INTERVIEWEE* Name: Raghu Rai [RR]
- Occupation: Photographer
INTERVIEWER* Farah Yameen
Medium: Audio recordings* Format/ Type of File: Wav
- Language: English with smatterings of Hindi
- Location of Interview: Raghu Rai Center for Photography.
- Date of the interview: 06 May 2016
Clip name/DURATION: * Name:
Length 00: 34:34
Bit Rate 1536kbps
Recording 2 379 MB
Date modified 06 May 2016 16:44:06
(NOTE: Recording 2 is the actual First Interview)
Recording 1 280MB
Date modified 06 May 2016 16:33:26
(NOTE: This is in continuation with RR’s last answer in the above recording)
| 0:04 [FY] : So this is an interview with Raghu Rai, the date today is 7 of May ... --- [RR : Yes...no, 6th] ---- ... 6th of May (Year: 2016) and this the twenty-first interview of the Project.
0:20 [RR] : Who all have you interviewed?
0:22 [FY] : Oh! I have not been interviewing. You're my first interviewee so far. Somebody else has been doing the interviews. So sir we'll begin with what you were saying about you know, I think you were saying Anti-Indira things were not being published ..and you were saying.
0:39 [RR] No you see people did publish initially but soon they were sort of the noose was tightened and the messages were sent or they were picked up. And then who wants to go to the jail? It's not such an occasion where you're ready to die for your country. I mean this was stupidity and strange from me that this thing should be happening. And why should you, you know, gag the press? Why should you stop them from printing daily news that is going on? 1:22 So it was very strange for me but the fact was there was almost no political rallies or political meetings because then the Gandhis were the boss, and they didn't have to have political meetings or together or anything. The decision was taken by Sanjay (Ref.: Sanjay Gandhi) and company, and Mrs Gandhi will put stamp on it...so that was the game being played. 1:52 And I remember, you know, Maneka Gandhi, you know, had started a magazine. I'm forgetting the name.
2:08 [FY] : I think I read about it yesterday.
2:10 [RR] : And then she wanted me to give some pictures. I said, 'okay I will.' But then ...by that time the Emergency was declared or something like that, you know my memory s very good. So one day she turns up to my office. She say's, 'Raghu you haven't given me the pictures.' I said, 'ya, take it easy yaar.' So she says, 'you know nah these days I can...we can put you in jail?' I said, 'Maneka anything for you!' 2:41 So things like that, you know, because also you had to have some humour, some strength also to face anybody; and you see like first day we published a picture of Chandani Chowk with, you know, there were quite a few policemen, and life going on. 3:06 And we simply wrote- 'Life Normal in Chandani Chowk,' because you don't have to say that there are policeman...they're visible. So next ...next day they got a message that you can't be that smart. So and then on important situations, political situations what they did was, they would leave the space blank and print no picture.
3:33 [FY] : In their editorial?
3:34 [RR] : Yea...no even on page 1 or something we did that.
3:38 [FY] : Statesman?
3:39 [RR] : Yea, Statesman and Kulpid Nayar was the editor and I think he did go to jail.
3:43 [FY] : Yeah, he did.
3:45 [RR] : And but I'll hate to go to jail for this reason, I'm sorry. You see some people say, 'Oh! I can die for my country' and when the time comes you hardly see anybody. And I will never that I can die for my country, because when the time comes I'll see; and what is the cause ...what is the reason...do I need to do this? I might do it but I’m not sure. So I'm one of those that who will never make such statements. 4:16 So it was it became a lot of fun, tension and stupidity, which people resisted. And sterilisation, forced sterilisation imagine if a man has decided that he'll get himself sterilised and he walks out of his house, suddenly he's picked up by these men from family planning that we taking you for sterilisation. He just say, 'Sorry man...wait a minute.' You know it's that simple. So the fact was that bulk of the country was not affected by it. Who cares about freedom of the press, you know because ninety percent of the people don't even get a any newspaper. They don't have access. 5:13 So ninety percent, more than ninety percent are gone. Out of those ten percent who many are aligned with them...how many are against them...against Emergency...so maybe, you know, very small percentage. 5:25 It boils around to that. 5:29 But I must say a sizeable amount of journalists people, they hated it and they stood against it. And then I don't know. Kuldip Nayar won't like it but I have to say it. 5:53 And I don't have any personal experience of anybody trying to be tough with me or put me into difficulty. 6:03 Yes, we actually...there was another incident. We ...I had worked very closely with Jayprakash Narayan on his movement. And we were printing a photographic book on Jayprakash’s Movement called Bihar Shows the Way. And he was the guy who got the Opposition and everybody together to stand against Indira Gandhi. So the book was being printed at the Statesman press. 6:40 And then these guys kid turned up and they took away the printed forms. So the printing of the book was dropped. That was one thing which bothered me a lot because for me- young photographer to get a book published on an important issue like that was very important. So I was very very upset and angry about it. 7:06 And because previously we had done a book on Indira Gandhi in '71. 7:17 And because it so happened that I came into photojournalism in '66. Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister in '66. So our career…me as a photojournalist and she as a Prime Minister…we started the same year. So I...it so happened that everyday...almost every second day...Prime Minister...Prime Minister function...Prime Minister here...Prime Minister there, and then anybody else. 7:47 So we were photographing Prime Minister day-in and day-out. So by '71...'71 one of our editors at the Statesman, Desmond Doig, very bright creative man. He said, 'Raghu why don't we '...he had started a magazine called Junior Statesman for young people. SO he said, 'why don't we do a day in the life of Indira Gandhi?' 8:11 So I spent a day with her. She was being gracious...she was wonderful. And I took lots of pictures and he did - A Day in the Life of Indira Gandhi'. 8:26 And then he said...you see one day I had taken some grand pictures. ..really which summed up who she is in context to all this...her party...her social space…everything. So he says, 'why don't we do a book on Indira Gandhi?' So in '71 we did a book called- The... The Life in the Day of Indira Gandhi...turned around which she released it. 9:00 And so you know, my editor and publisher...they were sitting and getting what autographed copies autographed and I was sitting about six feet away from her in a very private space. So these guys got several copies signed and I was just sitting and watching. Then she looked at me and I smiled. She said, 'won't you like me to autograph a book for you?' I said, 'nahi Indira ji hum toh roz milte hain' (trans.: No, Indira ji, we meet everyday). And very casually and not without any this thing or that thing but the fact was that we meet every day...where is the need for autographs? So she gave me a very warm smile...this guy is .....(RR and FY share a laugh). 9:41 So those were also the very special movements, which you feel stupid also later that 'I shouldn't have said this...I should have got one done.'
| --Introduction of the Project.
