A Prelude: You the readers or the critics of this weekly must be thinking what makes this writer to adopt a pseudonym for this column. Frankly speaking, I’ve no intention to hide my identity simply because, I don’t have one. Neither am I an expert on any subject nor am I a noted writer or columnist. As far as my photograph is concerned, who will carry the photo of a non-entity like I. And, it’s true; I’m just a common nameless Indian like crores, who are surviving on the soil of this country, while struggling for two square meals a day, clean drinking water, waiting at bus stops or stations to board an over-crowded bus, a local or a metro to go to office, standing in a long queue outside a school for child’s admission and at the end of the month again run to an electricity office to pay a hefty bill, which is often unreasonably high, without even using an air-conditioner or centarlised heater at home.
I’m thankful to the editor of Organiser, who finally agreed to publish whatever I write in this space but with a rider that I will keep my writing within the limits of decency (and why not, after all I’m not a political leader) and the opinion expressed here would solely be mine. I owe it sir. And again, as far my byline (the word journalists use) is concerned, who cares to know my name? Rightly said Shakespeare “What’s there in a name” and that too in a country with an estimated population of 1.27 billion or precisely 127 crore!
Here I speak
While, commuting daily on public transport or waiting at a market place, a major topic of discussion among people in the last few days has been the interview of one Swami Aseemananda, an accused in the Samjhauta Express train blast, who has been branded as a ‘face of Hindu terror’—rightly or wrongly, I don’t know — as it’s in the purview of esteemed journalists working in the national capital Delhi to decide. Like, the one Ms Leena Gita Reghunath, who claims to have interviewed Aseemananda over a period of two years in Ambala jail and then came out with an explosive 11,200 word-long story. In the said interview The Caravan journalist claims that Aseemanand revealed to her that in the terror attacks the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), some of its readers had an active say and it has been a centre-point of discussion and debate on TV channels.
As it has been a centre point of media discussions, out of curiosity, I had to shelve Rs 75 to buy a copy of Caravan. It was too long for a common man like me (here I clarify, I’ve nothing to do with Aam Aadmi Party), who never have had an opportunity to be a part of any intellectual debate, to read it on and on, which was more a biography of Aseemananda that has already appeared in various national and regional newspapers, and also available on Wikipedia – the famous source of information for journalists.
Now-a-days almost everyone is a journalist. Thanks to TV channels for bombarding with 24×7 ‘breaking news and inside information’ and for the Citizen Journalist platform. So, am I, as I too have had the privilege, if not to hobnob, but interact, argue and disagree with many from journalist fraternity. This ungerminated seed of journalism within me compelled me to know more about the interviewer. The credit inside the magazine identifies her as an “Editorial manager”, which I heard for the first time. I started working in a company as an executive in my early twenties to earn my living and aspired to become a manager, but eventually couldn’t. No qualms. One day, I happened to meet a top editor of a magazine. Given to my experience, I asked him how I could work in a magazine. He replied, it can be either in the editorial as a journalist or in the management.
“Sir, can’t it be merged into one –editorial and management, as it’ll satisfy my aspiration to be a journalist and my experience in the management in a company will be of use,” I had ignorantly asked. “No,” the editor curtly replied. After seeing Ms Reghunath’s designation, my memory brought back that old incident. May be it’s possible now and I had thought it ahead of time!
This meteoric rise of Reghunath in journalism, many would envy, given by her professional experience. “The interview has been touted as an investigative piece, but she never have had any work in investigative journalism nor broke a single story either,” a known name in investigative reporting told me.
Her descriptor in The Caravan mentions that prior to this job, she had a brief stint as a public prosecutor and civil lawyer. During her days at law school, she freelanced for the city editions of The Hindu and The New Indian Express.
Her journalistic work available on net shows she wrote on ‘Pan (betel leaf) and panwallahs’ in The Hindu’s Metro Plus Kochi edition; on terrace farming in Thiruvananthpuram and about a former personal assistant of Nehru-Gandhi family based on his autobiography in The Caravan.
I envy her luck and also her charisma. Getting an access to alleged jailed ‘terrorists’ accused of bomb blasts like Swami Aseemananda and Pragya Singh Thakur without court’s order had been so easy for her, which many known reporters in the field could not. Or, how could she carry a recording equipment, may be a mobile phone inside jail premises? Or, is it her status as a lawyer that gave her access to documents related to the cases. Or is it a part of a bigger political conspiracy that gave a private person access to an accused in judicial custody and chat for hours?
Her contribution: weaving a story articulately like a legal brief around already published facts and the biography of Aseemananda.
But, hats-off to her two new inputs, one, adding RSS chief’s name (even tough interrogators failed) and second, describing the inside look of the chamber of an investigation officer at National Investigation Agency (NIA) and where classified information related to blasts are kept, as she got inside one such ‘modest cubicle’ to extract information. As a common man the only picture I have about an investigation agency is from the TV serial CID!
I think Ms Reghunath as a ‘lawyer-turned-investigative journalist manager’ took a pretty long time to do this interview, which doesn’t have anything substantial, anything new to offer to the readers.
As a common inquisitive reader, I remember every bit of information appeared in 2011 in all newspapers and TV channels, which caused a major uproar then. “Except adding RSS Chief’s name, the interview seems to be a table-top story neatly re-written to keep the magazine’s sales roaring before elections,” a local journalist friend of mine laughed off. May be my friend is right, as he knows his trade better than me.
My newspaper agent told me that this particular edition of Caravan has gone for a re-print. Here Ms Reghunath can aptly justify her role as a ‘Manager’ by increasing the sales order.
The New York Times’ blog dedicated to Indian affairs called India Ink interviewed Ms Reghunath. On media’s reaction to her story, the writer says: “Media, unfortunately tried to play the story down”. Did she expect that the entire media would go gaga over a story, which is more an act of plagiarism, without anything new to tell? Just because she has re-written it with intentions best known to her and her editor!
Giving twists and turns to statements or using double entendres doesn’t make any story — a breaking one or an expose‘.
Lastly, on why she took up this interview, the writer claims: “As a journalist, I was interested in the life story of Swami Aseemanand, a lifelong RSS worker and a sanyasi (hermit)”.
Though I have never written anything substantial in life, except essays in school and college under compulsion, I strongly believe had Ms Reghunath written a book on Swami Aseemananda with her ‘investigative inputs on Hindu terror’, it would have added another feather to her cap and to her CV – ‘an eminent author’ like many of her ilk. It may pave her way to become an editor of any ‘secular’ newspaper or magazine. Great going madam; at least you are ahead of many stupid common nameless Indians like me, who have nothing to do but blabber.
[The opinion expressed in this column is solely that of the writer – Nameless Indian].