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interviewEE* Name: H K Dua


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

  • Language: English/ Hindi
  • Date of the interview: 18/02/2016

Clip name/DURATION: * kf_HKDua_raw/ 01:17:06

TimeCode Transcription Remarks
00:00:00 KF: Interview with HK Dua on the 18th of Feb, 2016 at the IIC Annexe. Mr Dua, if you could uhh… tell me first a little bit about um, how you started out in journalism and when.

00:17 HKD: Well, I started uhh… way back … I joined UNI.
- Oh, okay,
It’s a small little news agency at that time.
- On Rafi Marg origin-? No you were in Khan Market then …
It was Khan Market, above Bahri and Sons – the book shop.
- Hmm. Hmm.
And the entire office was where fabindia is.
- Oh right.
And a shabby office, not like fabindia’s…
- Yes
…products will be. Fashionable products but this office was shabby. SOUND OBSCURED
- Mm hmm.
One side was teleprinters. Before the metallic* age, before digital age. Teleprinters – old type- tuck-tuck-tuck. Best guess.
- Clacking away?
Clacking all night. One side that was that, the desk. And in the hall next was the reporters. And next one room for the management. Staff was limited. And I was keen to join journalism. There were no jobs available. That time entry into this profession was very-very difficult and I was -
01:21 - This is… this is what year?
- Okay
So ‘62 was looking for a job. ‘63 February I joined. Wherever you go, like to be journalist… any…. position. You’ve experience? No experience. One editor I had... forced to ask, how do you get… don’t give me job, that’s okay, but, tell me, how do you get experience without working? (laughs)
- Mmm.
Anyway, didn’t make an impact. It’s possible he was busy with writing editorials, no complaint. Somebody said there’s a little opening in UNI. Nobody knew what it was, it was too… too raw. And they wanted to be rival PTI.
- Haanh. Haanh.
It used to have two services, foreign services, it was distributing in India. As you know, foreign agencies cannot give news directly to a newspaper, they have to go through an Indian agency.
- Right
Associated Press and DPA (laughs)
- Right.
So your country’s DPA was also a subscriber. There was this
- Hmm.
So when... Indian news was very limited, so foreign news from EPA, DPA… EPA and DPA used to cull out what was relevant for India. Indian audience… so we used to cut that to the size and all that. Edit it. It was a good experience.
02:54 And you started as a reporter…?
- Sub-editor. Okay.
But I wanted to be reporter. But being on the desk, editing Indian copies uhh… Associated Press copy and DPA copy it widens your vision. The day Kennedy died uhhh… late in the night, when the shift changes and by the time he had died and I was… the flood of copy which was there. I was sole person; we had limited staff.
- Wow.
Every copy I was editing, Kennedy Mirror, Murderer all that… But I learnt a lot. But I wanted to be a reporter. I used to ask for… night duties so the daytime I could look for some stories.
- Okay.
So I covered two speeches of Jawahar Lal Nehru.
- Hmm.
Then when Nehru died in May ’64, by this time I was a reporter. So I covered his death, his funeral procession from Teen Murti to… Teen Murti to what has come to be known as Shanti Van. Huge crowds. There were three buses for uhh… for press men in the funeral procession. Crowds could push the … bus even. If they have it… if they have the power, they could have pushed it down the road. I never seen that kind of crowd.
04:17 Maybe I had seen uhhh… Gandhiji’s but I was a schoolchild at that time, primary school student. So came to Daheli on a tonga. We were living nearby Delhi. My father brought me. So saw Gandhi’s procession. On the top of the car where I …
- Achha.
… made to sit. After that, this crowd. Even the leaders could not reach in time and those who reached, Mountbatten came from London and had to walk along with the bus to find his way, he was escorted. Sheikh Abdullah…
- Achha.
… has been released by Nehru a little while before he died. And he was in Kodaikanal.
HKD: Kya haal hain jenaab…? (Interruption)
05:10 HKD: ’64 death. I saw Sheikh Abdullah going up the pyre yet to be lit crying like a child. Nehru imprisoned him for eleven years then released him before... Sheikh, you should be in charge of sorting out India-Pakistan problems. So he’d gone to Muzzaffarabad. When he heard Nehru died, so he came back. He reached late but before the fire was lit. I saw him literally crying like a child.
Mm hmm.
Now that was interesting uhhh… day. And I was in the VIP enclosure.
05:51 There was not much security. Like an enthusiastic young journalist, I got into VIP enclosures no problem. (laughs)
No problems. And I was shocked, here I was impressed with the size of the people and how Indians were so emotional about Jawahar Lal Nehru. This big calamity and here is the VIPs … in the VIPs squad… when the body is yet to be … fire is yet to be lit is yet to be… what go through the ceremonies of death and these people are discussing who is going to be the prime minister, who’s this, who’s with whom… will it be Morarji Desai…
06:38 - Kaun-kaun the?
All people… Some MPs, congress leaders, state leaders, chief ministers, all…
- This was the chatter. Hmm.
This was the chatter and it shocked… I said they’re not worried about somebody’s death but I was a young man (laughs) Maybe I’d not been to funeral processions. Parents go on this kind...
- Wouldn’t be so surprised today.
So I was shocked. (laughs) I said how cynical these fellows can be.
In that we did not know what cynical could be but looking back was strange thing. They’re not bothered about the man dead and earlier they used to be queuing up.
07:02 - But Indira was not in this gathering, she was -
- No Indira came. No Indira wasn’t. Indira, she was close to the body.
- Yeah. Yeah.
She came close to the body. I’d seen her in Teen Murti before.
And… she was dignified in her life, no doubt about it.
- Hmm.
Shastri became the Prime Minister. But two speeches I had covered Nehru’s.
Two parliamentary speeches or public speeches -
- No, outside. You don’t begin in parliament -
- Hmm hmm.
07:44 One was uh, the first was in Agra. Pandit ji had come from… cosmic rays conference. Science – Scientific… there was some science conference… scientific meeting. And world leaders were researching in cosmic rays phenomena. They had come to gather at Jaipur. Pandit ji had flown from Jaipur to Agra and after that there was a public meeting. Why he went to Agra; There was a … Japanese had donated a leprosy mission to India. And the bus – press bus which they had taken from here the jap- organisers was to go at four A.M. to go to Agra for … to be in time for inauguration. Jawahar Lal Nehru asked to lay the foundation stone for the leprosy hospital. Nobody wanted to go at that early morning four A.M. but everybody saying it cold winter of ’63. I opted for it. I was keen to look for opportunities to do reporting. So we went there, after that there was a public meeting. Huge crowds. Jawahar Lal Nehru was talking to general public about cosmic rays. (laughs).
09:22 - In English or in Hindi?
… scientific temper - Hindi.
One of the- one chap in the audience got up, panditji, aap cheen ko kab hatayenge? Mind it, China was ’63 october
- ’62.
This is the summer ’63. [he must mean ‘61] Just a year more. Cheen ko hatana padega, apney aap nahi jayega. Taakat ka istemal karna padega. Young, untrained reporter. I had no ways of… no ways of – please have -