- Reference to Kai’s interviews
--Initially people did print criticism of Indira Gandhi but soon stopped on the threat of being jailed.
--RR didn’t ethically understand the need to gag the press.
--- political rallies etc almost nil because Sanjay Gandhi was issuing orders.
---Recounts an incident with Maneka Gandhi to indicate the power that she abused.
---RR’s picture of Chandani Chowk titled ‘Life Normal in Chandani Chowk’ as a photo-protest -elicited a warning from the Censors.
leaving blank space as mark of protest.
--Kuldip Singh went to jail.
---RR personally didn’t approve the concept of courting arrest without considerable thought.
---On forced sterilisation.
---In RR’s opinion bulk of the country remained unaffected by the excesses of the Emergency, like clamp down on freedom of press, as they didn’t get any newspaper to being with.
---RR had no personal close encounter of being jailed.
---RR working on a photographic book on JP’s Movement in Bihar, which was to be printed at Statesman Press Censors came and took away the printed forms.
---on his book on Indira Gandhi- how it came about after doing A Day in the Life of Indira Gandhi' on Desmond Doig’s suggestion for Junior Statesman.
---On A Day in the Life of Indira Gandhi'.
---Birth of a whole photojournal book on Indira Gandhi- The Life in the Day of Indira Gandhi – realised by her.
---personal narration on the launch of the book.
| 9:51 [FY] : So you don't have a signed copy of that book?
9:53 [RR] : Not at all! Not at all! I never do these things with anyone, even Mother Teresa whom I loved so closely. Anyway I got one copy singed from her from other and I gave it to my nephew who was unwell, you know. 10:06 Anyway so I mean these...there were these moments she was bright, she was wonderful, she was caring but let me tell you...look back I can say that she was the only Prime Minister that I have experienced. I don't know about Nehru. Nehru was a great lover. She was the only PM who cared for art, culture and heritage. That is also there but then when you are pushed against the wall and the whole world is going against you then you have to retaliate. And this was a retaliation by these people. 10:50 So she had wonderful qualities also. I won’t say that but then it became very (long pause) 11:03 unclean and 11:12 what is that word- divisive kind of attitude out of insecurity. 11:21 And then 11:25 She declared and then the feedback she was getting was that its' not good- you must stop it at the earliest because there were some other people. Also the fact was that she had some very bright bureaucrats like Dhar... ----- 11:46 [FY : Haksar...P.N. Haksar] ---- ... Haksar, P. N. Haksar, Dhar and Kaul, these three guys...they were very bright forthright people. And ...and Sharda Prasad who was her Press Secretary...wonderful man. 12:07 And they must have been giving her the feedback that 'it's enough ...stop it'. So in '77 they declared the elections. 12:22 So you know...you know first twenty years I have been...twenty...twenty-five years I was very closely involved in news events and political situations and all these things. So there was a big rally by Janta Dal when all the Opposition got together ...some of the Congressmen like Jagjivan Ram, and Morarji Desai, they left her so there was a big rally at Ramlila Ground and the...and the participation by the people was so spontaneous that thousand and thousands turned u and it was filled. So we took lots of pictures and next day or after two days or something like that I don't remember there was Congress rally and Congress rally there were lots of people but you could see that it was not a natural flow of people coming to participate but there were lots of people. So what happens- my Kulidip Nayar was my editor but he trusted my.. the way I sniffed around and looked at the world. He says, 'Raghu did you go to both the rallies?' I said, 'yes'. He says, 'what do you think?' I said, 'the first rally...the Janta Dal rally was very spontaneous and unbelievable crowd but Mrs. Indira Gandhi's rally was also lots of people but there was something very strange.' He says, 'what?' I said, 'Mrs Gandhi said- bhaiyo aur behno...is election mein aap apna kimti vote mujhe dena agar nahi diya to mein chheen lu gi!' So he says, what do you mean?' mene kaha dekho, 'usne aisa kaha nahi ki cheen lu gi. but the undertone of the insecurity and anger was - Bhaiyo aur behno...mujhe vote do nahito mein chheen lungi!' He says, 'yaar tu kamal kar deta hai. Aisi baate sooch ta hai!' Mein kaha, 'I am an instinctive man...I sniff around. I'm telling you the feeling...the vibrations....ke kya hai.' 14:49 So he said, 'Ache very interesting.' Then he wrote some editorial about it. So elections were held in day...all elections were over in one day all over the country! And the counting started in the morning by 5 O' Clock the results were coming in…major results in one day. Any way so they...the last day...the day of election in Delhi 15:22 you know after photographing people queuing up, people voting, people this..people that police here police there after 5 O'Clock when the elec...when the voting was over I was coming back from Old Delhi. One of the major reasons why they lost was the forced sterilisations also. This was one of them. And in those days there were slogans...They had slogans called --- Hum do Hamare do. So this wall in Old Delhi has that triangle which symbolises family planning…red coloured triangle and it has - Hum do humare do. So what I see there is a triangle and where it's written hum do -at that time it has come to symbolise hum do means, Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. 16:24 So ..so -hum do and the triangle and there is a poor man -raddi ekathi kar raha hai aur usme Indira Gandhi ka poster hai ...election ka ...ki janta muje vote de. And he's putting that in his, you know, sack. 16:44 So I was excited I took the picture and I came back. Kulpid Nayar was sitting in his room late in the evening. SO I said, 'Nayar saab...just look at this picture.' He says, 'fantastic Raghu wow..kamal hai ...beautiful. It says everything. But we can't use it.' I said, 'why not?' He says, 'if she doesn't lose them both of us will be in jail.' I was so angry with him. I said, 'if you don't use this picture today....' - (RR remembers) Nah! And also I told him ... I said, 'they are not coming back.' He says, 'Raghu tu bacha hai.' Mein kaha, 'Bacha hoon pur mein sniffer hoon. Tum log calculate karte ho (trans. Raghu, you are a kid. I said, ‘I may be a kid but I am a sniffer. You people calculate’). Your calculations can go wrong but my my response can't go wrong because I get the feel by sniffing around...what is going on.' He says, 'nahi I can't use it.' I was so angry I tore off the picture and threw it on his table, I said, 'I will not come to this office.' 