shut. Nai Duniya was affected if I'm not mistaken, I could be wrong, and some of these things. 11:00 Then we got, then we started altering a few people and then I don't know some MP started calling us...opposition MPs and they said, 'dekho ham log arrest ho rahe hain. Police ayee hui hai. Hum arrest ho rahe hain, aap log kuch karo.' (‘Look! We are being arrested. Police is here. They are arresting us, you have to do something’) So by that time and then, you know, within probably within half an hour, one MP after another...Socialist Party, this party and then all they started calling us. We kept get (read getting) calls from Vajpayee's office, from Advani's office, from Sikander Bakht's office, Moraji Desai's office and then there were not too many people there. 11:33 So Arun and I, who were kind of people who used to do 11:38 although we were a desk people11:40 [Kai interjects: This is well past mid-night now?] 11:42 [TB] Around that time, I would not be able to say exactly what ...We thought we should do something. There were no reporters, and you know nobody was prepared to come and people actually whom...people whom when we called the people (read: actually when we called the people) they were dismissive of the whole thing. So and lot of phones were...we were not able to get also at that time. There was only land line, I mean and those phones also didn't work too well. So I very clearly remember that one of us then called up the General Manager.12:10 He was very very enterprising, I mean he was a very encouraging kind of a person, and in fact once I ... just to digress...Arul and I...Arul Louis - he is JNU product, you know. He had got information about that there a Nur Mohammand Taraqi who led the second coup in Afghanistan, that was 7...that was much later [Both KAI and TB try to figure out this]. That was, I think, much later. Anyways so ....no that happened much later... the second coup happened much later... '75 if I'm not? 12:43 [Kai corrects: '79 I think].
12:45 '78 ...'78...that was much later. So...he (General Manager) was a very encouraging chap and he said, 'you guys start calling up people'. So (add: to) both of us, he said, 'you go to my room and you just start calling up people. And sit on my table and...' So went to to his room, both of us, I sat on his chair took out the directory...went to the MP's page and started calling up people. And that night, I mean, we really realised that if you take initiative and you show some enterprise, you would get your story. I mean that night we must have called up 20-30 MPs, including Vajpayee, Bakht, Advani, Morarji Desai...nearly all of them said, 'police ayee hui hai', 'Police hamre piche hai' (‘Police is here’, ‘Police is after us’). In fact, Bakht called up to say, 'ham ko bachao. Ham to bathroom mein atke hue hain. Police hamka darwaza knock kar rahi hai.' (‘Save us. I’m stuck in the bathroom. Police is knocking on the door’). And you could hear the knocks on his door. Morarji Desai’s people said, 'police aye hui hai and en ko bachao' (‘police is here, and save him’). So we were getting, you know, quotes from people, who were about to be arrested and the police were at their door and as it came we kept giving it. We didn't know what to do with it. We were not that sufficiently mature to know what to deal (read as do) with the story and we kept giving the stories but people did not run the stories immediately. Then we got this call that Jayparkash Narayan has been arrested, and then we realised that it was something very, very serious. You know JPN was the movement leader at that time and he had a certain stature, you know, akin to14:21 our… that time for us like Mahatma Gandhi like stature at that time. So then we ...nobody knew what to do, so Arul and I again said, let's make a dash for it and if he's arrested he'll come to Parliament Street. So we ran...we sprinted to Parliament Street and then we realised that something was on because the whole place was full of cops. The whole place was full of cops, there were the police...the mounted police, and all that. So when we went there nobody really noticed us and there were no other journalist around...there was, of course, no T.V. or anything at that time. And we just kept hanging around and nobody actually stopped us as well because nobody knew what was happening. 15:04 And we didn't have to wait too long. We just hung around here … there, and 15:08 tried for that...we thought we'll get some scene, we didn't expect anybody to come actually. But we thought, 'let's see what's happening' and, you know, we went around taking some little notes about scene and lot of activity...unusual activity, police there, mounted police and people ...we saw platoons marching towards Connaught Place...some going to towards Parliament Street. And then we saw this white ambassador car roll up and then we found that sandwiched between two cops was Jayprakash Narayan, and we ran. Then somebody tried to stop us and what we went 'hame app kase hain' and the we said, 'Aap kuch bol na chahate hain.' Then we came out vinash kale viprit buddhi, I mean that time even the meaning of that what didn't sink in but we just wrote it down, you know. I was a Bengali and he was a Tamil...I mean … now in 30 years 40 years later I mean it's easy ...it’s not that difficult but that time we didn't know what it actually meant but we took it down. Then we sprinted back before they just took him inside and they shooed us off. We sprinted down to the office. 16:18 We called up (TB says a name which is muffled) and said just put it out. But by that time there were calls already ...the...that the...these things should not go out. Already by 3 O' Clock or something like that. 16:32 [Kai] : From which...the Home Ministry or… 16:33 [TB] : Home Ministry...PMO or I wouldn't know exactly, you know...I was too junior...Home Ministry...that nothing should go out but the General Manager told us- you defy it and send it. So our stories by that time had started going - Indore, Bhopal, Ludhiana, Jalandhar...newspapers being sealed, police out, cops marching...
---more calls of concern and report from Ludhiana, Indore, Bhopal, and then the UNI people
-- Nai Duniya being affected.
---distress calls to UNI from opposition MPs about police coming to their houses
---calls from Advani, Sikander Bakht, Moraji Desai's office
---some people still being dismissive----limited calls
--- TB and Arul Louis sought advice from the General Manager
--- TB’s digression to Taraqi Coup (left incomplete)
---- GM advices TB and Arul to call MPs and gather information---all complaining about police at the door step---TB and Arul gathering live quotes
---- JP being arrested and this acted as indicator of the seriousness --- TB and Arul ran to Parliament Street----packed with police---trying to get a feel-----
---description of the scene
---JP Narayan being brought in
---- TB et al just start writing in ---- head back to office ---By 3:00 am orders to censor already in from Home Ministry
---General Manager told TB et al to defy censor and keep filing
| 16:51 [Kai] : Where were they going to? They were going to the newspapers that were being sealed.
16:54 [TB] : They weren't printing them. They were going, I mean, there were still lots of newspapers...some were sealed but nothing in Delhi anything was stopped. People were just being instructed not to do it. We went, by that time, again we went back to the General Manager's room, we hammered out this story on our own, we went back to the General Manager's room, we called up every opposition MP we could...whoever we could make out and maybe we got out of 30 or 40...we must have got at least 60 percent of them, because at night they were all there. And we got quotes, we put out quotes so and so Raj Narayan said this- put it out; Morarji Desai said, Charan Singh said -- put this out. One by one...just.17:35 [Kai] : Did you call any Congress...?