(Slight interruption)

10:08 How did he handle the question?
So I… we came by bus – same bus, Now I (?). We didn’t have any teleprinter line to Agra. I didn’t know how to send the story. There were no mobiles. The bus met with an accident near Badarpur. That delayed a bit. I reached there at ten o’clock and filed the story. And yesterday [the next?] morning I was shocked – the UNI news which was hardly appearing in the papers, it was new agency, became the lead. China will not quit on its own, we’ll have to use force and all that kind of thing. The chief of the bureau… He says, you’re the lead in Times of India. Said what? My story was hours late. And I’m… this was the story I … nobody thought of that angle. They covered just the speech should be covered. Anyway that became the… and the reward was one cup of tea if your news is published, there were no bylines. Slowly-slowly I came into the reporting. Parliament.
- Hmm.
Started the Rajya Sabha, later on turned out to be MP there.
11: 52 - Yes… In the Shastri period you were covering parliament?
I covered Shastri’s ascension to power. He was studying price-rise. After taking over actually, he had a heart attack. So the ceremony was delayed. He was elected leader of the parliamentary party but swearing-in was delayed because he had a heart problem.
12:37 And did you start to get to know politicians?
Ya, started knowing, building up contacts. I was serious in my work. No wastage of time. Go on chasing stories. I used to work on the night duty to get some stories, look around. In between I used to spend my time at Bahri Sons.
Since that time we became friends. He gave discount on the bus- every book you buy from there but I think he gives to everyone.
- He does. Long standing -
Once my wife was teaching sociology at Delhi University, she complained to Bahri – old Bahri, you give discount to your – my husband but not to her. He said, Mrs Dua, I was a struggling bookseller when he was a struggling newsman. He has gone up in the profession I have also become a big bookseller. (laughs) Our relationship is old. He didn’t give her (laughs) to keep up his-
- good businessman.
- so he had a hearty laugh. Four years I remained there.
14:09 And who was your boss at UNI in those days?
First was DP Wagle, he was the general manger, he recruited me. I went up to him. ‘Any experience?’ I said no done diploma in journalism from Punjab University. They had a campus there [meaning in Delhi], Chandigarh was coming up.
- Okay.
And his department had no place to… after partition, many of the departments were in Delhi… DP Wagle… Kuldip Nayar came, who was Shastri’s friend, he came later. But he went to Statesman for the Delhi resident editor.
- Ketchup? Sugar? … Now an agency like UNI…-
- But you see the staff was limited so one could cover senior assignments. That was the advantageous. It’s… sometime it helps. If I’d been to a newspaper, I would only cover crime, courts and all those kind of… accidents like this kind of thing. Here I’m covering politics, which I’m interested in. Election of Shastri. We are going to Kamaraj’s(?) place. Like many people used to go. Working committee meeting, parliamentary board meeting. These situations mattered at that time. These days, they don’t. So one kept on enlarging contacts… building your credibility of reporting. Learning the craft. If you’re agency you try to learn and worked on every copy.

(Name unintelligible)

16:26 No danger of getting in trouble as a young journalist at an agency in those days?
Get entry was difficult. But otherwise there was no problem what you write, what not to report. One thing, agency report has to be correct unbiased, non-partisan and all that which you learn in the journalism class. Built enough credibility then got into express in ’67. Elections I covered ’67 elections.
17:03 And you were interviewed by Ramnath Goenka or… by the editor?


Editor. Resident editor… you don’t need – you were never interviewed by the proprietor at least at that time. And my area was covering politics. Some politics some ministries and parliament. There I remained… twenty years. Grew up as special correspondent, parliamentary correspondent, political correspondent… like that, Bureau chief. I was editor of Express News Service which was the widest network it had at that time. Learnt how the government of India functions, how parliament functions… an interesting period post-Nehru. In a way I was covering post-Nehru period India… from Daheli, as viewed from Delhi. And that’s what I wanted to do. Changes of government. Shastri died soon then Indira came. There was a division in the party… Rajeev [?check] wanted to- first time he was persuaded to step down second time he decided to contest. Mrs Gandhi was not having a free hand. She was a minority government after ’67 elections… Old timers in… Morarji Desai…. Syndicate group which it came to be. They wanted to outwit first Morarji Desai so they selected Indira Gandhi. To succeed Shastri. Actually Indira Gandhi wanted to succeed father but it was Shastri who was chosen. She was not very happy with the decision but she was not the front rank at that time excepting as Nehru’s daughter. So they selected Shastri. Shastri sensed that Mrs Gandhi could be more troublesome outside the government. He made her I and B minister. One of her first decisions was to appoint Chanda committee. AK Chanda committee former Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Used to live in Sujan Singh Park, retired, on autonomy of the media. (laughs)
- How ironic.
19:55 - That’s why. Since you are coming to the Emergency. So she believed in autonomy… Chanda committee report was submitted. I met Mr Chanda as a young reporter to look for a scoop, what is the report you have submitted?, it was kept in the depths. I met others also, Ramesh Thapar. You must have met him or heard of him. Who circulated this magazine-
- Seminar.
… called Seminar… His office used to be on Janpath.
- Still is. Seminar office is…
64 Janpath, around that… it was first floor office.
Malhotra building.
Malhotra building, absolutely… Like that I got a scoop a bit…
21:01 Was this Chanda… was it significant?
- It was significant…
21:08 Did it address problems that were emerging already at that point? Yeah?


