Kewalram Ratanmal Malkani aka KR Malkani took over as the Editor of Organiser in 1948, at the age of 27 after an initial stint with The Hindustan Times as a Sub-editor. The youngest and longest serving editor of Organiser, he continued editing the weekly till 1983. At one stage he also simultaneously edited, The Motherland, an English daily, a sisterly publication of Organiser, between 1971 and 1975. He was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University during 1961-62. He was also the General Secretary of the Editors’ Guild of India during 1978-79. Later he also served as a politician as a Vice President, BJP (1991-1994), Member, Rajya Sabha (1994-2000) and as Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry from July 2002 till his death in October 2003.
The Midnight Knock (1977), The RSS Story (1980), The Sindh Story (1984), Ayodhya and Hindu-Muslim Relations (1993) are some of his well-received books
My journey with Organiser began prior to the Indo-China War in 1962 and continued till April 30, 2000 after serving for 37 years in different capacities. I am witness to many ups and downs in the history of Bharat Prakashan (Delhi) Ltd. I feel Organiser was at its peak during the period of Shri LK Advani and Shri KR Malkani, who both enjoyed very good tuning and were always eager to provide something different to the readers, which they did not get anywhere else. Even after joining active politics Advaniji continued to contribute in Organiser.
The vision and news sense of Malkaniji was exemplary, which was basically the most important factor behind the growth of the newspaper. It was during that period that Organiser was widely and frequently quoted in different newspapers and the Parliament. However, it made Organiser an eyesore for the Left parties and the Congress. As a result when we used to approach companies for advertisements, they said “Take money as donation, but don’t publish our advertisement, otherwise the Congress leaders would harass us”. It gradually proved to be a big hindrance for years and the company faced financial crisis occasionally.
Another hindrance was that we did not have our own printing press and whatever quality, good or bad, they provided we had to accept. Following financial crisis we used to search the printer which printed the paper on cheapest rate. Naturally, when one wants low rates, how can one expect good quality? It was always a major challenge before us. Sometimes, we were so much financially poor that we had to take money through hundis. It was costly affair, but we had no other option. In those days many newspapers indulged in manipulations to procure big quota of newsprint, but we never indulged in any such manipulation. As a result the newsprint we got was less than our requirement and rest of the papers was purchased from black market. The suppliers knew that we did not have money to pay immediately, they sold us paper on higher rates, which ultimately resulted in major loss every year. In those days Malkani was Organiser and Organiser was Malkani. It benefited us. Kidarnath Sahni was a very resourceful person. He is responsible for constructing the huge building for Bharat Prakashan at Jhandewalan, which proved to be big financial help to us in the form of rent.
The vision and news sense of Malkaniji was exemplary, which was basically the most important factor behind the growth of the newspaper. It was during that period that Organiser was widely and frequently quoted in different newspapers and the Parliament
Once we published a special issue of Organiser on West Bengal. I ensured free distribution of some copies in the Rajdhani Train going to Calcutta in those days. It helped us in making new subscribers and also receiving advertisements. Many people phoned us to know more about the publication.
In 1971, when East Bengal war broke out, we decided to publish an evening daily under the same title of The Motherland. It was a four page daily printed on the broadsheet. The experiment proved to be a big hit. It was the initiative of news editor Shri DR Mankekar who had come from Times of India. In those days, the evening daily of Hindustan Times was in the market at around 4.00 pm. But we distributed our issue at 2.00 pm only. On first day itself, I personally went to Coffee Home in Connaught Place and sold copies to the people. We had priced it one aana, which attracted the hawkers. Since I was incharge of all the local hawkers for The Motherland, I personally knew most of them. On third day, there was long queue of hawkers outside the printing press for copies. The eveninger continued till the Into-Pak war continued. One interesting benefit of the evening daily was that it increased the circulation of our morning edition too. It enhanced the image of the entire publication.
“Fear, We Not”
Within four days of the declaration of the Emergency, an amendment came into effect in the MISA rules, doing away with the obligation to communicate the grounds for detention to all those detained on June 25 and the following days.
The first person to be arrested in Delhi was my former boss K R Malkani, editor of the Jana Sangh–RSS–controlled The Motherland newspaper (and the Organiser Weekly, whose bold, sometimes sensational reports and stridently anti-Gandhi line had personally infuriated the PM. The newspaper’s controversial articles included the charge that there was a political conspiracy in the murder of the railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra in a bomb explosion in Samastipur. The Motherland also raised many embarrassing questions about Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti factory, which were taken up in Parliament.
As far back as January 30, 1975,The Motherland had carried a report claiming that there was a plan afoot to arrest JP, ban the RSS and seal The Motherland. The tip-off was reportedly given to the newspaper by Indian Express owner Ramnath Goenka, whose own newspaper did not carry the news since it could not be verified. The Motherland report about the impending arrests, which was dismissed as far-fetched and unsubstantiated by most in the media at that time, in retrospect appears to have been based on solid evidence.