17:36 [TB] : No, we didn't want to, you know we did not know how to weave the story... we didn't know the big picture. We had no idea of the big picture. Right now we would write the big picture and say what it meant...we had no clue. We were just giving inputs. ...just giving bites, inputs and putting it in. Somebody was...we were just actually putting out because nobody knew what was happening ... nobody had any clue what was happening. Then only around 4: 30- 5.00 we heard that there a emergency cabinet meeting at Mrs Gandhi's house...Emergency was proclaimed...censorship was being...this thing... that was what shocked us...we never expected. So our first instinct was we must defy it...you know...you're young, rebellious...we didn't know the consequences and obviously nobody knew what the consequences. so it was...chlae jao chlae jao...and we got full encouragement from Mirchandani. There were voices which said, 'no we should not do that...we should not...we should just listen to authority' and not… Mirchandani said, 'till we are stopped...keep on fighting.' And he was as a person an established printer. For him to say that something very good, you know, courageous.
18:40 [Kai] : Sorry what was his full name?
18:41 [TB] : G. G. Mirchandani. G. G. Mirchandani. He said, 'keep on doing'. So we kept on doing it through the night. I think PTI stopped. There were papers which stopped but some were still doing it. We kept on filling till 7 O' Clock they said...we will shut you down...we will arrest you...you need to stop.
19:02 [Kai] : But they hadn't sent anyone to the office.
19:03 [TB] : No, but they sent the censors there...the censors came...somebody from...censors came...I think some cops came…some cops came but there was too much of a hulla by that time...lot of reporters had come in by 5- 5:30...
19:15 [Kai] : And who were the censors? There was some again Home Ministry?
19:18[TB] : No no no...Press Information Bureau officials...Press Information officials. The first of these people came and they said, 'you have to stop'. They called up Mirchandani...they threatened him with arrest. And they said, 'you have to stop'. So I think we stopped by 7-7:30 but still as far as I can (or will) check with others, I mean, we were the last to stop. We were ...19:40 people had earlier stopped. People, you know, when they were asked to stop they stopped. The printing presses of the major papers…they were asked to stop and they were asked to stop early.
| ---What happened to the filling notes done by TB et al----who decided to hammer the story out
---called at least 60 % of opposition MPs
---- TB et al just swung it…but continued to give bites
----news of emergency cabinet meeting at Mrs Indira Gandhi’s house.
---instinct to defy order of censors---encouragement by G G Mirchandani
---UNI forced to stop by 7’O Clock
---Coming in of Press Information Bureau Officials threatened UNI with arrest.
| 19:50 [Kai] :Was the government itself putting out information for you to carry or they just enquired?
19:51 [TB] : No no...Just the government, you know, that the Emergency has been proclaimed, that past...and at 5:30 in the morning, President has appended his signature to that and this is what it means and this will happen, further instructions would follow etc. etc. etc. 20:13 So that was the most tumultuous night, I mean I'm just compressing it. First of all I don't remember all the gory details or the exciting details however you look at it. But that was I mean six hours or so ...six...seven ...I don't know...about 8 hours...It was a tumultuous period, I mean and I still remember by 4-5 O' Clock most of the senior journalists were in... all these, you know, the bureau people were in... people with the contacts and all that 20:41 And lots of people...mostly people said, 'we should stop.' People were scared and people were worried 20:46 people were scared, people were worried. And people wanted to fall in line. But it was only young people like us you know, young rebellious, didn't know the consequences. We wanted to challenge authority and said, 'no, no, no, we won't' and we kept on saying, 'nahi'. Lots of people just sat down ...not doing anything. It was just about four or five of us maybe which kept on filing. The General Manager was there, the News Editor...he had come and he had said, 'no no we should file…we should continue' and all that. But then I think by seven we stopped...we had to stop. The police came ...the censors came and then after that everybody had to fall in line. 21:24 The whole censorship thing again...there were streaks of rebelliousness in the UNI people, which the censors didn't like. There was this U.C. Tewari who was the deputy principal information officer who became Principal of Information. He sat on the main desk and he vetted all the sensitive, politically sensitive copy. So I remember couple of instance, at least my personal instances, I will tell you, where I kind of tried to challenge in my own way this thing that ...You know AP used to put out every day a little quote. Then you know from ...little quotable quote of the day, so one day there was a quote called, 'a woman's scorn is more to be feared than a bitch in heat.' I don't remember who said it but it was there. So I kind of was on night duty, so I kind of tore that part and U. C. Tewari used to sit here, I pasted it there and I went. You know typical, you know, school boy ...this thing, you know, this thing...antics...mischief and went away. I didn't even realise it. Obviously he took umbrage, he complained to the General Manager...I was summoned from home...I'd gone back home....I was given a dressing down...all that. But then I remember I made...I was even more determined to challenge, I mean some of the ... latently. So again another night duty, I was told very clearly anything sensitive, anything adverse, anything which is negative about India and lot of questions media and all were...And you know on the night duty, you were mostly not doing the general (news?) because nothing happened in the country, so only international news...AP, Reuters and all that and we were told that .... no no not Reuters, we were doing AP....AP...DPA...Orders that...anything adverse, anything critical...you should check...not give it all...and all of that. So we really didn't give out much other than sports copy and others, and we played safe...we didn't want to... So I remember that AP used to file these weather reports. So and....the weather said about the subcontinent etc.- there are ‘storm clouds over India,’ and it was going to rain and thundery things and weather in North India would be very bad. So I don't know what got into me 23:49 Extremely pissed … there was somebody else there...I don't remember who, I said, 'look I'm going to do something.' He said, 'what?' I said, 'look I think this is a very adverse thing and its not good for India...storm clouds. I mean that's political stuff called, right?! I don't know what..so I think I'm going to check up the censors...with the censors.' He said, 'but it's 2:45...sir, are you mad...are you going to talk!' But I said, 'but I've been told to do that.' 24:12 [Kai: you ‘Worked to Rule’!] ----So I still remember what got into me. I called up the officer that side...it was a landline...picked up...'Yes?' ..sleepy of course. I said 'I am so and so from the UNI Desk and I've been instructed to check with you any adverse negative story and this is important story. And I...I thought I'd check with you.' -- 'yes!'---- 'Sir there's this AP story...weather story...'--- 'What!?' --- I said, 'Weather story.'--- 'WHAT!'------I said, 'weather story which talks about storm clouds gaining over India and there might be rain and thunderstorm and all kinds of ...it might affect agriculture.'--- 'SO!'--- So I said, 'Sir I thought I should run by you.'--- 'Are you kidding!'---I said, 'no sir but I'm just going by instructions.' And he put it down. I put it down somewhere. He was mad as a (cow). Again next day of course...But by that time we were masters, we knew how to handle these guys, you know. Initially, we were scared but and then ..these others also had these little, you know, ways we challenged these people and all that...and very soon they shut down UNI and we were merged with PTI into one single agency called Samachar. And that was there...Samachar ran for '75 to '77.
| ---Source of information to UNI Government or
---Government rolling out information
---description of the initial hours of the Emergency---people scared etc
---young people defying orders.