There was no problem at that time but still they thought that it should not be government media. This must enjoy autonomy. So ironically some years ago, when she was the prime minister ’75, by ’75 she was cutting into that autonomy rather than enhancing it. She never implemented the report. On the contrary she talked of committed press, committed bureaucracy, committed judiciary. That is pre- that is pre-emergency statements… she made. Her thoughts were… I thought she wanted it to be a Presidential form of government in the[her] heart of hearts. She also was doing exercise on presidential form of government. Congress leaders like [A.R.] Antulay and one Supreme Court advocate, Bhatia. They organised a conference at Vigyan Bhawan on presidential form of government. So these thoughts were being thrown up for debate so that one day she can be presidential form of government. She was fascinated with people like de Gaulle and all that kind of things. And she thought that the kind of experience she had met with the congress party… ’69 it got split. But ’71 election she won by throwing Morarji Desai out of the government by enforcing nationalisation of banks. You would have… You would have been studying that, I’m not going into that detail… She formed the government post ’69 with the help of CPI by throwing out Morarji Desai. ’71 elections she fought on gareebi hatao. She swept the polls. She got 349 seats… ’71 war came in December. The elections were in March. ’67 I covered the elections with her in Bhuvaneshwar she was hit with by stones.
- Yes.
23:33 You might have seen the pictures with bandaged nose. She went to Patna from there. I was in the UNI, PTI, All India Radio – three man team was taken and Peter Jackson from…
- Oh! I know him also.
- Peter Jackson from Rueters.
- Reuters.
Reuters. These four correspondents were taken along. Since rural areas of Orissa, in ’67 elections, they were… warm to Indira Gandhi. When she came to Bhuvaneshwar the last meeting of the tour, stones started coming from the audience and one stone hit there… Some of the stones came to us also. We were standing on the ground and Prime Minister was -
24:17 - But why was the crowd so agitated with her in Orissa?
Prices are high and all that she was unpopular and all that. And… Orissa was not a Congress state… Ganatantra Parishad, many maharajas were there she had abolished like that… there was opposition. ’67 she had lost the elections so imagine Nehru had died, this is the first election she was fighting. And now ’71 elections. ’67 she takes over. ’69 the party gets split. ’71 elections, country was sharply divided between Syndicate and the new Congress and new Congress was in minority, she formed a government. So that was… Orissa was in the hands of the old Congress.
- Okay
24:13 Naveen Patnaik’s father was the- no longer the chief minister but he was the big force.
- Hmm.
He was their extra constitutional… authority. One of his cronies had been made the Chief Minister but that was a rubber stamp. So I saw that… ’71 elections she wins on Gareebi Hatao outsmarting Syndicate, outsmarting everyone… The split plus Gareebi Hatao made her popular, she played her cards very-very well… Outsmarted the old guard, what came to be old guard. She was at the top of the world… I remember I was in the Express that time covering politics. My resident editor asked me – asked the bureau, everyone, which state you would like to cover elections. I said I’d like to cover Bihar. He said why Bihar, have you been there?
26:18 I’m a daheliwala, Punjabi. I said never. He said ‘then why Bihar?’ I said that is why. (laughs) All the ills of Indian politics are present in one state… if you have want to study at grass roots. I went there he was appreciative. But the politics was so sharp. Frank Moraes the great editor of Indian Express and earlier of Times of India, he was a writing a daily column. The proprietor Ramnath Goenka, whom you were remembering, was in favour of the Syndicate or old Congress as they came to be known. But the situation in Bihar, what I saw in the election, in the countryside they were all for Indira. So I wrote there… Madhu Limaye will lose, Ram Subhag Singh will lose, Tarakeshwari Sinha will lose. I went to the villages where no newspaper had been- no newspaper man had been. Jagjivan Ram will be the only Congress winner in Bihar. But it was a good study. Frank Moraes was writing those days a daily column attacking Indira Gandhi. ‘Myth and Reality’. To write a daily column is not easy, as you know. Not so easy.

- Not at all.
27:45 I mean he was impeccable writer. Excellent prose. Oxonian of course… but still to maintain a column day-in and day-out to which Chalapathi of National Herald, the National Herald also comes into the picture. Chalapathi, the celebrated editor – equally good writer. He wrote one column and in which he wrote, ‘myth is Frank Moraes Reality, is Ramnath Goenka’. (laughs) But look at the tolerance. Frank Moraes read it, he rings up Chalapathi: ‘MC, you had a nice one on me come have a drink this evening’ – this was the kind of spirit that was there. But what Chalapathi Rau had written was absolutely correct: [of the] proprietor-editor relationship at that time. Short of saying that he’s his master’s voice is Frank Moraes, he wrote (?) myth is Frank Moraes, reality is Ramnath Goenka. I haven’t forgotten that. But ’71 elections she swept the polls with 349 seats. Come the Bangladesh war she becomes top of the world. Even Vajpayee described as Durga. But seventy f… five she could not govern without imposing emergency.