17:51 So I went away. It was late evening. So I didn't go to the office the next day and then by 5 O'clock it was almost clear that they were almost gone. And then Kuldip Nayar is looking for Raghu Rai, Raghu Rai is not there in the office. So then he rang up; he said, 'Raghu tu aya nahi.' 'Aree,' mene ka 'kaise aana, I told you I'm not coming to this office.' He says, 'Ooo they are..they've lost. There are losing. Now we can use the picture.' So mein bhi toda aapni woh dekhai and then he said, 'please yaar Raghu, I'm very sorry, please come.' Then he used it six column...big picture on page 1 and then of course they didn't forgive me for this. 18:34 whatever it was. You see then somebody interviewed me and asked me, 'Indira Gandhi....you are the first photographer, you are the only photographer who's got Padma Shiri. And then you can, you know, do these things. Whose loyalty? Who are you loyal to?' I said, 'loyal jo hote hai who kutee hote hain. Dogs are loyal. I am loyal to you know what? I am loyal to the situations as they speak to me. And what they speak to me is more important than worrying about this party or this leader or that leader, which I'll never do.' 19:17 So also you know it's not so simple that everybody stood against Emergency. You have to have that mantle, that strength also in you to see honestly and reflect honestly...honestly. To make a difference, you know, and since you are a photojournalist or you are a writer, it's your responsibility that you be his representative; and not a manipulator. So this was and I had some pictures but not...I don't think them to be great pictures but if you put it in that story in that context, it's interesting.
---RR doesn’t have a personal copy of an autographed book on Indira Gandhi nor of Mother Teresa.
---RR’s admiration of Indira Gandhi and her appreciation of art, culture and heritage.
---RR’s partial understanding of what motivated Indira Gandhi to impose Emergency.
--Indira was insecure.
---on Indira possessing some good bureaucrats like Dhar, Haksar and Kaulmayhap they gave Indira the indication that it was time to end Emergency - declaration of elections.
---RR’s observation of the composition, mood and tone of the rallies at Ramlila Ground first of the Opposition’ and the next day of the Congress’ indicated that all was not well with Indira’s camp.
---Conversation between Kuldip Nayar and RR over latter’s observation of the two rallies.
---RR on the furore of the election day---over in a single day across the country.
-- forced sterilisations as being one of the main causes of the Congress’ defeat.
--On another opportune picture take by RR which predicted Congress’ defeat ---reaction of Kuldip Nayar who refused to print without knowing the results---RR upset and quasi-threatens to quit.
--RR sure of Congress; defeat as he called himself a sniffer of mood and undercurrents.
--After Congress’ defeat was confirmed Kuldip Nayar wanted to print the image but RR was home…had to be cajoled to come to work and print the photosoured relations between Indira and RR.
---In an interview RR was questioned about where his loyalty lies--- RR’s response- Those who are loyal are dogs. And he’s loyal to the whatever the situation brings—This being more important than following a leader.
--On work ethic—one has to be true to the situation rather than manipulate it.
| 19:57 [FY] : Sir, you were saying something that 'Kuldip Nayar would not like it'. Is this what you were telling me?
20:02 [RR] : Haan.
20:02 [FY] : Achha. So there's also one picture that you have taken of Indira's poster that 20-point programme across this print. So what this, you know, what the country looked like visually as a photographer to you. Did that change how ...how the reporting of the country and how it was visually represented in the media? Did it change from pre-Emergency to post?
20:21 [RR] : No, you see at that time of course you know these kinds of slogans and posters were created during Emergency, to show …to show to the countrymen how well she's done on this front .... on that front or nationalisation of bank on removing privy purses 20:41 on doing this ...on doing that...and this development and that development...it was...these posters were all over the country. 20:49 But then and also very interesting fact, which people don't understand...even the politicians don't...there was only one channel called Doordarshan. This is very unique thing...two things, you know, bear, you know, you have to be very sensitive....one is the fact that why Indira Gandhi listened to him?
21:17 [FY] : To whom?
21:18 [RR] : To her son (Ref: Sanjay Gandhi). ---- [FY : Sanjay Gandhi.] --- 21:21 These four guys, you know- Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Bansi Lal, and those other...two others... 21:27 ---- [FY : Baruah] --- [RR : Eh? ] ---- [FY : Baruah] (Ref: Dev Kant Baruah who also coined “Indira is India and India is Indira”)--
21:29 [RR] : Baruah and these people. They created this plan and sold it to Sanjay and he sold it to mother. Now, you know, concoct all kinds of stories. Simple fact of life is that 21:47 she didn't get along with her husband for whatever reason. She was staying was staying with her father as his hostess. She watched all political situations very closely; and she lost man in her family very early. The father passed away, the husband was not there. He also passed away and suddenly in '7...1975 when she's being pushed and she..she could be hanged in the sense that she had to lose, you know, the job; suddenly she finds a man in her family who's woken up with a proposal...who's offered her a proposal -- look mom this is what we have. And they do it and the whole country is quiet the next day. So this was the simple logic and no other concocted story because there was this...there was that...blah...blah...bullshit. She found a man in the family who could hold her. 22:51 Now second thing- 23:00 ...what was that? For that was really interesting point. (long pauses) 23:08 Previous to this what did we talk about?
23:11 [FY] : We were talking about how...why she listened to the person.