---encouragement from General Manager and News Editor
---Forced to stop when censors walked in
U. C. Tewari—whetting all sensitive information
---- TB defying censors or restraints through admittedly childish pranks.
--- sticking a mean quote on U. C. Tewari’s chair
---TB given dressing down.
--- 2nd example of defying or mocking censors----AP’s negative weather report for Indian subcontinent…TB deliberately equated negative weather report as referring to political.
----Merging of UNI and PTI into Samachar (1975-77)
| 25:30 [Kai] : This happened in '75 itself...they merged them?
25:34 [TB] : Yea yea…if I…If I'm not mistaken or end of '75 maybe ... I don't know exact the time ...exact...end of '75, I think. Because UNI, three-four months of the Emergency and I think they shut down...enough is enough. These guys are too rebellious and just make it into one agency, and by that time they talked about one national news agency which can, you know, weave out the Indian point of view...Indian propaganda.
25:57 [Kai]: And they absorbed everyone or did they fire anyone and did they arrest anyone?
26:00 [TB (simultaneously)]: They absorbed everyone, they didn't fire anyone. No no they didn't arrest but they marginalised a lot of people. Our General Manager, D. P. Ramachandran, Deputy General Manager...he was also a kind of formidable journalist with very good contacts with Mrs Gandhi and all. He was sent to Bihali as a stringer...of all places Bhilai! And the people who were in control were the PTI guys. You know they were the guys who were known to Vidya Charan Shukla. They were the ones who were known to Prime Minister or Sanjay Gandhi who was calling the shots. 26:29 They didn't trust the UNI guys at all…they just didn't trust. So we were made to play second fiddle in everything there...news editors and others, so and they had made it known that we were there…we had...that...they had to suffer us because there was no other place for us but we were made to say that we had no work. ...we had no work. ..actually we had no work, so we used to fool around a lot and keep on doing our little mischief wherever we could. There was not too much scope for it.26:57 And fooled around in Connaught Place, this ..that. Then in the meanwhile Mirchandani was removed from UNI of course...he was removed and he was asked to retire. And he started some little ... he trusted me, he (I?) was very young ... he knew that you know I could...he and I and Arul and couple of others...he used to call us home, and he used to encourage us to...he used to give us little … little bits of of information...opposition information, and ask us to circulate that. And we started, you know, typing it because there was no others... no email, of course.
27:34 [Kai] : So you made a cyclostyle (pamphlet)?
27:35 [TB] : We cyclostyled and we started circulating that. 27:38 [Kai] : Did you give it a name or it was just a nameless....
27:40 [TB] : No… no… no...nameless kind of thing. I ..I... I... I don't...I wish I had that copy of that of that.
27:44 [Kai] : If yea...it would be great to see some copies of these things.
27:46 [TB]: But I couldn't find it, honestly. I couldn't find it, I mean not just after you called but before that also. I...maybe I'll still have...I'll see. And we used to cyclostyle it and then there were quite a few of these circulating, it was not just few of us who were doing it. And then I remember, teaming up with a few others and some of them came to my house...others we used to meet up. We were all very scared but you know when you are young, you really don't give a damn at that time. 28:14 Maybe if I was ten years older I would have been much more careful. So we used to whatever and circulate these things, I wish email was there as I just told you.
| ---About the merger and change in the status.
---no one fired but many marginalised like D. P. Ramachandran sent to Bhilai.
----Vidya Charan Shukla toady to PM given boost
---Sanjay Gandhi calling shots.
--- TB and other suffered in silence
--- Mirchandani forced to retire
---Mirchandani organising underground information network including TB, Arul and couple of others
| 28:23 [Kai] : And were you in touch with foreign correspondents also?28:26 [TB] : No no no...we were not at that time.no no no... I was not that senior, you know. I was twenty-five...twenty-six at that time...twenty-three...twenty-three...twenty-four... 28:35 [Kai] You mentioned Myron Belkind (the Associated Press correspondent in Delhi) in the...
28:37 [TB] : Yeah yeah, Myron Belkind… later.... Myron Belkind came later and then I still remember one…I had a nasty incident. I was in-charge of the Foreign Desk there one Saturday or Sunday. And Mrs Gandhi had gone to Colombo. There was some non-aligned or some such meeting or some such meeting where she had gone to Colombo and where she said that- There's freedom of information in India and those Press was completely free. So that time, you know, we had these spikes...when we never use(d) a story, we used to spike it. So I was in-charge and I had the story where Mrs Gandhi said that there was...that the Press was completely ...Press was completely free and there was no problem and they could write what they felt like etc. etc. So I was charged (up). I saw that story and I said, 'all bloody bullshit' and I spiked it. 29:32 And I really thought nobody would know. Not realising that, you know, Samachar was the only source of information for everybody because the government was sourcing everything through Samachar. And within an hour or so, the Chief of Bureau or somebody who was covering Information Ministry marched down...a guy called Shukla...he's still around. what's his name...some Shukla...Shukla hi tha. (It was Shukla ) 29:57 [Shukla said]: "Oh! Who are you?"--- He didn't know me...I was from UNI. I said, 'I'm in charge'--- he said, 'you are in-charge?'----I said, 'Well, I'm managing ...doing Foreign'--- [Shulka]: 'There was a copy from Colombo?' --- I said, 'yeah, there was lot of copy from Colombo'--- [Shukla] 'Mrs Gandhi sent something?' ---- I said, 'yeah...well yes.' I didn't know what to say. I said, 'phas gaye...saale phas gaye yeh to.' (‘in a pickle now, idiot’) ---- Kehete but [Shukla]: 'Have you put it out?'---- I said, 'Yeah but I think something didn't use' ---- [Shukla]: 'What didn't you didn't use?' ---- I said 'I showed up the spike' ...I said, 'he (Read as: ‘she,’ i.e. Mrs Indira Gandhi) said there's no Emergency ...there's no..... complete freedom of information which I thought as wrong' And here the censor is sitting, right! ---- [Shukla]: 'How can you do that?'----I said, 'Sir I am...this all is a lie!' -----[Shukla]: 'Aaaaa' he went off and he ...first he complained to my bosses, UNI bosses, then he complained to the General Manager- Willie Lazarus, who was a great toady of Sanjay Gandhi. And William Lazarus came marching down. He said 'Hey! who are you? Hey...'---He used to speak in a swagger at time. I said, 'Sir, I am Tarun Basu.'