No more 'Between the Lines'

No more 'Between the Lines'

Kuldip Nayar

Lakhs of common readers will not read 'between the lines' the way they used to from now on – the man behind the popular column that dug deep to explain the intricacies of how India functioned walked out of life at the age of 95, eight days after celebrating his birthday on August 14.


A hope and inspiration to generations of journalists, Kuldeep Nayar was a man who donned several caps and that too with elan – he was an activist who longed for lasting India-Pakistan peace, an uncompromising editor, a Parliamentarian, a media advisor to a Prime Minister and a diplomat.


Till he faded away, he breathed journalism and finished his column before moving into a hospital in south Delhi a week ago. The column 'Between the Lines', which spoke about the idea of India, reached lakhs through 80 newspapers in 14 languages and Nayar pulled out all his experience to decipher what was happening in India.


A quintessential journalist, Nayar was one of doyens of journalism who stood firm against any politician or policy-maker and always kept the interest of the common man while doing journalism.


Born in Sialkot, now in Pakistan, in 1923, Nayar's sensibilities were formed by the Independence Struggle and the Partition. After completing BA from Forman Christian College and LLB from Law College, both in Lahore, he started off as an Urdu journalist before becoming the editor of The Statesman and later Indian Express. He also wrote for The Times in London besides several other papers.


Scoops flew without any hesitation from Nayar's pen – he risked being re-arrested during Emergency when he broke the story about Indira Gandhi's plans to lift Emergency and hold general elections.


When the media “crawled when asked to bent” as veteran BJP leader L K Advani described the Emergency era, Nayar organised a protest in Press Club of India and even wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi against censorship, days before his arrest in July 1975.


His protest for freedom of press was a continuous process and during Rajiv Gandhi's time, he was in the forefront of the fight against Defamation Bill.


Another scoop was his interview with Pakistan nuclear scientist AQ Khan when he disclosed his country having atom bombs much before it was made public.


Nayar's journalistic career was punctuated by his other assignments. He was Media Advisor to then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and was present in Tashkent when the latter breathed his last under mysterious circumstances.


If the media advisor job in the 1960s, he became the country's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in 1990 and held the job for eight months. While on assignment in London, he upped the ante over the return of 'Kohinoor'.


He followed it up when he became a nominated member for six years in Rajya Sabha from 1997. He got around 50 MPs, including the then Opposition leader Manmohan Singh, to sign a petition but nothing moved much.


Another of Nayar's obsession was peace with Pakistan. A peace-nik, he led peace activists in lighting candles at the Attari-Wagah border on the Independence Days of India and Pakistan. He stayed behind the curtains to initiate dialogue between the neighbours.


A man with a way of words, Nayar is leaving behind a tranche of best-selling books – from his autobiography to a stellar re-telling of the Emergency. His autobiography 'Beyond the Lines' sketches not only his life but that of the country while 'The Judgement: Inside Story of the Emergency in India' is documented history of the dark era. His 15 books ranges from subjects dealing with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh, Pakistan and partition. From now on the common reader will miss the byline and moreover, what he missed between the lines. 

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