23:14 [RR] : Hmm?
23:15 [FY] : You were just talking about why she listened to Sanjay.
23:18 [RR] : Nahi...that was because of this. Nahi previous to that...yeah that point is gone.
23:26 [FY] : You said, 'who is loyal?' and who is your loyalty to?
23:29 [RR] : Haan...nahi that of course I told you that one has to be loyal to the situation as they speak to you. Also, you know, even you know at India Today, when I was a picture editor and, you know.... ---- 23:42 [FY] : Sorry you were talking about posters all over the city and 20-point program and these posters.
23:48 [RR] : Yea, yea... posters...23:50 Haan talking about Doordarshan. ---- [FY : Haan haan.] ---- 23:55 You know politicians and Opposition leaders used to be very upset that it used to be only Indira Gandhi...only Indira Gandhi. So I used to tell them, that my understanding is very different. It's very dangerous game to be seen on television on daily basis. Why? You could be speaking some great words or saying some great things or offering some meaningful talk to them, you're speaking the words is one thing, which you guys report very quickly when most people, uneducated mask. When they look at television they can't make out what she's saying. But what do they make out? 24:45 Her eyes are twitching, her lips are going this way or somebody body language is strange...funny; and they feel something is not right. What the person is speaking doesn't matter to the public at large because these stories, they've heard...many times but the feeling the body language, the expressions...you know they reveal the person... the personality. 25:18 And that is another reason they lost the...according to me...because she was always on television. And used to start to feel the person. Aree this country is uneducated, illiterate ...poor ...very instinctive and that instinct works every time there is a a election.
---How did the country look like during the Emergency in terms of photojournalism?
---RR talks about the situation during the Emergency.
--RR on why Indira Gandhi heeded Sanjay’s words ---two reasons (a) lack of a man to fill a void (b) her constant presence on Doordarshan made the uneducated yet intuitive public aware of Indira’s insecurities.
---Role of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Bansi Lal, Dev Kant Baruah cooked up the Emergency plan—sold it to Sanjay Gandhi who passed it to Indira in RR’s opinion.
---Indira’s personal struggles on loss of men in her life.
--- Indira overexposed on Doordarshan on a daily basis. The uneducated masses noted not her words but her body language that revealed her insecurity.
| 25:42 [FY] : So sir in the lead-up to the elections there were several things you know that people talked about...there was corruption, the railway ministry...the Mishra's assassination (Ref.: the assassination of the Railway Minister Lalit Narayan Mishra on 3 January 1975) and various things. Did you also report those things...did you photograph those events? JP Naray (leaves the name incomplete)... JP Movement.
25:56 [RR] : Well, yea..of course, you know but photographically you couldn't do much except that the funeral of Mishra...doesn't mean anything in terms of discovery.
26:05 [FY] : But you would also be involved in the...you would know what was going to the reportage.
26:08 [RR] : Yea, everybody knew these stories. But let me tell you...compared to today those stories are what?---Peanuts! Not even that. That corruption was even this much...see the size of corruption, crime, you see when 26:31 the corruption...money making is ...this level...and that money that you make through corruption will be used for corrupt purposes and that's why there is more crime, there are more killings, there are more rapes and there are more movies, which showed rapes and this kind of rubbish. And they are all related ...related to this system.
26:58 [FY] : So I was saying sir that the reportage just before the Emergency before the Censor, the pre-censorship rules came through and the 20-point program was declared, how was reportage just before the Emergency different from what was happening during the Emergency?
27:12 [RR] : No, before the Emergency...everybody had absolutely freehand in writing and saying what they felt was right.
27:21 [FY] : And what was being reported? If I was ...if I were to ask you to say 12th June what...?
27:26 [RR] : Also, don't forget one thing that in any given time, you know, in any...for any political party in power there are more supporters than 27:38 anti-, you know this thing. So you know and in any case ..two years back those who were the closest chamchas (boot-lickers) of Gandhis and Congress, they are back with BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) mind you. So what is the difference?
27:59 [FY] : So a ...let me put this into ...suppose we talk about the day the Allahabad High Court said her election was null and void, how was the reported in the paper?
28:08 [RR] : No, it was reported in ..in total details, you know, by its been said and ..
28:15 [FY] : And there was no injunctions from the ministry, I&B or the Press Secretary of Indira Gandhi?
28:20 [RR] : No, nothing...nothing...nothing...nothing....nothing. Nothing till the day the Emergency was declared.
28:27 [FY] : And what happened on the day they...where were you on the day when Emergency was declared?
28:32 [RR] : No, we were in the office and then you know, you see, we had a editorial meeting -what do we do? So we said, 'all right , we'll find little little stories without making them into negative stories, just report simple details.' And like, you know, I went to Chandani Chowk to see and we said, you know 'Life Normal in Chandani Chowk.' We didn't say that why so many policemen. So you picked a point which irritated you, you know which asked you questions rather than you posing questions, you know...that simple. 29:09 Because you knew, you know otherwise they'll not let you do that. But still even they didn't let you raise any questions through your writing or photographs.
| ---What did RR capture in the time run-up to the elections?
---Just captured the funeral of Mishra.
---Was RR involved in reportage?
---On difference in reportage in pre-during-post Emergency periods.
--Pre-Emergency freehand in writing
--RR on shifting loyalties of political supporters.
---A lull in situation after Allahabad Court decision- everything blew up only with the declaration of the Emergency.
---On the decision taken by the Statesman on how to defy censors.--> background to the photo of Chandani Chowk for the discerning eyes.
| 29:19 [FY] : So were there other photographs that you took during the period where questions were asked about why is this photograph being published in the Statesman?
29:28 [RR] : No mainly this, you know that they stopped, you know, because you had to send your pictures to the Censors. I forgot to tell you that. And my...my memory is not very good and I don't remember how many pictures they must have rejected, I don't remember. So I tell off hand.
29:46 [FY] : You don't remember any particular picture that particularly really rankled because you wanted it published and you're like- How could they reject this one?