--- [Lazarus]: 'You killed that!?'--- I said, 'Sir, I thought ...' ----- [Lazarus]: 'You know I got a call from Sanjay Gandhi? '--- He (i.e., Lazarus) was shaking. ---- [TB]: 'Sorry, I don't know that' ----- By that time others came and my immediate bosses and News Editor, 'Basu what have you done? What have you done?'--- I mean I was I was also retarded ... I didn't realise the implications, you know. And there was a big crowd around me and then they retrieved it and of course the story went. But the whole thing was shaken up and I was removed immediately from any kind of supervisory role of anything. And I was transferred to another desk, which was called Non-aligned News Agency Desk where all kinds of information from, you know, all these socialist countries used to be pooled in, from the USSR to Poland to Iraq to Vietnam to Cambodia. So all the socialist countries used to pool information and we were processing it and put that out; and India was had taken lead to organise ...what is called the Non-Aligned News Agencies Pool (Note: read as Non-Aligned News Agency Pool). It was actually a kind of, you know, a working holiday for us. There was no bloody work. There were all those who were a little defiant, or used to challenge authority or who could be potential mischief makers or whom the people couldn't trust, they were all shunted on to the Non-Aligned News Agency desk, which served us fine. It was in the end of the ....you know PTI has this big news room, so we used to sit at the corner of the newsroom and then had a grand view of the newsroom; and, you know, look at the girls, pass comments and had lot of fun but did little...no work, and very little journalism at that time32:43 That was the time I got my...I'd done some German at Max Müller Bhavan and I'd applied for this scholarship in International Institute for Journalism in (muffled spot but sounds like 'journalismus') in Berlin. And I got the thing from them and ...so that was another challenge. I had no passport at that time and I went to take the passport, passport (muffled spot)?? a lot of difficulty, you know, took me a lot of time to get the passport and all of that. And then I had an interview with MEA (i.e., Ministry of External Affairs) people at that time. And I still remember the director, West Europe division, he called me and said, where are you going?'---I said, 'I'm going to West Berlin.'--- He said, 'why not East Berlin?'---- I said, 'but I've got the scholarship to West Berlin.'---he said, 'but these guys are not our friends. I don't think you should go.' ---- I said, 'but I've got the scholarship. I should...'----He said, 'but I'll advise you not to go there...you should try and go to East Berlin.' ---- I mean that was the first time I realised that the international implications of all this, you know. But I had never thought they will allow me to go. But luckily I got the visa. I think the German Embassy must have put in a word or something but I went to get that ... that was the time I went away to Berlin.
33:55 [Kai]: This was in '76?
33:56 [TB]: '76...'77 I was out and then I came back. I was in London and the day the Emergency was declared I still walking ----[Kai corrects: was lifted] ---- down Trafalgar Square when the Sunday Mail or Mirror, they had their...Emergency (issue)...’Elections declared in India’. So I straight went to the Lufthansa Office and got a ticket and came (home). So I was away...
34:20 [Kai interjects] : So in Jan
34:22 [TB] : away...in Jan and I came back in time for the election. So I was good part of 76 I was away...'76 September.
34:30 [Kai]: But you still had your job technically with Samachar?
34:32 [TB] : Yea Yea...had my job. [muffled spot] 34:35 So after I came back of course the elections came the big shocker- Gandhi lost. I still remember most of the PTI guys were in tears. You should talk to this guy called K. S. Jolly. [Kai: K.S. Jolly?] --- Jolly. He was, I mean, this is strictly between you and me. He and his friend Chaman Bhardwaj were the two, you know, what should you say...I mean --34:56 [Kai helps: toadies?] --- 34:58 worst...for...for Sanjay Gandhi used to get his work done through these two people. He ...Jolly later fell out. His son is now a Vice President in Coca Cola. I can get you his son's number but you speak to Jolly. He's a very nice guy. He'll have a lot of...I don't know...he must be old.
35:18 [Kai] : And this other guys...the Shukla who you mentioned ...will he still be around?
35:20 [TB] : He is around. He is around. He used to...he was very close to Vidya Charan Shukla... no… no… sorry… sorry… sorry...Vidya Charan Shukla was the I&B Minster (i.e., Information and Broadcasting) who called him up. This guy’s name is...it'll come back to me.
35:32 [Kai] : The guy you said caught you that evening?
35:33 [TB] : Yea… yea… yea…he was the one. He was the one. He's also a UP fellow...UP or Madhya Pradesh fellow.
35:37 [Kai] : Achaa! (right!) ...but his name is not Shukla?
35:38 [TB] : Not Shukla...Shukla was the Vidya Charan Shukla...and this guy's name is ...I’ll (read as- ‘it'll’) come back to me. ---[Kai: Sharma? or...?] ---No no... I’ll come back to me.
35:45 [Kai] : And Willie Lazarus...will...is he still around?
35:47 [TB] : No, he died...he died. He has died. Among those people who will do, Jolly is alive. He is quite okay. This should not…
35:55 [Kai] : And this Chaman Bhardwaj?
35:56 [TB] : Chaman Bhardwaj is dead. This chap who covered I&B and he had personal access to Vidya Charan Shukla. He was Shukla's man. He was Shukla's man. It's only in recent years that I'd talked to him but you know because that day I never remember---- [Kai clarifies: the one whose name you can't remember?] --- Yeah yeah..'75… the way he spoke to me and he complained about me to Lazarus and all that. I never forgave him for that. 36:21 I'll come back to me...don't worry. I'll call somebody. It'll come back to me.
| ---Whether in touch with foreign correspondents
--- Myron Belkind
----Mrs Indira Gandhi’s visit to Colombo…and TB’s act of defiance by deciding not to circulate her message on freedom of press in India.
---TB not realising that Samachar was the source from where news was being disseminated.
---- confusion over the identity of Shukla.
---narration of the reprimand.
---- Reprimand from the GM, William Lazarus.
---- TB undermined the implications of spiking the story.
---- TB as a result being transferred to another desk Non-aligned News Agency Deskdescription
--- journalists not doing much work during Emergency because of censor and tight control---pass time
---TB’s move to International Institute for Journalism, Berlin in late 1976.
----difficulty in obtaining passport.
---call from Ministry of External Affairs encouraging TB to go to East Berlin instead.
---- TB in London when declaration of impeding elections made ---returns to India
----back in India in time for elections
---Reaction in Samachar to Janta Party’s victory and Congress’ defeat.
--- Status of other Congress’ toadies.