Malkani was woken up before 1 a.m. on 26 June by a group of policemen who banged on the gate of his Rajendra Nagar bungalow and told him he was wanted at the police station. His house was surrounded on all sides, his small garden swarming with policemen. His alarmed wife, Sundari, asked what it was all about, but the response was simply, ‘Malkani sahib knows.’
The policemen were not able to produce any warrant of arrest. Malkani finally reached an agreement with the police: he would be accompanied to the police station by a friendly neighbour who could act as
witness to make sure he was not being kidnapped. Malkani also made a call to The Motherland office to pass on the news and told them to inform the RSS, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI) immediately. His message served as a timely warning for several people, who thereby managed to escape the police dragnet. News of his arrest was also carried in a small box on the front page of the Hindustan Times. This was the only Emergency news that made it to the next day’s newspapers.
When Malkani reached the New Rajendra Nagar police station, it was empty except for one police officer. Around 2.30 am Dr Bhai Mahavir, vice president of the Jana Sangh, was brought in and Malkani felt reassured that he was not being singled out. Both men were driven to the Defence Colony police station where they found other detainees. Most of them were from the Jana Sangh and Anand Marg. There was also one Marxist, Major Jaipal Singh. Around 4.30 am they were finally served with arrest warrants under MISA.
(Excerpts from: The Emergency, A Personal History by Coomi Kapoor published by Penguin Books)
When The Motherland was started in February 1971, the news of Jana Sangh and RSS associated organisations received very scant space in the mainstream media. The Motherland was started to basically fill that gap. Then we purchased a lino composing machine. An old printing machine was also purchased from Rajkot. The machine was installed in the basement of Deendayal Research Institute.
The prime reason behind huge demand of Organiser and The Motherland was out of the box vision of Malkani ji in selection and presentation of the news and articles. It was the only newspaper of opposition parties. Hence, not only the Sangh people, but also the opposition leaders read it. Even the Embassies were our subscribers. The copies started reaching London through Central News Agency. In order to enhance my skills and keep me updated I used to attend various workshops and seminars held anywhere in the country. It equipped me with new ideas. Workers’ training is very much useful in any institution. Since the company hardly provided money for attending the workshops and seminars, I attended them paying money from my own pocket. It was because of this experience that I got a very good offer from Punjab Kesari next day of my retirement.
Organiser’s Fight for Press Freedom
The RSS, a Hindu right-wing group, ran (and continues to do so) an English weekly in Delhi called the Organiser. Brij Bhushan was its printer and publisher while KR Malkani was its editor. On March 2, 1950, the chief commissioner of Delhi imposed a prior restraint on the Organiser under Section 7(1)(c) of the East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949 which extended to Delhi as well. Under this provision, a provincial government was authorised, for protecting ‘public safety’ and ‘public order’, to require a newspaper to submit the newspaper for scrutiny before publication. This was akin to the prior restraints which had been imposed on the press in 1799 by Governor-General Wellesley during the Fourth Mysore War, and under the Defence of India Rules, 1939 at the time of the Second World War. The government’s order imposing the restraint stated that the Organiser was ‘publishing highly objectionable matter constituting a threat to public law and order’. Its printer, publisher and editor were required to ‘submit for scrutiny… all communal matter and news and views about Pakistan including photographs and cartoons…’
Once again, by a majority of 5-1, the court struck down the chief commissioner’s order. However, the court essentially held that a prior restraint is permissible under the Constitution, so long as the restraint is imposed in furtherance of any of the enumerated exceptions to free speech under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. he sole Muslim judge on the court at the time, Justice Fazl Ali, dissented once again. He agreed that the term ‘public order’ was wide enough to cover even ‘a small riot or an affray’, but held that in some cases ‘even public disorders of comparatively small dimensions may have far-reaching effects on the security of the State.’ He noted that Delhi had been declared a ‘dangerously disturbed area’ at this time, an obvious reference to Hindu-Muslim riots, justifying a law of this nature. In short, the Romesh Thapar and Brij Bhushan cases had farreaching implications for the manner in which the government could restrict speech which was designed to incite Hindu-Muslim riots and killings. The court’s judgments could be read to mean that not every local Hindu-Muslim riot or mass murder was capable of threatening the security or existence of the Indian State. Consequently, the government would be powerless to restrain hate speech which was designed to incite such local disturbances, which were nonetheless deeply troublesome. The Supreme Court’s decisions were then followed and applied in several high courts throughout the country.
(Excerpts from Republic of Rhetoric: Free Speech and the Constitution of India by Abhinav Chandrachud, published by Penguin Books)
I those days there used to be weekly holiday in many daily newspapers. But we in The Motherland decided not to have any holiday and published the paper every day. We cared for not only our employees, but also for the hawkers associated with us. To be successful in a newspaper, what is required the most is to publish what the readers want. If you fail to do that, you cannot run a paper. Once, Organiser earned a good profit. Shri Ramshankar Agnihotri was the General Manager. He provided double bonus to the employees. Sahniji was instrumental in providing wages to the employees according to the Wage Boards. After Emergency we purchased two scooters for the circulation and advertisement staff.