29:53 [RR] : Nahi...nahi, I told you the one which I wanted it to be published ...my own editor didn't have the courage .
30:01 [FY] : What about the Government?
30:03 [RR] : Uhmm?
30:03 [FY] : But not the Government. There was no ..there's no particular picture that you remember that the Government rejected?
30:07 [RR] : I don't know.
30:08 [FY] : But were there quite a few?
30:12 [RR] : Nahi, you see more than anything else, it was a strange kind of silence accompanied by strange kind of tension and fear, which is not the spirit of 30:29 a free nation ... ---- [FY : Journalism?] ---- ....30:35 those of us who were coming from that kind of commitment to 30:44 the situations where they need us to speak,
30:50 [FY] : Sir If I were to ask you to describe to me the tension within the newsroom on the day that the Emergency was declared? Could you remember the conversations for me?
31:02 [RR] : Not very detailed conversations like this picture also , you see the news editor said , Raghu, it's a good picture but we'll ...what we'll do...what we will do? We'll see...life normal and it was done. I said, 'yes, all right.' 31:16 Because also the fact was that the contents must speak for themselves. Why do you have to mention? So this was the general but I don't remember many things. My memory is very bad.
31:35 [RR] : No I mean people were not discussing it openly and everywhere. Only few friends when they get-together in the evenings...like-minded people they will share their...they will discuss. ..they will talk about it. 31:47 And they will wonder how long they can last!
31:51 [FY] : So for instance what were conversations about the whole Maruti Factory if I were to ask that and how was the reported in the media?
31:59 [RR] : I don't remember.
32:00 [FY] : You didn't report on that?
32:01 [RR] : No because everybody knew it's Sanjay's baby, it's done for Sanjay so there was no secret about it. And one accepted this that she's doing for her son. 32:15 And that was the downfall of Indira Gandhi's legacy and the political system. 32:24 You see another very important point...after the Emergency, she lost completely and she was the most insecure person and then she went to see Vinoba Bhave. And I also went to Nagpur to his Ashram. I followed her. And he Vinoba Bhave was such a sarkari sant that he must have realised that now she's gone, so she walks in and there is a dari (rug) lying on the floor and he's sitting on a takth portion and so she comes and does this to him. And he does this and tells her to sit down on the floor. 33:10 And she's sitting...the picture that I have of him and sitting there and she there with three-four-five other people sitting on the floor. And this is how it was you know. I mean and then ...then they manipulated ... then they played their political game. And then Janta Dal with so many parties coming together just for one cause to defeat Indira Gandhi couldn't hold together. And they fell apart and then when she came back, she was like a ...like a princess ... like a you know the victory was unbelievable for her.
33:57 [FY] : And why do you think she came back? Did media start reporting favourably for her after that or was her come back was?
34:05 [RR] : No, you see they committed several follies. Starting cases against her, which didn't take her anywhere...arresting her and then releasing her. You're sending wrong messages. 34:21 That paranoia that had set in, they didn't have sense of reasons and decency to structure things properly and put them into shape.
| ---Any other significant photo of RR published during the Emergency?
---Even photos had to be sent to the Censors.
---On tension in the news room on the day of Emergency declaration.
--RR doesn’t remember much.
--On manifestation of fear in everyday conversations.
--very very cautious.
--On the reportage of Maruti Factory.
--Doesn’t remember much but everyone knew it was Sanjay’s baby.
---On witnessing a meeting between Vinoba Bahve and Indira.
---Indira Gandhi got played by a lot of people while Opposition gathered strength.
---But Indira returned like princess.
--Reasons for her comeback.
--Lack of coherence among the Opposition government now in power.
|Interview Part I Ends.|
|Part II Interview Begins|
| [Note: The second recording is a continuation of the last response of RR.]
| 0:01 She became such an insecure woman even after Emergency. And then she came back to power. That was the beginning of the 0:21 politics of insecurity in the sense she will pick up people who are small, corrupt...she'll make them a Cm or a minister or anything. They knew she knows everything...she knew she can kick them out whenever she wants. So they were insecure, she was insecure and the politics of insecurity started and that hasn't ended till today.
0:54 [FY] : That's true.
0:54 [RR] : And that is the worst thing she's given to this country...the politics of insecurity when you're rulers are insecure how can they give you a sense of security?
1:04 [FY] : Sir you were speaking of the paranoia that set in within politics and within media ... at that time ...How did they change journalism post-Emergency? How did...?
1:17 [RR] : Then it polarised some of the press.... [FY : As in?] -----.... who's with us and who's not. ----- [FY : Okay.] yeah.
1:26 [FY] : Can you please elaborate upon that ?
1:28 [RR] : No you see because people took clear steps...some thought they praise Sanjay Gandhi...some of his things were working out very well, you know...because this nation has never seen any discipline in any tight noose you know. So in some places things were working better, you know...functioning of the railways or government things and various other things. So they talked about that. Some people went against everything that Indira Gandhi had done. So there was more polarisation and the press, they started taking sides.
2:04 [FY] : Hmm so there was a clear Janta side and like a Congress side and a non-Congress side is what you're saying?
2:10 [RR] : Yea...yea but then that those sides keep shifting..their goals...their posts...every time the Government shifts.
2:17 [FY] : So who you're...who at that point of time was on the Congress side and who was anti-Congress?
2:24 [RR] : I don't ...can't tell you.
2:28 [FY] : You cannot remember. Okay so also since you were capturing the nation's so greatly and you were also talking about how Sanjay Gandhi...some of his things were working very well... a lot of discipline had come into the nation. Did it change, you know, what was represented because I...since you were saying also that are a lot of photographs were censored...What was represented in the paper visually and before the Emergency and after the Emergency and during the Emergency...how did that change? Did they...how did they nation project itself through media?