---Confusion over name of Shukla.
--William Lazarus---now dead
---- Chaman Bhardwaj---dead now
| 36:24 [Kai] : But when you had come back in Jan then ...they must have caught on pretty soon that the winds were changing and...36:30 [TB] : Yeah...winds were changing but nobody expected this to happen... no …where...nobody. nobody. I very clearly remember when these guys- Jolly and all, they said 'Haan mahaul thik nahi hai but jeet jayege… jeet jayege.' (‘Yeah! Situation is bad now but (Congress) will win…will win’) Nobody had any inkling that this was going to happen.
36:47 [Kai] : So Tarun, were you there while the results were coming out? That that…day or the evening? (Kai and TB speak simultaneously)
36:50 [TB] : Yea yea, I was very much there...evening I was also very much there. I remember Jolly and all...their faces fell. They didn't know what was happening. They didn't know what had hit them at the time. And we were ecstatic...were dancing...nobody could stop us at that day. You know, for us it was victory...for us it was vindication, you know. And we were dancing and shouting and they were absolutely silent. They didn't know what to do. 37:13 They knew their reign was over. They knew their reign was over. You know, there was this guy called- H. K. Kaul... (Note: TB corrects himself) H.N. Kaul....who was the bureau chief there. I mean, you know, he…you know you heard that thing ---'you were asked to bend, they crawled'-- He was the guy who fitted the the definition to a 'T'. You know, he was the guy who was asked to report on the Turkman Gate demolition and I still remember, I wish there was some way, someone could say--it's a classic dis-information. 37:42 And Goebbelsian propaganda in terms of giving complete lies and presenting it as the truth and how after the demolitions had razed so many huts and destroyed so many homes… how he presented it as…how…. ‘beautification of Delhi’ and how things are going to be rosy and everything was going to be...flowers in the garden and Delhi would become the best city in the world. I still remember reading it and I was horrified. ...horrified. But there was nothing we could do.
39:21 [Kai] : okay, I'll make him a priority.
39:24 [TB]: V. P. Ramachandran...he was asked to go to all kinds of places in Madhya Pradesh, in Bhilai and talk about the steel production and how factories were doing very well, how trains were working on time, and how...basically to talk stories about how industrial production had gone up, and how lot of development work was coming up, how bridges were coming up, how roads were coming up and all these cooked-up developmental stories. He was made to do that and we used to feel so humiliated because he was our Deputy General Manager, and he was being, you know, sent all over the place to do stupid stories...propaganda stories from the so called Indian hinterland.
| --- Whether Congress’ defeat expected? Any changes at Samachar after Janta Party’s victory?
---- Presence of TB when results were declared.
---- H. N. Kaul, bureau chief--- he ‘crawled’ for the Congress in reporting---covered the demolition of Turkman Gate and guised it as a positive and progressive action of the Congress Government---- Goebbelsian propaganda
----TB being horrified at this reporting.
----V. P. Ramachandran (Deputy General Manager), another good guy forced to promote Congress Government’s development works on various tours.
| 40:08 [Kai] : But tell me in this phase between Jan '77 and the elections in March, did the reporting change because restrictions were, I mean, for the newspapers it certainly became easier but here there was no inclination I suppose?
40:23 [TB] : Not easier...I don’t remember reporting change that much. You know, what I remember from before the time I went off there was all these people who were doing Prime Minister's office, Foreign Ministry, Information Broadcast...they were the key ministries at that time. You know, they would march in at odd hours and say, 'please do this story...so and so minister has told us or Sanjay.' Sanjay Gandhi's name was very, very frequently invoked or Shukla was invoked. 40:52 very frequently...these people have told us to do it and so then everybody said, 'Ohhhh'...mad stories... 40:58 [Kai]: They were making priorities of these (stories)?
40:59[TB]: There was a priorities for everything. That refrain was very much there, you know...so and so has told us. And they would in a very self-important manner they would walk in, and so... (TB imitates sounds to indicate self-importance) I've been told.' They'd all feel very important that the … the...the… the lord and master --- [Kai: the big sources] ---- have they themselves have said that, you know. I've told them to do it and because Samachar had become a powerful organ and powerful organ of disinformation and propaganda. And was being followed by international news agencies etc. and then the same thing distributed to all these other socialist countries and other things. So all these Sanjay Gandhi was directly controlling the information through Vidya Charan Shukla. They used to speak with Samachar directly. 41:51 They used to speak to Samachar directly and it became the main government organ...main government mouthpiece. It was the main principal government mouthpiece. All kinds of information, disinformation, warning, propaganda...what have you...lies and whatever else they had to peddle at that time.
42:11 [Kai]: And what were the consequences then after the elections for Samachar and… and...
42:17 [TB] : Well the first thing I remember was we clamoured that we have to go back. They said no. These guys said no. There was a section of people who didn’t want to go because the perks and privileges had gone up. People were getting more money. You know, at Samarchar... At UNI we all got a pittance and since we had nothing else to do with that we couldn't do much with that money so we spent all our time in the office. Even after confirmation you got 350-400 rupees so everything went up. It was double in Samachar. So there was a large section of journalists who lobbied for status quo this thing. And not status quo ante. But we younger people said, 'no we must go back,' and then there was a lot of lobbying, there was a lot of memorandum ... this...that and one of the first things that the Janata Party did, even as it itself unravelled was to restore UNI. I think...I don't know the date...I'd really have to see...about another ...took six months I think, at least six months for us to go back to UNI. I think '77 by end of '77 we were back, I think at UNI.
43:24 [Kai] : And was there any counter reprisal now against the PTI -Congress loyalists (long pause) in Samachar?
43:33 [TB]: No, I think there was some shuffling and again people who had stood up to the Emergency obviously they were again rehabilitated and people who were good and you know, who had not taken a stand or not, you know, prostrated themselves. Some of them were rehabilitated. Lazarus was removed I know. This chap Shukla...what his naa...He's also Shukla I can't be sure. Maybe this chap is also Shukla, then why the Shukla name ...? His name is 'H' se kuch hai (‘starts with H’). H. C. ...maybe this chap was also Shukla...H.C. Shukla 44:08 . I think this chap was also Shukla. 44:13 But I'll get it, he's around. He's around...He's around. (long pause). I will give you the email id of my colleague Arul Louis, he was a JNU guy, and he was also a big rebel. In fact, he's the one when he left...he didn't want to stick around in PTI. So he applied to Columbia and got a scholarship to Columbia. He left very early, I think within three months of the Emergency he left. 44:39 He said, 'I can't stand it...'
44:39 [Kai] : There was a lot of resourceful people who thought that. (Kai and TB speak simultaneously). They just had to get out of for one reason or another.