- Hmm.
29:30 So this 340 sign- the point which I am making is, 349 seats – massive vote… was of no use to her in ’75. She had lost the ground. That requires a separate discussion, the run-up to the emergency. She herself had [been] disqualified… Allahabad court judgement, High Court Judgement and all that kind of thing. She didn’t give up the fight. Imposed emergency -
30:08 - At this stage, the express was… going after her and – through the Allahabad court case. The… the newspaper’s position was already and… what did you feel about the court case… and the judgement?
We were in the – frankly speaking, she should have resigned.
- Hmm.
She could have been one of the top moral* leaders of the country. We … were opposed to the emergency, no doubt about it. Particularly in the Indian Express. And I think that was the golden period of our… Express. Proprietor fighting so that gave us strength. Banks had stopped advances to Indian Express. I remember since I was in political* beats and I used to go home rather late. Leave early go home late. So as I said, it is the late worm which catches the dews. * May be “modern”.

(Word unclear).

- Right.
Exciting politics. Twenty Fifth of night, I gave a late story that Siddhartha Shankar Ray and R K Dhawan have meeting with- had a meeting with President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. Important decisions are likely which may affect the political system of the country. We had not heard of the word emergency. Nobody used that word. The morning paper never saw the light of the day. Emergency came on the same night. So in the morning we got up, overnight…
31:58 Power had been cut, na…?
Power had been cut. Press had been locked and the paper never appeared, including my story. I thought I had a bit of a scoop. I was closest to that… the story. Nothing appeared. That story has gone still not read. (laughs)
32:15 And what were your sources for the… for the story about the meeting…? How had you heard…?
No, I heard about the meeting. How I heard, by rounds. My daily sniffing for the news. I was fairly good sniffer of news. (laughs) Having covered Congress split, it gives you some sources. A senior journalist told me, when the twelfth of June judgement came… What will Mrs Gandhi do? In going to the Supreme Court case, to get a stay of the judgement. Supreme Court, that was the debate. Will give stay, will not give stay… They gave a conditional stay. She helped – it helped her in a way. But on principle, she had not been vindicated. Krishna Iyer’s judgement helped her out. I won’t say it was being partisan. But still, conditional stay was given. Good judge, though… I said if Supreme Court, what will Mrs Gandhi do, if Supreme Court doesn’t give her relief? I said she will nationalise the Supreme Court. (laughs) That was my comment. Anyway, she took absolute power. Then there was session at Mohali. At that time, they named it as Komagata Maru Nagar – the Canadian ship. Where the decision was taken to extend the life of parliament by a year, amend the constitution – forty second amendment, which was brought… she was grabbing more power. Censorship was imposed on the press. The press also succumbed. Totally. Except for papers like Indian Express, Statesman, Economic and Political Weekly and A D Gorwala’s Opinion. These four papers stood out, the rest of the press…

34:37 But where – Do you feel that… How is it possible really to… resist once censorship was imposed? Or what forms did it take? According to you – for you, for example, what could you do?
We… A, your sources dried up. Still you were able to get around some things. Then you have to draw conclusions. Pages were cleared by the censors- every page. Then they arrested Kuldip Nayar, who was in the Indian Express at that time. Editor of Express News Service, a job which I took up later after some years, my turn came. And I was covering politics. I came to know the judiciary also is under pressure. On one day they decided to transfer sixteen judges of the High Courts. One stroke. It’s a politically significant story. That means you are packing the courts now. Rest you have already put the censorship, the fear of absolute power now strikes on… overtakes judiciary. Sixteen High Courts to send a message to the rest of the judiciary in the country. And earlier I mentioned to you, before (?), she had started the debates on Presidential form of government.
36:07 But were you able to report this story about the sixteen judges being…?
I did.
And that was not uhh… cut?
No, it was published. It escaped their attention because I reported safely like a posting transfer story. I didn’t explain the significance. But I placed the story next to the lead.
- Okay.
Sixteen High Court judges transferred from this to this, this High Court to this, this High Court to this. That’s why like a muffasal correspondent. Like a lit[tle]- town correspondent. Posted like posting transfers. But it became a significant story and people understood the meaning. It was understood. Next day, censors also understood the story. I was asked questions on this. Tell us who told you the story, why did you it? I said no, it’s a story it’s a fact. It’s not a wrong story.
And it was presented to the censors.
- And the page has been cleared.
But they were embarrassed.
No, they were not embarrassed. Tell us the source! I said this I won’t disclose. Do you know the… Young man, you are a very enthusiastic correspondent, tell me who has given you the story? I said that I won’t… You know your accreditation can be cancelled? I said you do whatever you like, I’ll do whatever I like. But the story wrong or right* -

*(Best guess at what was said.)

37:45 But this kind of confrontation would happen on the phone or you’d be called to the…?
No-no. I was called.
37:52 Where would you go? Where was the office?
P I B. P P I B. There was a separate room was set up for this.
37:59 And who?
Chief-Chief Chief censor. He was not a bad man and-
38: 04 What was the name? At that time…
I think it was Balaji- baji- Bajirao. By this time [Harry] D’Penha had been… No, Bajirao was the… It was D’Penha He was basically a gentleman asked to do a dirty job. He was not speaking … (?) Vidya Charan Shukla. He was I and B Minister. And so he has to work under I and B Minister – censor. He has no independent judgement. No, you know, this kind of… And he and I – everybody knew him. He was at least a decent man. Earlier he was chief public relations officer of Indian Airlines. But he was part of the information service. At this time he had become- they appointed him… later on he was changed because he gentleman. He said your accreditation can get cancelled I said do whatever you like. My editor supported me. He said – you retract the story… to the print where there’s to retract? If it’s a wrong story, issue a denial. He said why should he issue a denial, it it’s a wrong story you come out with denial, we’ll publish that. But we’ll quote you on that. That you can’t because the story was right, won’t you give the source. I said no… You have to have some reliable source. Maine kaha, very reliable. What if I say Mrs Gandhi gave me the story then what will you do to her? I said do you have any power- anything to do, power to do it? Now that I’m saying that she gave me but if I to say Mrs Gandhi has given me the story, what will you do? So unlike that kind of… When emergency came the Express- there was no editorial. They left the space.
- The blank editorial. Yeah.
40:04 Vidya Charan Shukla objected to that blank space. It looked funny. Why have you kept the page blank? I said… We told him. It’s our right not to print anything. Censor doesn’t mind blank space. You’re carrying a message. I said we are not carrying the message. It is- the blank space is carrying the message. It is what you did or you done – that is the message. And blank space is (?)… You’re objecting to what we publish, so we are not publishing. The cause is you. And people know that you are preventing us to publish what we… Toh Express was special- special case kind of… Soon we found ki emergency is becoming unpopular. And It didn’t last – it didn’t last long. Turkman Gate and all that. But it was a… not a – the worst thing they could do to the press was emergency censorship. The press- most of the press, my worry was, and many people worried… most of the press succumbed minus Express…