3:03 [RR] : I also remember, you know, when Janta Dal came to power George Verghese was President of some...Freedom of the Press...something...something. And he rang me up one day. He says, 'Raghu we are sending a memorandum to our new Prime Minister or …or Ministry or whatever that they will not take away our freedom.' I said, 'I will never sign that. Why you giving them ideas that we are available here? And please humse chheena mat.' I said, 'this is no way of...you know living as a free strong minded...journalists you know... you don't ask the Governments - ke aap lekhe dedo ki aap muje.. humen freedom hamari rakho ge. Aiesa thori hota hai.' We did ...I did sign many other letter but I never wrote...sign this kind of rubbish letter that...
3:59 [FB] What sort of letters were these?
4:00 [RR] : That they will not take away the freedom of the press.
4:03 [FY] : No, you were saying there were other letters that you signed.
4:05 [RR] : Yea...so many times and so many occasions we've written letters. You know like even in Modi's time, you know, when the journalists and the writers were resigning and things, you know...we stood by them, you know. 4:20
4:34 [RR] : No, you see like ...like Hindustan Times were Birlas...Birlas were very close to Congress. So you can't think of that, you know. Statesman was a British, you know, editors used to be Britishers who believed in the freedom of the press and they were very forthright. 4:55 And even that, you know, even in '70s that spirit was there in Statesman. As far as Express is concerned Goenka had personal this thing with the government and Indira Gandhi. So he took a stand and then National Herald was almost sarkari paper and then the ..the...the...the Times of India was here and there.
5:25 [FY] : Dilly Dallying. But what about smaller newspapers...independent newspapers newspapers?
5:31 [RR] : We didn't bother. They don't matter really.
5:34 [FY] : There were also, I believe, people who said you know...
5:38 [RR] : Dekho Larah? aesi baate ..aesi baate humse mat pucho...chhoti moti details aur chhote mote incidents aur yeh baate jo hain na...I never went into those and in any case, as I told you, my memory is not very good. 5:50 And I don't also ...I don't when anything happens I don't become a political creature and start looking into things. I am a creative person, I respond instinctively as things touch me or they come to me.
| ---Indira’s return to power beginning of politics of insecurityleading to bringing in of people who could be chucked out at will.
---If rulers are insecure then the public will be too.
--On paranoia in the Press.
---Polarisation of Press ---some lauded the discipline brought in as none had seen such a degree of order.
---Some anti-Indira steps Press simply polarised.
---people also kept shifting their alliances.
--On how the country was represented visually in the newspapers in pre-during-post Emergency periods.
---RR vehement against signing a petition mean for the new Janta Government to give press assurance that freedom of press will not be taken away.
---What other kind of letters sent?
--Gives example of a letter sent to Narendra Modi when many journalists were resigning when he came to power.
---On other papers rising against the Government.
---Hindustan Times was Birlas and the latter close to Congress.
--Express’ Goenka had personal reasons to be anti-Cong.
--On role of independent newspapers.
--They didn’t matter!
---RR not a political person but a creative one who responds instinctively.
| 6:06 [FY] : Sir so in that respect same question...How did ...how the nation...nation projected itself through newspapers in photos?
6:13 [RR] : Was strong enough. ..was strong enough but.... ----- [FY : through photographs? ] ----.... but Mrs Gandhi's ...Mrs Gandhi to get the message. But I will not...sorry...I will not say that through photographs...sorry.
6:22 [FY] : No, I'm just trying to say- if you were to look at papers from pre-1975 through photographs, and post...and through 1975 and post...how did that change? Was the look of... (RR starts speaking).
6:34 [RR] : No, the only thing was that you couldn't publish any... even social situations where it..it was poverty or something bad about the country...leave alone political situation. But otherwise photographically, I don't think we made any big difference.
6:56 [FY] : Did the country look cleaner and more organised in your newspaper?
6:59 [RR] : Nah...nah (phone rings)
7:12[FY] : Sir you were even at that time a very renowned photographer, did the government never ask you to work for them or photograph for them?
7:18 [RR] : No, you see like Sharda Prasad...Sharda Prasad was a very sensitive bright man who was the Press Secretary to Indira Gandhi. 7:34 And 7:40 I must say when I was doing my last book on Indira Gandhi, 7:47 ten years ago or something like that 7:51 and I went to him. I wanted him to write the Introduction. 7:59 He was so amazing and he was living in a DDA two-bedroom small flat...like ordinary clerks live. Why? Because he was an honest man and a committed Indian. 8:21 And he never played that game for anybody. 8:26 So he said, 'Raghu, I can't write.' I said, 'why not?' He said, 'Raghu nobody will by your book if I write.' I said, 'No, that's not the criteria.' I said, 'you've been the closest to Indira Gandhi and you are a very honest, forthright person...we've respected you all the way. And if you write, we'll have many insights.' He said, 'sure…many insights but I have promised.' I said, 'promised whom?' He said, 'to myself that I will never write.' He didn't write. But the stories...we spent half-a-day...the stories that he shared with us were unbelievable...beautiful stories not Emergency but in general -she as a person and everything. But he said, ' I have promised myself.' So a man - Indira Gandhi's Press Secretary for so many long years...I mean living like a ordinary person in a DDA flat, you know, says quite a lot about the person. 9:34 So she had some great guys, you know, and ..and they held back a lots of these things but then they never misbehaved with us. But they showed, you know, they could have asked anybody else you know or send the inspector with two policemen, you know, to come to your house and say- what are you upto? Isn't that enough. 9:58 [FY: So what happened when....?] In...in the middle of the night if any...you should speak to Virendra Kapoor. Have you spoken to Virendra Kapoor? 10:04 [FY : No, I have ...we've already interviewed Coomi Kapoor, so] 10:08 [RR] : Yea, you have. She's written a book.
10:11 [FY] : Yea, she's written...I have read the book.
10:12 [RR] : They have a lot more and I ...as I said I don't remember, I have these few things that I've shared.
---The nation projected strong under Indira Gandhi but not through photographs.
--On not being able to publish anything that might hint slur of country.
--On RR ever being asked to work for the Government.
--RR recounts asking Sharad Prasad, Indira Press Secretary to write an Introduction to a photobook on Indira. SP refused due to a personal promise---spent a day just talking.
---Advices to meet Coomi and Virendra Kapoor.
| 10:12 [RR] : They have a lot more and I ...as I said I don't remember, I have these few things that I've shared.