44:42 [TB]: He couldn't take it. He just couldn't take it. I think within three months he left for Columbia. And he didn't come back since. He didn't come back since. He just stayed on over there. He also...I'll give you his numbers. He also has a lot of memories of the whole thing. 44:59 And he can give a lot of the JNU perspective...what used to happen. I'm sure you've spoken to others in JNU and others but he was among those who did a lot of underground work at that time.
| --- Did the interim period affect reporting?
---Not much s people from ministry would still come in to check.
--- self-importance of toadies of Sanjay Gandhi.
---importance of Samachar and why it was still being monitored.
---- economic perks of the journalists etc increased during the Emergency and post-Emergency
----power struggles within Samachar
---TB back at UNI by end of ’77
---any counter reprisal now against the PTI -Congress loyalists?
---shuffling took place
----Arul Louis leaving for Columbia within 3-4 months after Emergency.
--- a lot of resourceful people left post-Emergency.
----Arul being a god source for JNU related politics at the time.
| 45:12 [Kai]: Some people have mentioned to me an epic party on the day of...the night rather of the results or maybe immediately after. Do you remember 45:21 of journalists particularly but possibly there were several?45:22 [TB]: Possibly there were several but remember we were very junior...very, very junior at that time...extremely junior. So we may not be part of those parties other than where we barged in and we just ...so. I mean Kuldip Nayar would be a huge possibility. What about Virendra Kapoor? You're not meeting Virendra Kapoor?... Coomi's husband. --- [Kai: okay] --- Both of them were jailed, she was jailed. In fact, he was in IIC yesterday. Meet him...meet him.45:45 [Kai] : He was sent to Bareilly or something?
45:48 [TB] : Yeah yeah, he was sent to...Virendra would be of lot of information. Of course, the husband-wife, they will give you a lot of information. 45:56 Then (long pause) then who?
46:02 [Kai] : So tell me more about first about how it went for you in post-'77? Did you stay on in ...in UNI for extended period or did you find the climate very...?
46:12 [TB]: No… no… no, I left by '78. I'd gone on to Hindustan Times. By '78 I left.
46:19 [Kai] : And did you find that particularly exciting time?
46:21 [TB] : Two years in Hindustan Times and then I'd joined DPA in '80.
46:28 [Kai] : But is that any sort of golden period for you there...immediate post-Emergency '77-'78?
46:33 [TB] Yea, yea, it was a very good period ...very good period. That was the time we were, especially the two of us -Arul and I- some of the younger people, we got a lot of encouragement and that was the time I remember, that's a little story by itself... where we were encouraged by Mirchandani to do out... for the bigger stories and not to be constrained by beats and we were still desk people, and he tried to get us to become reporters. But we were quite happy with the desk and doing what they called the 'special stories' at that time. And we had some diplomatic friends here and I had some man, I remember going to his house. He was an Afghan or something and we used to go, I think it was Jor Bagh or Golf Links, I don't remember. And there we one day got to know about this coup --- 47:18 [Kai: The Taraki Coup] ---Taraki coup...this was a second coup. And and then we got to know that Taraki was in India just a few months before...he came...before he took over. So that was a big story and so I remember that he was in hospital in the Cantonment Hospital, which is now RandR. So we gave a story that the Afghan coup leader was in Delhi for treatment. So the implication was -- [Kai: yeah that India...have been involved] --- that India could be involved. And I remember it was the front page of Statesman. So the bureau people here they had no idea that the story had gone, and when the story came, they were pulled up to say, 'how did you do this story?' And there was the, I think, the spokesman was some Purushottam, who has died. And I still remember the bureau chief, Rangarajan, who's the ...who's the father of Mahesh Rangarajan. 48:17 [Kai: Okay] -- 48:18 [TB] : He coming in and telling- 'who's done this story? and what is this? Purushottam has called and...'
48:25 [Kai] : So this is in post-Emergency but but Ministry is still pulling the strings?
48:29 [TB] : Yea, yea, so we didn't know how to react and then, I think, the News Editor, he said, these boys have done it- Arul and ... --- [Rangarajan] : 'How did you allow them to do it? ---------You know the implications and what it means and you know that India might be involved and that India might have been implicitly supporting that and all that. --- [Rangarajan] What is the source? How was such thing sourced? What do you mean and...? Was a diplomat?" --- 'No', we said, 'informed sources or something.' ----48:56 So but we stuck to our story. So then I remember we get a call from our source that there is more information and if you could come. So we told the New Editor and he said, 'no… no… you can't do it. You shouldn't do it. You let the ...because they are creating a lot of trouble...this bureau people.' So we went and told ...I think he told the General Manager. So I still remember... you've seen the UNI office...kind of a bungalow...old style bungalow? So we were standing outside and there's a flowerbed there and...in the morning...and I, Arul and couple of others...we were just chatting, when the General Manager came in. And so he came in and says, 'So Basu anything more on the story?' and so I said, 'Well yes sir, but I think I’d rather not file.'--- So then my colleague, I remember telling him that we had some information that this guy have had venereal disease...that time there was no AIDS nah! But some venereal disease. But that was, I mean, we were not even sure so. I still remember as he went in, he says, 'Basu, keep at the story, don't leave it even if it means sleeping with the nurses..do it but get the story!' 50:09 So he was that kind of a person, you know. And he said it in the full view of the bureau chiefs and senior journalists, and the signal was that, 'we would not be intimidated by anybody. If there's a story, we'll run it.' 50:21 So that was the kind of person he was and so...now I remember this Mirchandani association. We used to put a lot of backgrounders, you know. UNI had this backgrounder service. And that time used to put out a lot a backgrounders and of course clandestinely about what is the state of affairs in the country at the moment...state of the media...state of…on something...the politics of the day...something of Jayprakash Narayan ---- 50:48 [Kai: These, I've seen these yeah!]---- Used to put out those and he used to give it to me, I used to edit them. He used to write it and get written; of course we were not senior but I used to edit them. And then I used to come back to him and he would look at ...look at it; and he used cyclostyle it and print it and then have it distributed. We had these backgrounders there. I was remembering…it was more than just a little clandestine...these little sheets.
51:10 [Kai] : I've seen those, yeah. We had some of those, I remember, had them in my father's collection.
51:12 [TB] : yeah… yeah, we used to do these backgrounders...a lot of people read it at that time. I'm trying to remember there were couple of others who were...but quite a few of us are...people have died in the last few years. (long pause)
| ----Any information on the epic party after election results declared?
---TB not aware as he was junior.
---TB gives references—Kuldip Nayar, Virendra Kapoor, Coomi Kapoor.
---TB in post-1977 period.