41:27 And – But that was down not to the journalists but to the… senior editors and the owners, no (… proprietors)?
Owners. The press was closed, wouldn’t open. If you open then pages have to be sent, pages have to be cleared. So there’s many people were – Kuldip Nayar was arrested. But others – it was message to everyone… set an example.
41:53 Who else was arrested in… from the Express group?
- Only he.
- This Virendra Kapoor from Financial Express.
Virendra Kapoor was arrested because he was present at a meeting where Ambika Soni was… Sanjay Gandhi’s meeting. So must have… spotted something.
- Hmm.
So he was arrested. But some other journalists were arrested… uhh…. Gopal… in Bengal they were arrested. Gopal… Gauri Kishore Ghosh. Like that… so selective. Idea was to set example, create fear. But most of the press, as Advani later on said, crawled. But this papers stood, Express… And we were not getting any salaries also because the banks stopped giving advances to the paper. All the kind of….. Goenka fell ill, went to Calcutta for treatment. His son B D Goenka was not a big fighter. They were starting to look for how the paper should be run. They appointed a… board. Board consisted of KK Birla, Kamal Nath Rai and one more. Government appoints board for the Indian Express. When Goenka recovered from his heart attack, he came he sacked the board. He said who are you to sit in my office. I have section fourteen of the constitution the right to property. It’s my property. He used to tell us later on, fighting for freedom is your business, printing paper is my business. (laughs) That was interesting… She never—the mystery is she never arrested Ramnath Goenka…

(Gour Kishore Ghosh?)

43:34 There’s a story that he was in hiding briefly… or that he checked into a hospital when he wasn’t actually sick.
- He was in hospital but she could have arrested him in hospital also. Usme kya hai- she has two people outside the room that’s not a… Many businessmen get arrested and go to the hospital whether illness is genuine or not separate question. I mean, many tax-evaders do this. High class tax evaders. The story went round that sh… Goenka had given employment to Feroze Gandhi once upon a time in the Indian Express. That she didn’t forget.
44:11 Okay one story I’ve heard is that it- it was a kind of blacklisted that he- because of his connection with Feroze that he’d uhh… he had in his possession some letters.
- That may have been…-
- Talking about their personal problems and that this was…
That may be maybe true, these are all theories. But he did have a good turn to the family when she was living with Feroze… which he sustained, gave a job… before he joined parliament and all that. In better days of Feroze Gandhi-Indira Gandhi relationship… Never arrested him.
44:54 But now as a sniffer with many of your Congress sources dried up, did-did you change your routine, where did you look for information…?
- No we looked for comparatively [?check] stories. I kept busy. Legal aid to the poor. This story that story. But in-between, little subversive journalism. Smuggle in something like this sixteen judges transfer. Check unclear
It messed with* the judiciary all over. The chap who had given me the story he was nervous. *(Sound unclear.)
45:27 So who – now you can reveal your source or-
- It was from within the government because many of them were…not…unhappy. Many of them were unhappy.
- So he was nervous once the story was out?
He was nervous if they come to know he will get the sack. I never disclosed. And he always was grateful I never… It was from within the government. But that kind of credibility one had enjoyed. At that time- I never disclosed the source throughout my life and I never went home without attempting to get an exclusive story which is very difficult. But as you said for years I had that… midnight dinner. The day Congress split in ’69 I had dinner at four AM. Ninety-Two-years-old organisation splits into two… that can… Then Hindustan Times invites me for job as a (?)-editor then editor, several years editor there. Like that…
46:42 That is- that was well after…?
- Much after. That came in ’87, twelve years later. After seven years – seven years I was chief of bureau of the Indian Express, the largest bureau – we had large number of India editions.
47:00 Did you feel the… emergency itself was the golden period for Express or immediate post-emergency or the end- end of the emergency?
- Emergency period. I would call in emergency period… emergency period… Then editor V K Narasimhan, who was shifted from Financial Express to this paper. He was outstanding. He used to make a point and yet give it in a manner… the argument- nobody could take offence to it. He stood up. We were living in Defence Colony. He was given the house in Defence Colony just opposite mine… when they were… threatened to cancel my accreditation he said don’t worry, I said no, I’m not worried. He himself was taking a stand… he and I had developed good relationship. When emergency ended, Goenka sacked him. Just like that. Because Frank Moraes came back. Frank Moraes was living at – in Bangalore in the guest house of Indian Express. Brendan-Brenton-Branton Road or Brendon Road – Brenton Road. The gov-guest house. Although I’ve also stayed later there. Only dosa-vada was the meal for the morning. (laughs) But Frank Moraes like--used to like his uhh… drink. Mulgaonkar – by this time it was Mulgaonkar. So he lived there. But when emergency was lifted, Mulgaonkar was brought back and Narasimhan Rao was sacked.
48:44 - But what was… the story?
-because… people had started admiring Narasimhan. And Ramnath Goenka didn’t like that. He just removed him. He could have sent him back to Financial Express. Never explained to anybody. Which was bad thing. And I remember V K Narasimhan gave me some books which he had taken from Express library. He was a great reader of books. He had been- I delivered those books to the library. (laughs)
49:13 And what became of him? Where did he go?
He went to no paper after that. Afterwards he went to… went to – left Delhi. And he’s never entered the building. He told he’ll never enter the building. Went to Bangalore and became some sort of a public relations, press chief for Sai Baba. (laughs) He’s no more. He died.
One hears a lot about him. A lot of people admire him…
49:47 - No no. He was a remarkable man. He kept the flag high. So he was getting the credit for fighting emergency or standing up… which Goenka – Mulgaonkar was back in the saddle. Come and work with him, like that… but the emergency was black period. After that, next black period came: the defamation bill – defamation bill. Rajiv Gandhi brought it. That was one blunder he made. I was by this time, I had become editor of Hindustan Times. Bofor was the controversy. Chidambaram was his internal security minister - internal security minister. Bright, sharp fellow he is, but politically bad judgement.
50:44 By the way, Goenka never interfered what kind of story you should do. When emergency was lifted, Janta party came. There were fighting from the beginning. From the day one. And I was reporting that fight also. Warranteed* Indira Gandhi but these people were no saints. Jagjivan Ram.