10:18 [FY] : No...no...no, there are valuable insights because they're various perspectives of what happened during the Emergency. In fact, people I have talked to on another project which were from common people ...from common people the Emergency was the greatest thing that happened because everything was organised, everything went on time...for them it was good thing!
10:35 [RR] : No after organised …was better.
10:37 [FY] : Haan according to them it was organised.
10:41 [RR] : But of course this is what the nation needs even today. Modi said, 'Forget about ache din.' I say, 'forget about any other thing. you know swachh bharat is a great idea but even the corporations in respective cities, they haven't got a clear strong message that perform your duties well and start cleaning up the areas you're assigned to do.' Aare saar ke saar wase ki wase nalayak hai...nobody is doing their respective jobs. Kise aur ko swachh bharat to aap kya beche ge? 11:20 And this country certainly needs, you know, tightening up of this kind of but not taking away your freedom to speak. This is wrong.
11:31 [FY] : So sir if I were to ask you - what according to you personally for you are the most important images of the Emergency? Images that represent the Emergency to you not to the people at large but to you.
11:45 [RR] : No, I don't ...I told you I don't have any great images.
11:48 [FY] : I'm not talking about great images but images that speak to you.
11:51 [RR] : No, you see in the sense that ...no..no..no, the feeling was not...then, you know, then I felt 'how long am I going to work for a newspaper? ' Is a big question . Do I need to? Over all, it's, you know, a feeling of experiencing...Emergency was - Do I still need to work for a newspaper anymore? 12:15 No.
12:17 [FF] Was that also affected when Kuldip Nayar got arrested. He got arrested somewhere mid-way through the Emergency. ----- [RR: Yea] ---What happened when you discovered or when...?
12:29 [RR] : No! We felt very sad and we felt very stupid that we can't do anything.
12:35 [FY] : Were you expecting that he would be arrested?
12:36 [RR] : No, one knew that anything can happen. Sure.
12:42 [FY] : Were you expecting something like that for yourself?
12:44 [RR] : No, not me personally because there were two things against me. One was that I was doing a book on Jayprakash Narayan's Movement. What they did was they took away the printed sheets. They didn't question me. That was over. Second thing was one or two pictures that I could do, which didn't have very strong element to challenge their authority, you know. 13:08 Or let me tell you the visual understanding...or the visual language is not so simple and easy, you know. I remember once we published a picture of Indira Gandhi sitting and 13:27 Siddhartha Shankar Ray presenting her some paper and he's laughing like a sycophant. And I thought he was 13:38 and educated, very learned man and even he's like this. So we published a Page 1 picture. 13:47 And next day I don't know whether his wife came or he came to my office to take that picture. He says, 'Raghu this is such a wonderful picture.' (FY and RR laugh). 13:58 meri kisne aisi tasveer chapi hoti mein sharam se mar gaya hota! (trans. : Had anyone every printed a picture of me like that I would have died of shame!)
| --On people’s reaction to Emergency…a lot of them very happy with the efficiency.
--On Modi’s promise of swachh bharat but not practical because people don’t know their duties.
---People of India need to be controlled but not have their freedom of speech taken away.
--RR doesn’t remember any other great image of the Emergency.
--RR often questioned whether there was any need to work at the newspaper.
---On arrest of Kuldip Nayar.
---RR didn’t expect to get arrested and was not.
--- A picture of Siddhartha Shankar Ray with Indira Gandhi where the former looks like a boot-lickerRR is appalled when Ray’s wife asks for a copy.
| 14:04 [FY] : There's also a picture you've taken when Indira Gandhi is hitting at the table, her bag and there's several people standing around.
14:10 [RR] : Yea, that was in A Day in the Life of Indira Gandhi. In one day I had some memorable pictures.
14:16 [FY] : Oh! So this was pre-Emergency.
14:17 [RR] : Haan, pre-Emergency.
14:18 [FY] : So during the Emergency what other pictures did you take?
14:25 [RR] : (almost whispers) Don't remember. Baaki to demonstrations jab chote mote huai. They arrested anybody and everybody who came in their way. The police but not of great consequences.
14:35 [FY] : Not of great consequences. I'm not talking about consequences but I was just talking about how this spoke to you?
14:41 [RR] : Nah..nah..nah, nobody bothered.
14:43 [FY] : No how they spoke to you in the sense that how the photographs spoke to you? Your own photographs...how they spoke to you?
14:49 [RR] : I told you I'm not ...
14:50 [FY] : What about the picture on the front of Coomi Kapoor's book where Sanjay Gandhi and Indira Gandhi and ...where is that from? What was happening at that time?
14:57 [RR] : This is during the political rally in '77 before elections. This was in somewhere in Amethi or UP somewhere.
15:09 [FY] : Okay last question sir. From pre-'75 to the elections and immediately post-elections to when Indira Gandhi was elected again. How do you think journalism transformed in that period? In that about... (inaudible).
15:23 [RR] : No, I must say ...but there were very few individuals who took very clean clear stand and who became even sharper 15:34 about who they are and where they stand. But most others were criss-crossing, you know and anything was possible. Now you see one of my friends whom I admired a great deal, Rajinder Puri, cartoonist. The best cartoonist I'll see. Sometimes he didn't even write a line. His drawing will say what he wants to say. This is what I call a great picture where it need...doesn't need a line or a great cartoon where you don't have to explain. You look at the cartoon and you'll get the message...just the drawing. He had become so much anti-Indira Gandhi...I don't know whether he was arrested or not and he ... it became a poison. 16:27 Indira Gandhi was his poison. Let me tell you that poison ate him up. Kya faida hai? (trans.: What is the use?) Even that is wrong.
16:38 [FY] : Do you remember a particular cartoon of his that was particularly offensive to Indira Gandhi?
16:43 [RR] : He's done many such cartoons. You must see his books of, whenever even Virendra Kapoor...they were friends so he'll be able to tell you but as I told you my memory is not so good. But he was one guy but his cartoon were ….by god yaar! 17:00 Kya baat thi uski or uski punch line bhi jab hoti thi to it used to amaze us. But usko Indira Gandhi ka zahr hua that. 17:09 And that poison ate him up, which is also wrong.