---TB by 1978 joined Hindustan Times
-- Hindustan Times and later DPI
--- what was TB’s golden period?
--- the learning curve during the Emergency
--- taking initiative ---example of scoop on Taraqi coup- the leader being in India before the coup for medical reasons---implications being that India was also involved in the coup.
---getting reprimand from the bureau people through Purushottam, and bureau chief Rangarajan (Mahesh Rangarajan’s father)
---Ministry still pulling strings post-Emergency.
----Narration of reprimand over Taraqi coup story---being told to cool heels.
---- But General Manager encouraged to pursue the story.
---- Underground rebellion to Emergency---Mirchandani taking out Backgrounder service clandestinely---TB and others helping in circulation---range of topics
---Kai familiar with backgrounders
| 51:29 [Kai] : And in England were you in, or in Germany were you in touch with any Indian associations or people? (long pause)
51:36 [TB] : no… no… no... nobody...nobody...nobody....no one ...no. No… no, I was not (TB took some long pauses in recalling this). In London… I travelled a couple of times and in London I met a few people who kind of encouraged us to, you know, start some underground information and trying. But, you know, information was not easy to get at that time. And they said they could help us if you could set-up some kind of clandestine information...underground information network or something. But we were not successful. I mean how to get that information. Who'll call...who'll make that call? Who will take it? You know those...first of all putting calls through was not easy at that time. 52:16 [Kai] : You weren't in touch with Achin Vanaik for example over there?
52:18 [TB] : No...no...no...no. None of those guys. (long pause).
52:26 [Kai] : And the shift to HT (Hindustan Times)? How did that come about from UNI?
52:31 [TB] : That was when I'd joined a magazine. There was a magazine called Contour at that time. They started their first magazine as a rival to India Today...magazine called Contour. And it was supposed to be a weekly.
52:44 [Kai]: No, I don't remember it.
52:44 [TB] : For....it was shut later. It was...ran for what...hardly a year. ---- [Kai: And who was in-charge?] --- It was a guy, Jackie Dhanda, who came in from publishing. And after Jackie Dhanda, there was Chotu Karadia, who came from India Today. But that was too late...he hardly...there were three issues and they shut it down for whatever reason, I don't know...some internal politics...we ran it for not more than six issues. We took...there was a long gestation period. They took about nearly a year for dummies and other things to be done. And I don’t think we did more than six or seven issues and suddenly overnight, we came...we were told the magazine has shut down.
53:21 [Kai]: They tried to sell it in as an independent publication?
53:23 [TB] : Independent weekly...and it was only then that India Today turned a weekly after that because India Today was a fortnightly for a long time.
53:29 [Kai] : No! India Today turned weekly in the '90s after Outlook came out.
53:33 [TB]: '90s? ---- [Kai: Yeah yeah---- stayed fortnightly] -------- [TB: okay then okay....]
| ----Was TB connected with others while in Germany and England?
---TB was not even though some suggested establishing underground network---idea given up.
---TB’s shift to HT.
---TB joined Contour, a weekly magazine set-up to rival India Today
--- Jackie Dhanda and Chotu Karadia
--- Contour shut down shortly and the reasons.
---long gestation period etc.
--- Confusion of TB over India Today turning into a weekly.
| 53:36 [Kai]: But do you remember to cut back to the Emergency ...do remember any news or gossip about the setting-up of India Today which happened, I think, around '76...they started?
53:47 [TB] : This...this lady was there...who started it....these two sisters...--- [ Kai helps: Uma Chakarvarty...?]---- Uma and what's the others name...? ----[Uma Chakarvarty...I think that was the name] ----- no no not Chakarvarty..no .. no...no ...no … Vasudev. ---- [Kai: Uma Vasudev, sorry] ----- Uma Vasudev and her sister Aruna Vasudev. They're still around. ---- [Kai: Acha?! (Really!?)] ---- They're around. I can put you in with a person who was with me in the Hindustan Times...unless they're very ill, they're around.
54:10 [Kai] : Uma Vasudev and.... ---- [TB and Kai simultaneously: Aruna Vasudev].
54:14 The two sisters they were the ones who started India Today. I'll just find out...wait. (long pause as TB searches)
54:32 [Kai] : I'll take all the numbers from you.
54:40 [TB] : I'll … I'll get you all that...I'll call people up tonight and see who all are...I must be remembering a few other people also who were active at that time. Off-hand I'm not able to recollect. I will...I will. I'll get you all that…some other people. And I'll talk to Arul. Let me get some more people.
55:01 [Kai] : So Arul left then in the post-Emergency?
55:04 [TB] : yeah, he left in the post-Emergency but within three months after...three-four months not more than that. He didn't hang around.
55:09 [Kai] : But he applied for his fellowship or whatever...?
55:11 [TB] : Yeah, he applied for his fellowship.
55:17 [Kai] And then this Hindustan Times experience was confined to this magazine or you moved to the paper then?
55:22 [TB] : No ... no, I was confined to the magazine. And then I got this offer from DPA because the Indian person who was there G. B. Malkani, he… he... he died suddenly. And then Helmut Räther ---- [Kai: Yes, I know him.] --- he kind of was looking around and he told Kutty (Note: K.P.K. Kutty perhaps) ...UNI person News-Editor...knew somebody...so Kutty recommended me...so December 1980 I joined DPI. 55:52 '80 to '88 I think I was there.
55:57 [Kai] : And in terms of perspective, if you're willing to talk about....what the Emergency meant...in a lasting way for...for...the media and … and… and press freedom and the way things are today...Do you think it left a significant lasting resonance or it's just an episode that came and went?
56:25 [TB] : See...you're talking from '75 ....I'll not...you know...that generation has completely gone. We were...I'm not talking just us...we were very junior. So the Emergency and what it meant is just a footnote in History for people now. Most people if you ask any journalist today...most of whom do not read...and ask them what is the Emergency and what it meant...they'll be blank I can assure you that. Nine out of ten would be blank. 56:57 I am not exaggerating...I'll be very surprised how many...There would be people who'd know. I mean nobody bothers to read up history and what the Emergency meant other than they'll say 'Haan haan Emergency mein kuch huah tha...eighteen moths something kuch huah tha. Emergency tha...' (‘Yes yes…something happened during Emergency…eighteen months something happened’)--- 57:10 [Kai: Well actually even politically it’s so significant ] --- '....log arrest huah they (‘people got arrested…)....but what it meant and what it did to India, lessons that were learnt and what...what catharsis that---- 57:18 [Kai: Even the ..even the characters who are ruling us today, it was a trans-formative time for them.] --- 57:24 [TB]: It was a trans-formative time...it was a cathartic time for all of us in many ways. It left us deeply shaken. It left us...I mean all of us at least value our freedom in a very very significant way having gone through it. But today's people don't value it at all, and I... where ever I've spoken in journalism institutes, this is something I said...and people when they have talked about it, they didn't know all that...they don't...nobody knows all this. They said, yea!". I mean I said -today you take your freedom for granted yaar...very clueless. Never take your freedom for granted because still that freedom of expression is not there in a lot of countries, including countries like China and all whom you, you know, hold so highly. 58:03 So, you know, that is just not there for the asking.