- Charan Singh.
- Charan Singh, Morarji Desai. Every day, was getting into the bad news. Goenka was – might be playing some politics they realised, we realised… but never told us what to write, what not to write.
51:25 In that government, he was closest to Morarji or… who do you feel?
Morarji. Charan Singh, no. He was divided Morarji Desai and maybe Jagjivan Ram but he was with Morarji Desai.
51:41 Not so much with LK Advani and Vajpayee were too junior…?
Ya, he didn’t regard them much. They were not in the picture. Excepting that they were part of the government. He wanted [a] ticket from them. He fought Lok Sabha election from Vidisha, from where Sushma Swaraj is a candidate. (laughs) So he had- he had… political-politically he was close to J P.
52:10 And what was his uhh…
-JP and his uhh… BJP leader who had been… became Nanaji Deshmukh.
- Yes.
So he was close to Nanaji Deshmukh.
52:21 And what was his beef with uhh… Charan Singh? You said he didn’t like… on what grounds?
- Jagjivan Ram. He was closer to Morarji camp. But he was definitely closer to… I would say Vijaya Raje Scindia who was a BJP leader.
52:41 Charan Singh was what- BLD, no it was called then?
Yes. Bharatiya Lok Dal.
52:45 Which had come- had it emerged from a socialist thing or…


He committed a blunder. Arresting Mrs Gandhi. How Mrs Gandhi came back. Charan Singh – if they had not arrested her, she would not have emerged as a leader. When she arrested no plan of action. She sat on the bridge, they were taking her to… Mathura side… Palwal. Near Faridabad. After Faridabad. They didn’t have any orders. How can you arrest and send somebody under the law then no instructions, so she sat on a culvert. Little bit of bridge. Can you make up your mind? I’m sitting here. Then they brought her bag, then they created a room for her in Tihar Jail and all that kind of thing. All improvised. What you call jugaar in Hindi. (laughs) The privilege motion was passed under which they were arrested but that was a big blunder. They had built her up. Second thing that built her up was, there were Harijan atrocities in Bihar in a place called, Benki. The area was surrounded by a slum- you could not reach that village. She went on Elephant-back to reach that village. To come to the aid of an aggrieved Dalit family – families. That made here very… And people were very excited about it – she’s fighting for people, poorest people. Then she realised she can come back… In-fighting which Congress encouraged also. Congress ultimately brought about the downfall of the Janta government by supporting Charan Singh and Madhu Laya – Madhu Limaye supported at that time. There were debates like MISA et cetera. Maintenance of Internal Security Act. Laloo has named his daughter as Misa. (laughs) This is – a lot of twists and turns in the story. And she might land up in parliament. There’s serious risk of her MISA landing again in parliament. That was my scoop and cabinet ultimately decided to take it off. Bahuguna was the minister. Like this kind of things… Now defamation bill – I was the general secretary of the editor’s guild and as an editor, I went on page one. I ran a debate, I published artictles by Madhu Limaye – all the critics of the defamation bill. Every day one article bottom spread. And my editorial… don’t let this bill reach Rajya Sabha, that was the thrust. No notice to the press, no notice to the country. This bill was off-loaded into Lok Sabha. Gapped*, passed in three and a half hours. By Rajiv Gandhi, who had four hundred two seats. And Assam results came in became four thirteen. And this man pushes the bill with so heavy a majority. We used to meet at Firoz Shah Road. Ramoji Rao was the President that time. I issued a statement (?) consulted the people here. Guild members here. And issued a statement attacking the bill, wrote editorial. Page one. Next day more and more and stepped it up. So fight began. Then other organisations began got into it. Press club, Press Association then it travelled to states and became a national movement. Because Indian press learnt the lesson from emergency that if you go down there is no hope. Fight it immediately.

(Word unclear)

(Sound garbled.)

57: 03 But in HT you didn’t feel any pressure from the owners to avoid confrontation…?