17:13 [FY] : Was this...was that also true of other journalists or other media people also?
17:16 [RR] : Well, I don't think so...hardly anybody.
| ---On other pictures taken by RR.
---On transformation of journalism.
----Some took clear stance while many criss-crossed.
--Rajinder Puri and Virendra Kapoor friends—advices to interview VK.
| 17:22 [FY] : Right, sir is there anything about Emergency that I have not asked you and you want to say about the Emergency?
17:29 [RR] : Yaar, ek to meri memory achi nahi hai...dusra I don't live in the past. I don't have any such fascinations with these things.
17:35 [FY] : But what would you have to say for us given that this is an archive for ..of the political...we're talking about Emergency memories and how people remember the Emergency?
17:45 [RR] : I think you should speak to other people also who loved it. --- [FY : Of course!] ---- ...who loved it for whatever reasons.
17:52 [FY] : Did you love it or did you hate it?
17:55 [RR] : No...I...I...I ...I...I...definitely I hated it in the sense not on day-to-day basis but this is quite a something that I have shared with you that - Do I still need work for a newspaper? Is big enough thing for me.
18:14 [FY] : When did you stop working for a newspaper?
18:17 [RR] : After...you know I was ...'77 I left Statesman. I was there with them for ten years. And then I worked with Sunday Magazine for three-four years, then Aroon Purie came along, he said, 'why don't we work together?' I worked with India Today for ten years. 1990 I left India Today. And the off and on I did some political stories. 18:45 Very rarely of national importance. The last time I visited was Anna Hazare's Movement...that was very precious to me. 18:57 And surprisingly after fifteen-eighteen years, you know, I had....earlier I used to go to, you know, Congress sessions because those sessions used to be very revealing in terms of getting visual experience and photographing these guys in context to the other movement (not Sure) 19:17 But after Indira Gandhi, I did ...did attend one session with Narasimha Rao (Ref.: P. V. Narasimha Rao) when he was the Prime Minister but none at all when Rajiv took over because Bofors happened and got disinterested. So last May-March (2015), February-March 2015, before the elections, there was going to be a big Congress session. So I said let me go and take a look. 19:51 And I went there after eighteen-twenty years to a Congress session. 19:59 And I was amazed you know that in..in.. Talkatora Stadium...huge stage...senior Congressmen sitting on the stage ... chamchas all around... Sonia Gandhi...Rahul Bhaiya...Sonia Gandhi...Rahul Bhaiya ...was going on! And then comes Sonia Gandhi at about 10:10 ...10 O'Clock. She walks in followed by Manmohan Singh and then Rahul. 20:28 Everybody chanting ... Sonia Gandhi zindabad...Rahil Bhaiya yeh...Rahul Bhaiya woh! Nobody spoke about Manmohan Singh. I have seen Congress session where the Prime Minister is the main character...the hero of the show...nobody talked about him. 20:45 So Sonia Gandhi, being the President, she takes the centre-stage, she sits on the dais and Rahul sits next to her...all those senior Congressmen and ministers there and Manmohan Singh is eight-ten feet away from them and little ahead of everybody but isolated and alone. 21:09 10 O' Clock...11 O'clock ...11:30 ...12:30 ...1:30 ...2:30...3 O' Clock...He sat all by himself...nobody spoke to him...he didn't speak to anybody...nobody consulted him ...nobody looked at him. And he was sitting like a lungi man going through a nightmare. His expression was the same from 10 O' Clock to 3 O' Clock. 21:43 And it was shocking and sad for me that he was deserted and lonely even when he was the Prime Minister. Next day was the BJP session I went there so I could see Advani...very serious...very uneasy... and other BJP leaders...senior leaders very, you know, almost separated and paranoid and then Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad and Arun Jaitley...little paranoid...little uneasy...little expecting...expectant. And then comes Modi and everybody...these leaders spoke and there was a huge portrait of a Va... ....---- 22:39 [FY : Vajpayee?] ---.... Modi towering them, where they had to speak; I mean it was designed properly. So everybody speaking under the chatrachaya of Modi...whether it was Sushma Swaraj or Ravi Shankar Prasad or anybody else, and him sitting there. And then comes Modi and then he speaks and speaks and speaks and exerts and everybody claps; and even ... even Advani did that. So I did a book in one day. Half-day there (Congress session?) ... half-day there (BJP session) - The Tale of Two Prime Ministers. 23:32 This is the book I have done and one day shooting here and one day shooting there...just see the cover shot, which...the writing you see. And then I wrote, you see this is the general atmosphere of the Congress session first few pictures; and then they come...before they come...manipulations, and game going on and then they come and then he...you know they are garlanded...this is the only time when he smiled.
24:12[FY] : How the photos?
24:14 [RR] : hmm...then I put a time everywhere but you look at his expressions, you look at his expressions...seemed nightmarish expression at 11. ... ---- [FY : at 11...yea] ----...whatever the time. I have given time. Same expression...he's waving nobody is ...he's not in touch with anybody and time. ..again...and again...and again...this was his condition.
24:51 [FY] : Wow! He sat like that for five hours!
24:53 [RR] : Five hours...look at his expressions. 25:03 3:11....25:06 3:25...and this is how the Congress session ended. And then comes Modi... and it was Modi ...Modi...Modi...all the way. 25:21 See the arrogance. So this is the book I did in two days.
25:27 [FY] : Okay, thank you so much sir. I am really really grateful.
| ---Anything that RR may want to say about Emergency?
---When did RR stop working for the Statesman? --- 1977 ---joined Sunday Magazine then joined India Today at Aroon Purie’s insistence.
---On observations at Congress Sessions
---RR attended BJP and Congress Session in May-March 2015, and shares his insights.
----RR’s comparison of BJP’s rally with that of Congress’.
--On the frenzy around Modi.
---This is documented by RR in his book..
|Recording II Ends|