Karunanidhi, the journalist, remembered

Long before the Tamil filmdom and literary world recognised him, late DMK President was a journalist as he launched a manuscript magazine that went full throttle against the imposition of Hindi and rechristened it as ‘Murasoli’ six years later.

During his conversations with journalists, he would always remind them that he too was a scribe in his young age and he cannot live without his pen – his letter to DMK cadre appeared in Murasoli every day till about two years ago when his illness confined him to his home.

And, the DMK, thought it was fitting that eminent personalities from the field that served as a stepping stone for its leader’s dramatic rise as one of the stalwarts of the Dravidian movement, be given the first opportunity to recall his contributions to journalism and society much before those from other fields that he left his mark.  

“Kalaignar: One who protected freedom of expression” – was the first among the five topics chosen by the DMK to recall his contributions to journalism, literary world, cinema, state politics and national politics. Karunanidhi engaged journalists like no one did in Tamil Nadu – he would have easily held the maximum number of press conferences in the state as the head of a political party.

On Friday, eminent journalists, who had covered Karunanidhi in the past few decades, spoke about the journalist in him and recalled how he opposed imposition of Emergency both as a politician and as Editor of Murasoli, at an event here.  

N Ram, Chairman of The Hindu group, recalled Karunanidhi's contributions to “literary journalism” and proposed to the DMK to commission an independent research on the late leader’s writings.

“Though we share the grief, it is time for us to celebrate Kalaignar’s works and I congratulate M K Stalin for organising such a meeting. I have known Kalaignar since 1969. He was true protector of freedom of expression and made Tamil Nadu an oasis for people who opposed Emergency. He could have supported Emergency and protected his government. But he did not do that,” he told the meeting.

R Bhagwan Singh, the Executive Editor of Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, recalled the early morning phone calls that journalists like him got about a story that has been published in their respective newspapers. “Even before the journalist gets the paper or reads it, Kalaignar would call the scribe about the story. One good thing about Karunanidhi was that he accepted criticism and allowed dissent,” he said.

Arun Ram, the resident editor of Times of India, Tamil Nadu, said: “He engaged journalists even if they did not subscribe to his ideology. Like others (J Jayalalithaa) who believed in filing defamation cases, Kalaignar also had a weapon to respond to journalists and the weapon was Murasoli. He always ensured that he gave feedback – positive or negative – to stories written about him.”

M Gunasekaran, Editor of News18 Tamil Nadu, who covered the DMK, said Karunanidhi always engaged reporters and brought any corrections or feedback to their notice and not directly to the editors. “I was a very junior scribe covering the DMK. But he would give time to reporters like me and have telephonic conversations. He never carried any grouse against journalists,” he said.  

All journalists who spoke at the event, including Nakeeran Gopal, recalled Karunanidhi’s commitment towards Murasoli – his first child. Murasoli completed 75 years in August 2017.

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Karunanidhi, the journalist, remembered

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