- Well, I went on page one. And I was a comparatively new editor it was very difficult for them to say. Secondly, the entire press was also against defamation bill. So they will get – obviously there were- government was telling them your editor is doing this doing that doing that. And I gone from the Express tradition. I said nothing- on this question, of press freedom I cannot compromise. No way! So they also thought they will be unpopular. I was playing unpopularity card and… you can’t compromise press freedom. I said we are not National Herald. That time. And I joined on the undertaking that I will have full freedom, full… And our circulation was going up because I was running the paper on non-partisan lines... being suddenly non-partisan line- we were forging ahead of Times of India and all that so I was showing the results. There were other issues we came to fight later on. But on press freedom they could not – And the mood of the people also supported. I ran a debate on page one. Madhu Limaye on page one. S Sahai from Statesman on page another. The former chairman of the press council- his article I put it on page one. Every day one article on page one. I was reflecting the public mood. Nikhil Chakravarty rang me up. He says when editor of the Hindustan Times opposes- the your thought which came. Rajiv Gandhi’s… (?) to Rajiv Gandhi, the bottom of the bill has been knocked out. Because Hindustan Times has opposed, now nobody can revive it. He rang me up early in the morning when he read my front page editorial, no compliment to me. One could get away. You had to look for opportunities to increase the and –credibility was my crease*. Built Hindustan Times’ credibility. Because it had lost credibility when I took over. It looked like a Congress mouthpiece. And I made it very clear to them… to the proprietor, I will not be anybody’s mouthpiece neither of Congress nor BJP nor anyone. Only then I’ll take. But proprietors forget their assurances. But the question is you have to choose the issue on which to-

(Word unclear).

59:38 So how long did that take?
Well, I lasted seven and a half years. One of the longer innings.
59:44 But did it end in conflict with the proprietors or…?
On St. Kitts, I took the stand. Because I stopped… I gave my resignation. Not threaten to resign- resigned. Now if I - editor doesn’t believe the story, it was cock and bull story, worse than that – mischievous. Cock and bull are not necessarily any reason to… cock and bull…(?) So I won that battle later on. I won the battle by resigning. Then they assured not one word will go into newspaper. If editor of Hindustan Times does not believe the succession of stories which are planned on St. Kitts then why didn’t the readers believe? And I resigned my paper. So if they accept they have to stop nonsense. If they publish, if the editor doesn’t believe then who else will believe. And I sacrificed my job for… And I told them I’m doing it for the paper. If you publish this story, for fifty long years – next fifty years – your name will be in the mud. You’ll be remembered for it. They said we’ve not sent this man who went to St. Kitts. Et cetera et cetera. I said then my fight is with the Rajiv Gandhi. (laughs) Which they would not say. Rajiv Gandhi did not pay the fare for the chap who sent – anyway… I won that battle. There were so many other-
1:01:17 But the story was not carried...?
They threatened to carry the story but did not carry the story… arrival stories… The chap who came back after visiting St. Kitts. That’s all they wanted the dateline. The story was being effected(?) here. I’d never seen the story. Because I said no, this my resignation. Not one word will appear. The publicati- the chap’s visit to St. Kitts was published. They had no story. They wanted to acquire the dateline for mischief here. But they couldn’t publish any story because if editor doesn’t believe the story, who else will? Editor had sacrificed his job. So I have a few battles I’d fought. But anyway, that’s not the story. Your uhh… talking of the times of that period. Then came editor’s guild fight on… defamation bill. The defamation bill got drafted by Chidambaram. Passed by the Lok Sabha in three and a half hours. I happened to be the general secretary of the guild. Ramoji Rao of Eenadu was the president. He took a stand against this. This must be withdrawn. We led the struggle. We used to meet on Firoz Shah road, Ramoji Rao’s office. So a collective struggle developed. Then other associations were brought in and all that, became a movement. That was a… excellent moment. Why we were able to force unity on the press was the Emergency experience. The press which crawled excepting the Express, the Statesman, and Opinion, and Economic and Political Weekly. That experience I think was fresh in the minds of press.

(Word unclear).

1:03:27 So, in that sense you think the emergency… the memory of the has been a positive uhh…
- On the press, yes.
- influence on – on the press?
Yes, it was. It was.
And not just a bad precedent even for proprietors’ sake, in terms of getting away with it?
Goenka also was there, holding the flag one day… you may have seen the pictures. I was the general secretary; Ramoji Rao was the president. Every day we used to meet at Firoz Shah Road, 30 Firoz Shah Road. Twenty-Eight, I think. Ramoji Rao had an apartment… and kept united. That united the press. So we fought that defamation bill. That was the golden moment of the press.
1:04:27 And what do you feel-
- And then there were offers for the talk from the government. We rejected it. Not only that we said nobody to talk to the government. They wanted talk and face-saving. No talks. The government… nullify them. We said no talks. They had withdraw (?) on their own. That was the- that is the lesson we learnt during the Emergency. The press learnt. A government of four hundred two seats, Rajiv Gandhi, was worried about that. After that he never…the press. He suspected. Why he wanted that stupid advice… He… He didn’t want to… Bofors obviously- Bofors (?)…not to be published. And then, you are virtually declaring yourself that you are a culprit.
1:05:31 But you feel, those lessons are… still remembered and… by the press, by the media and the- and the…?
Part of the press, yes, but part of the press, no.
1:05:43 So, something has changed again in- for the worse?
- Can – can change. Can change. Because most of the press is owned by the proprietors. And proprietors are being influenced by the government.
Or by their desire to… yeah, make nice with the government.
- It can.
And is that - you think uhh… phenomenon more of this government or…?
- All governments.
- also in the previous…
1:06:15 Because this government is a majority. And if they’re a well-organised party- which was at that time fighting against Rajiv Gandhi. So the roles are changing. The real love for press freedom is when you are- in the government you are (?). They’ve won over the proprietors now. But what do you with the newsmen on the street. Or the workshop. How many people you can transfer? And at that time, television was not there. Medium.


