The Paper Of Courage Continues To Roar At 55

Updated: Jan 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
Those were at once exciting and yet very frustrating days. Just five months earlier India had gained independence but was partitioned. Though there were no riots and arson, murder and mayhem in Mumbai, like they were in the north, the mood was of fear and apprehension.

Those who participated in the freedom movement, and there were hundreds and thousands of them, had overcome the trauma of partition and were looking forward with hope to build a New India. Gandhiji continued to be an icon even as Pandit Nehru had emerged as a confident leader with vision.

Indeed the spirit of the Mahatma and the vision of Nehru had provided that hope. This was the backdrop against which a new Marathi daily, Loksatta, was launched. The Express Group had already arrived in Mumbai with a bang of sorts. But the predominant culture of the city was Marathi.

The state of Maharashtra had not been carved out but there was growing sentiment among the Marathi people to have their own linguistic state. Their aspirations for a separate state were inspired by the resolution on the linguistic reorganisation of states. But the movement for the separate state had not started. The Marathi-speaking people needed cultural expression. There was controversy as to whether there should be a separate and bilingual Bombay state or Maharashtra as an independent identity.

Even among the Maharashtrians and within the Congress Party, there was a sharp difference of opinion on the matter. But on one point, all Marathi speaking people seemed to agree. There was a cultural need for a new Marathi daily, reflecting the new hope, new dreams and new ideas. Loksatta instantly reflected all these conflicting moods and ideas. The very first issue, published on January 14, 1948, headlined Mahatmas Do or Die appeal. Gandhiji had made the appeal because he appeared to be still concerned about the Hindu-Muslim relationship. He did not want the tension to deteriorate further.

Strangely, the Mahatma had a premonition of sorts. He said he would not mind sacrificing his life for the cause of peace, sanity and humanity. Exactly 16 days later, on January 30, Gandhiji was killed by a Hindu fanatic. India was spiritually orphaned.

Loksatta has steadfastly followed the example of the Mahatma. It believes in the Journalism of Courage. It has not cowed down before the establishment. It has not bent before the authorities nor crawled before the populist leaders. It has not lost its sanity even when frenzy ruled and the mobs ganged around the media. Loksatta believes not in abstract freedom of expression but in using it for fight against injustice, corruption and oppression. Loksatta believes that newspaper is a medium for strengthening democracy and secularism, national integration and unity in diversity. That is why it is also a platform for all the views. That is the spirit of Gandhiji and the vision of Nehru.

It is now 55 years since it was launched. This period was traumatic and yet there were inspiring moments. The day when India became a republic on January 26, 1950, the day the first elections were conducted, the day when Bangladesh was liberated, the day when the Emergency was defeated as well as the day when the Janata style anarchy was overthrown. The paper witnessed the wars with Pakistan and China, the integration of Sikkim with India, the Kargil war and continues to be with the people in its fight against terrorism. Loksatta abhors all kinds of extremism, particularly of the fundamentalist kind.

We have entered the 56th year with confidence and hope. Confidence that We Shall Overcome the gloom that is overcast on the country and hope that with the Gandhian moral appeal India will become spiritually strong.