Once upon a time, I too was a journalist! The year was 1987 and I was a student of the CM College, Darbhanga. The Hindi daily The Navbharat Times launched its Patna edition with much fanfare. I applied for a stringer’s job, got interviewed and was selected as its cultural correspondent in Darbhanga. A stringer is not a full-fledged reporter. He gets no salary and gets paid for columns published. If the news story is great, his name is published in what is called “byline” stories.
Getting a “byline” is a stringer’s dream. Yours truly got bylines again and again and became a blue-eyed boy of the Resident Editor Deenanath Mishra who smoked like a chimney and and ate like a horse. Rajendra Mathur was the Chief Editor. Sometimes, he came to Patna and addressed greenhorns like me.
Frankly speaking, I looked forward to attending buffet lunches more than listening to Rajendra Mathur’s stirring speeches. For a small-town guy like me, buffet lunch/dinner was a novelty. In my Darbhanga, I regularly attended “bhoj” (sit-down meals) and devoured maachh-bhat on pattals (leaf-plates). But Rajendra Mathur taught me many things about journalism. I learnt a lot from my seniors also. Urmilesh, now a celebrated journalist, was one of them. So was Manimala.
Gradually, I drifted away from Deenanath Mishra. Mishra was an RSS man. I quit the Navbharat Times, concentrated on my studies and became an IPS officer. I am writing all this to tell you that technically, I am senior to Ravish Kumar in journalism! Jokes apart, I am a great admirer of Ravish. It requires great courage to swim against the tide.
With Narendra Modi’s rise on the Indian political horizon, MEDIA has turned into MODIA. Like “chaarans” and “bhaats” of bygone days, journalists have become Modi Bhakts. Chaarans and bhaats were court-poets who praised worthless kings to the sky. The king in turn showered “asharfis” (gold-coins) on these chamchas.
Now, journalists praise Modi and he showers Padma Shris, Padma Bhushans on them. MJ Akbar, once a champion of the Nehruvian secularism, joined hands with Modi. Akbar became a BJP MP and a Minister also until some lady reporters cooked his goose and #MeToo claimed Akbar’s chair.
The Zee News owner Subhash Chandra is now a Rajya Sabha member with Narendra Modi’s blessings. The MODIA has brought disgrace to journalism. The Fourth Estate of democracy has become a mockery. News channels have turned into noise channels and nothing critical of Narendra Modi is ever shown on TV. But if there are dark clouds, there are silver linings too.
A handful of reporters has stuck to the highest traditions of journalism. Rana Ayyub. The young lady entered Gujarat posing as Maithili Tyagi, a US-based documentary film maker and and exposed the Modi Gang ruthlessly. Gauri Lankesh, another fiesty lady, challenged Hindutva goons until she fell to bullets. Vinod Dua, Ravish Kumar, Barkha Dutta, Abhisar Sharma, Punya Prasoon Vajpayee, Arfa Khanum Sherwani are other crusaders. They call a spade a spade and don’t behave like BJP polling agents. Ravish Kumar is my favourite. He speaks Hindi with a thick Bihari accent and leaves Modi ‘s reputation in tatters.
In fact, two Kumars from Bihar, Ravish and Kanhaiyya, have given Narendra Modi and his gang several sleepless nights. Interestingly, both are upper caste Hindus. Ravish is a Brahmin and Kanhaiyya is a Bhumihar. Upper caste Hindus are BJP’s core vote-bank. But Ravish and Kanhaiyya are thorns in Modi’s side. I admire them for their courage of conviction. And Ravish Kumar has become only the second Bihari, after JP, to win the coveted Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Asian Nobel Prize!
Congratulations, Ravish. You have refused to become a boot-licker of third-rate bigots. You have adhered to the highest standards of journalism set up by stalwarts like Rajendra Mathur and SP Singh. And Narendra Modi has eggs on his face. The megalomaniac PM of India who wears a 10-lakh suit and walks like a “matwala hathi” has been shown his place. Bravo, Ravish. And always remember, I am your senior in journalism!
(Mr. Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch IPS Officer. His views are personal.)