- Hmm.
Now you beat up newsmen and then you as proprietor to… support the government. It’s impossible for them. But face they will have with the staff. There will be curbs on the press. It can be there. If- their independence… The first people to respect independence should be press itself. If you don’t respect your freedom then why will the proprietor or the government will respect your freedom. You have to respect yourself.
1:07:25 Do you feel that in this administration in the immediate uhh… after the election that there was.. a lot of hesitancy and even fear in - in – in the press and a reluctance to be critical of the Modi regime or do you think that was just enthusiasm…?
- No they had demolished the credibility of the previous raaj. But the way they have been going… you see, BJP’s majority is eleven. There [were] 349 seats. The government did not last. They had to impose emergency to continue. Rajiv had four hundred two seats without Assam results. With Assam results which came later it was four hundred thirteen seats. And 1989 elections he lost. And what is eleven seats? In Bihar itself they have lost considera- got thirty-nine, thirty- thirty out of thirty-nine or forty seats. Don’t you think they will lose eleven seats there itself? They can’t have assembly seats- power in assembly. Supposing they lose twenty seats, this eleven majority will be wiped off. Shiv Sena is not a reliable ally. (laughs) Then seven seats in Daheli. How many they can get? Then in Gujarat they are in difficulty. Rajasthan they can’t get twenty-five out of twenty-five seats. Can they get it? No way! Impossible. Can they f… forty-six seats again in Maharashtra? Then where will get in the majority, that’s their problem. That is their worry. And that’s why they’re becoming…
1:09:15 But do you feel they’re also as…
- Winning the proprietor does not mean…
- Hmm.
- … you’ve won the press. A small story by a reporter can do the damage. Second, television journalism, if journalists can be beaten up. It’s there on the screen. Why will not they do the story which is critical? How many stories you can suppress? Because the press will get a bad name… Ab, social media will be there.
1:09:46 But sometimes I think- I mean the… the difference is-is that… I mean the sense that you know in-in… you could say in the emergency or post-emergency time. In the seventies, the impression was, you know… HT is a Congress paper, T. O. I. is pusillanimous, Express is anti-Congress. But nowadays… a lot of media houses uhh… TV channels also will- not be objective, but do… do both – both be sycophantic and occasionally aggressive.
- No most of them are psycho- uhh... they indulge in sycophancy no doubt about it. But when… its comes to brass tacks, they can’t tell a reporter not to publish… he will publish somewhere else. He will leak out I was told not to publish. Second, put it on social media.
- Yeah.
So they ca- then they have to compete also. Why Times Now, people are laughing at? Because often they support the government. Although- whatever the government is opposed to, they take the battle in their hands. So it looks silly. Although their TRP ratings will be higher. But the point is, they have to be in the field. All that they did in the last two days, they shifted the criticism of that day from JNU – Patiala House. It’s very subtle. The battle is of Patiala House. That becomes lawyers versus the media… Not versus… so the media is also clever So you shift the focus so that. Sa… even the press which wants to support the government of the day, proprietors won’t be able to do straightaway. The people are watching. The people want to know – not only the nation. (laughs)
1:12:02 So, dangers but g- good opportunities also for good journalism.
- Second you have learnt lessons from emergency
- Well, I sometimes wonder if people really remember it anymore.
- Emergency- emergency lesson – oh yes. People- press remembers. Emergency was a great educator for the media. If you don’t defend your credi- if you crawl, if you bend you will be made to crawl. So that way emergency served the purpose. It’s very difficult to suppress freedom now than earlier.
1:12:36 Well interesting, no, that- it was Advani who said that…
- Yes, Advani said that…
- One often feels that it’s the BJP who are…
- They were asked to bend and some crawled which is a fact also. Even the courts crawled… Justice Chandrachud. Chief Justice during emergency days, upheld the negation of right to life. That we don’t have the right to life. Can you imagine? Degradation of the- darkest hour of the Supreme Court. And later on, when emergency was lifted he said it was – much later it was, much later he said it was a mistake. What do you mean? You are giving my right to live, right to life and then you say it was a mistake. Shameful. Now it’s very difficult for anyone to do like that. But governments will be governments. And they learn the hard way. So this government will have problem if they curb with the freedom of the press. So do it to the proprietor’s vote.
1:13:42 But proprietors can change their minds also.
- Proprietors can change their minds when they’ll say they will lose. They’ve also to survive. Secondly now the Bombay pro-… proprietors are also upset with the government itself. As stories have said. As stories have said in government of the day one… one- one paper has written a column on this. Blaming- for why more FDI is not coming on the corporate sector. More investment is not coming is because of the corp- corporate sector itself. They’re not pulling their weight together. That means that they’re unhappy with government. Obviously they dried up political support. So that is why they are going for start-ups. You people are not investing? So the start-ups- that’s why Modi has, let’s help start-ups. He doesn’t know that rate of failure is ninety-five percent. Five percent succeed in a big way. Anywhere in the world. But why this disappointment with corporate sector? Many of them will be enjoying there. Those who are not getting preferential treatment like uhh… Mr. Adani gets… (laughs)
- Yeah.
1:15:07 This Gujarat group is (?)– they don’t voice any dissent whether gain or a losses. Bombay group is not happy. Doesn’t look like from the statements which are coming. Or their enthusiasm is not there as it was earlier- in the campaign period. Corporate sector praised uhh… backed Modi campaign quite a bit. Because they were – they were uhh carried away by vibrant Gujarat’s summits... Now they don’t get those results. So they’re disappointed. They want more profits. They are not… bothered about whether you are a democracy or otherwise. They’re bothered for their profits, which in a way [is] useful for the country. But profits how do you earn? Unless the government of the day follows your policies… That is sickening*. Anybody that doesn’t agree with the government is anti-national. That will be unfortunate. One doesn’t know where will this debate end.

(Best guess at word).

- Yeah. Well, I don’t know. I can’t imagine this current situation ending well for the government.
- No it’s a critical- that’s why today I find Ravi Shankar Prasad says- JNU has another voice. But you should know this- should have- all universities should have other voices. What’s wrong with that? Then uhh… Jaitley also said press should not be – nobody should beat up the press. But he- he’s making the statement four days after. It has been beaten up last three days. And he’s minister for Information and Broadcasting, he should have been the first to say no, don’t do it. They’ve done it. His own colleagues… (?) Rowdy-ism taking place.