58:20 [TB] : See Emergency kind of things cannot come back but it is in many ways it’s scary what is happening. And I was reading this Manjula Narayan's (Note: Manjula Narayan: Editor, Brunch, HT) piece in Hindustan Times about the Jaipur Literary (festival) and you know the last of the events was on – ‘is freedom of expression absolute’? 58:37 And where Anupam Kher said that there is no such thing as absolute freedom of expression ----[Kai: And the crowd rooted against…] ---yeah and the crowd rooted and people chanted 'Modi! Modi! Modi!' --- [Kai: Oh really!?] ---Yeah yeah...so things are...I mean there is, I mean, you know they will not go in the Emergency...there's not going to be censorship and in a very indirect way people are scared. 58:58 People are scared...people I see in our offices and all that...People are...cannot openly...you criticise Modi and there are people are worried... what will happen to them if you openly criticised Modi, you know. Some ABVP goons or VHP goons or some other such goons would come down and then...
59:14 [Kai] : And the culture of getting a call from a ministry or politician...do you think that still happens?
59:19 [TB] : I don't think that is there...It does not. No, I mean...I have not...I am not an editor any more...I've stuck on but I don't know...that does not happen. Maybe if they call up the correspondent that...no...no I don't think they have the courage to do that as yet. They work through people who they think are pliant and who they think will do their bidding. ----- [Kai: You don't think warnings ...warnings ...warnings are sent?] (Kai and TB almost speak simultaneously) But calling up editors and saying 'don't do this...don't do that' is...I don't think. They do take to more... that it is still more subtle. That used to happen but they would now send their goons. They would not really do it themselves. They'll send their goons59:54
59:57 [Kai] : And and...do you think the owners as in the corporates are playing a more significant role today in ...in nudging a ..the press into obedience or...
60:14 [TB] : See you cannot generalise --- [Kai: It's an old thing also] ---- and say it's the press...it's a very...all kinds of people today in the media. There's media and there is another media. You are talking about registered over ninety thousand newspapers and magazines. There are four hundred news channels. ----[Kai: Networka and websites… ]---- All kinds people are in the media. There are raddiwalas (collectors of old newspapers or trash etc.) who are owning newspapers and steel barons and coal barons...real estate people...all kinds of people...there is no... Anybody can start a newspaper today and get away...so I mean there are media....so of course there are people who are beholden to the government...to a government who support it. But there are also anti-establishment, Indian Express for example. 60:58 It's still fairly anti (establishment). Hindu has been for ...there. People are writing what they feel like and you know I think initially for the first few months of the Modi era people were scared. It was a fairly critical. I read this quote, 'Modi is saying that not a day passes when I am not criticised by people today and I only see criticism of my government in the media...' or something on those lines.61:23...just last week. So I only am now used to only criticism about me and my policies...something on those lines.61:32 [Kai] : The mood has changed. ---- [TB: hmm?] ---- the mood has changed since the early days (since) the (2014) elections.
61:34 [TB] : The mood has changed and I don't think people are going to take it lying down...even whatever these ABVP and others are doing. There's a criticism of that and that will continue...that will continue. I mean going back to... there will always be a section when asked to bend they'd crawl. But then again there's a lot of young people ...and young people also know...like when we were ...you were...they're rebellious and that kind of thing will continue and that I think is the positive aspect of this profession. I think today if you open any channel, the people...the faces that you see...the reporters...are all below thirty. 62:11 One thing, they come cheap and ...and people, you know, they...people are there for a few months and then go and go on leave...go to another job and ...endless supply chain of journalists ...provided...(quite a few muffled spots). I mean that way people are, quite a few at least, some of the channels are pleased. They have people who have fire in their belly and not scared of the establishment. But you know again the problem is, you must be knowing that, it's not easy to run a new media organisation today. There's no money in the market. You cannot monetise news any more. If you cannot monetise the main commodity, which...for which you have been trained ----- 62:58 [Kai: then you need people who have money to burn] ---- so you need to have money and then you have to start compromising. And if you don't compromise directly then you compromise indirectly. And compromises are happening all the time everywhere. And I don't think anybody who can say that -I'm doing without compromising my professional values---- [Kai: That's true] ----- 63:15 [Kai] When people talk of the launch of India Today, though they obviously had a sarkari (government) support at that time but they said, in the start they said, their business plan was (based on) news stand sales not advertising, (a model) which has vanished long ago.
63:34 [TB] : Vanished long… long ago. Now see advertising has become so fragmented and so splintered the pie is not increasing, if anything the pie would have shrunk. So the same thing that was going around to fifty channels is now going to four hundred channels and ninety thousand others publications -magazines and newspapers. So everybody is just getting a little bit here, so where do you make money? You cannot monetise news, you're not getting that much...you're not able to get that much advertisements so then try and get it from other sources and then you sell yourself to all kinds of hustlers who are now owning media or trying to get share in the media or trying to get control of the media...all kinds of hustlers and political wannabes and all kinds of other racketeers.
Interview Ends Abruptly
| ---- On India Today
---TB refers to Uma Vasudev and Aruna Vasudev as starting India Today.
---- TB promises to find more names and contacts.
---- TB’s shift to DPI
--sudden death of G. B. Malkani
---- Implications of Emergency for media---freedom of press.
--Emergency generation has died…
---people now don’t understand Emergency and its implications and many don’t know.
----but for many they were trans-formative years.
---value of freedom
----Any possible concerns about press in present times?
---Emergency cannot come back…times have changed
--- no censorship now but people wary in different ways.
---ABVP and VHP goons likely to hit back.
--- on possibility of interference from ministry or politician?
--- interference more subtle now
--- on corporates’ hold over media
---not new----all kinds of people can enter media this brings its own set of problems---lack of onus+ limited scope of ‘breaking news’+ mews no longer can be monetised+ lack of check on the content
---people are also now fairly vocal in their criticism, example Modi’s quote.
---on the quality of reporters’ now.
--- will always be some rebellious people.
--- lack of accountability of media.
--- little scope of monetisation of media left
---those who have money to burn can start media related medium since business plan no longer relies on news stand sales as it did for India Today.
--- compromise present in media either directly or indirectly.