The demise in August of veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar certainly left a big void in the field of above board journalism. At the thought of Nayar, I am instantaneously transported back to my days at the Jawaharlal Nehru University where I had the good fortune to meet this erudite scholar.
He had been invited to address the MA students at JNU, but his pacifist stance that favoured the peace process and dialogue with Pakistan, was taken on by some cynical voices. As we waited for him to respond to that critical question, Nayar briefly closed his eyes and spoke after a long, quiet pause.
The exasperation was writ large on his face as he remarked, “You won’t understand the pain (of Partition). You weren’t born then.” His paternal assurance had an immediate effect and the voices of cynicism were muted in no time. Expressing his views on the prevalent state of affairs, Nayar went poignantly more eloquent, “This is not the India we dreamt of, and fought for.” Venting out his spleen against the communal conflagration in the country, he did not mince his words against the radical side of Hindutava.
What happened in Muzaffarnagar had badly bruised his heart and his inner agony was clear in his intonation. The riots had been described as the “worst in the recent history of Uttar Pradesh.” With teary eyes, the nonagenarian journalist had equated the Muzaffarnagar riots with the Jallianwallah Bagh carnage. Nayar also warned of the consequences of such flagrant communal political agendas in a democratic nation.
“A country which has a secular constitution and ethos should beware of this sort of sectarian politics. We — Hindus and Muslims — fought side by side against the colonial British empire and sought liberation from the British for a better tomorrow. Things haven’t changed much though. The current situation appals me. This is not the India we dreamt of and fought for,” he rued.
Recalling an encounter with a young Muslim boy from Jamia who felt very insecure as someone coming from a religious minority, he said that it is the duty of Hindus to make them feel secure. “It’s now the duty of Hindus, the majority community in the country, to retrieve the lost.” Indeed, he was a paragon of peace living in a country where communal infernos break out every other day.