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AN ILLUSTRIOUS INHERITANCE OF LOSS

NATIONAL HERALD – FROM GLORY TO PITS

 

By Harihar Swarup

 

The National Herald was a child of the freedom movement. It was started by Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru himself reported for the paper and Krishna Menon was its London correspondent. Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Harijan in 1942: “The National Herald is an institution.” From 1938 to 1942, it lived dangerously from day to day, ready to publish anything about the freedom movement, paying the penalty of successive securities, forfeited at the pleasure of authorities. It was ordered to submit its editorials to censorship, which it refused, and not given headlines to war news which it defied with ingenuity.

 

Nehru’s instructions were to try to live and serve the freedom movement but not to lower the flag. Gandhiji valued it as newspaper without fear. The newspaper was voluntarily closed under Gandhi’s call that newspapers should not accept the new instructions imposed at the time of Quit India movement. Hallett’s (chief secretary of UP) police then swooped on the daily, turned out the staff and shut down the newspaper. For next few years, every other newspaper made war-time profit. The National Herald could not.

 

After Nehru’s release from Ahemadnagar Fort, it had to restart again from the beginning, towards the end of 1945, though, fortunately, under the inspiring call of Nehru. It was no easy task to live after insurrection, but it was still an adventurous age, freedom was in the air, the staff of the herald was still battle-worthy, though battle-scarred and cheerfully faced fresh uncertainties. Nehru had been a sort of chief editor during the freedom struggle whenever he was free.

 

The Delhi edition of the National Herald was Nehru’s dream. It was that of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai; it was also of Feroze Gandhi’s, he was actively associated with the paper. In spite of abundance of newspapers in Delhi, there was still need for National Herald from the union capital. The paper finally started printing its Delhi edition in 1963. Nehru did not want Herald for profits, petty feuds, for flattery or for ambivalence and ambiguity.

 

The first Editor of National Herald was K. Rama Rao, a freedom fighter. When UP’s Chief Secretary Hallett cracked down on Herald, Rama Rao was the editor and he faced the British police’s oppression bravely and sent to jail. The second editor was M. Chalapathi Rau, the front ranking journalist of his time as tall as Frank Morase and Pothan Joseph. The Herald also produced a generation of new and bright journalists. Published under auspices of Associated Journals, besides Herald, two more newspapers—Quami Awaz (Urdu) and Navjivan (Hindi) — were published. While Herald and Navjivan were making losses, Quami Awaz was doing very well.

 

It is sad that after Jawaharlal’s death, Indira Gandhi paid little attention to the paper and it continued to deteriorate. Rajiv Gandhi tried to resurrect the newspaper but did not make such headway. Sonia Gandhi, too, did not bother to bring up the paper and finally the Herald closed, leaving behind heavy liability. At a time when a Congress needs a newspaper of its own to propagate its policies, Herald and its associate publications have been shut down.

 

It is sad that the affairs of Herald have now been dragged to court. Wisely, Sonia and Rahul have decided to appear in the court and ask for the bail. The National Herald case will go on; no one knows for how long? Nothing is going to come out of the case as nothing is there.

 

The case was filed by Subramanian Swamy, now a member of the BJP, in 2013. After Swamy went to the court, a trail judge assessed there was a case to answer and issued summons. The Gandhis sought to have these stayed and the case quashed but the Delhi High Court rejected their petition. Justice Sunil Gaur questioned “the impropriety of extending interest-free loans” to Associated Journals Limited by the Congress when the funds come largely from public donations, as well as, assignments of the Rs.90 crore of debt to Young Indian when it could easily have been repaid from Associated Journals assets. Justice Gaur said, “all this smacks of criminality”, has a “fraudulent flavour and, therefore, needs to be properly looked into”. Now when two separate judges exercising their judicial minds come to this conclusion, how could you call it a political vendetta?

 

The Congress claims its charge of political vendetta is not a comment on the courts but on the fact that Modi moved the head of the Enforcement Directorate because he closed the National Herald file and, then, had it re-opened by his successor. Once again, the facts don’t seem to support this. Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, under whom the head of ED serves, has said no decision has been taken or notice served or the file reopened by the ED in this manner. “I doubt he would lie because that could be easily found out.”  (IPA Service)