Kuldip Nayar, the grand old man of Indian journalism, died on August 23, 2018 aged 95. In a career spanning over six decades, Nayar established himself as an exceptional columnist and intellectual known for his frank and fearless views on politics, culture and society. The Daily Star Editor takes a look at the rich legacy that he has left behind.
With the passing away of veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar Bangladesh has lost a sincere and lifelong friend, India has lost a conscience keeper for secular values, Pakistan has lost an untiring voice for greater understanding between the two neighbours, South Asia has lost one of loudest voices against hatred and oppression of all minority groups everywhere, journalism has lost an incomparable example of the profession’s ethos and humanity has lost one of the truest believers of the ultimate goodness in man.
He was a personal witness to the partition of 1947 that rendered him and his family refugees, and the subsequent bitterness, suspicion, hatred not to mention several wars and numerous war like situations between the two biggest South Asian countries prompting him to devote his whole life in trying to ameliorate its ill effects.
He accepted partition but not the hatred it generated. His life’s experience convinced him that peace and understanding was the only way for South Asia’s prosperity.
A life-long journalist, he devoted his full energy in fighting communalism and hatred between countries of South Asia. He always spoke of greater responsibility of India in helping all its neighbours to develop and also in promoting greater understanding among them.
As a journalist his lifelong attachment to the profession’s fundamental ethos was incomparable. He would never tire of telling youngsters entering the profession that their ultimate success lay in promoting “public interest” instead of the interest of the powers that be. He was never comfortable with the corporatisation of the media and saw its core values threatened under the relentless drive for profit.
An active supporter of Bangladesh’s Liberation War through his writings, he was one of the first senior journalists to visit the newly independent country and developed an abiding interest in Bangladesh’s march forward, an interest he maintained to the very end. He visited Bangladesh regularly and wrote about our economic and social progress with his characteristic insight. He would rejoice at our democratic journey and warn when he would notice it faltering.
His last piece published in The Daily Star was on 14th August, 2018, just a few days before his passing away, was on India-Pakistan relations. The titled “71 years on, frosty relations continue” did not hide his sadness in seeing life’s work not reaching its desired goal. But he never gave up. He recounts in the said piece, about his lifelong effort for peace and understanding symbolised by his annual candle lighting project at the Wagah Border that he started 20 years ago.
Every August he, along with his few fellow travellers, would go to the Wagah border and stand on the Indian side and light candles as a symbol of good will for the people across border. Started with a few individuals the event now, as he states in his column, brings thousands of people on the Indian side with several hundred across border. It was his way of strengthening understanding between the two bitter neighbours. Who will stand with the candles from now on?
For us in The Daily Star, Kuldip Nayar was a guiding spirit and a symbol of the values of the best in the profession. His occasional visits would be occasions for us to learn from his long and vast experience, a learning that would be made easy by his generosity, humility and sincere desire to see The Daily Star succeed in its mission of serving the people. For him The Daily Star was like a baby he was intent on nurturing and ensuring that it become a newspaper of quality and credibility both nationally and regionally.
May his Soul rest in Peace.