A span of seventy-five years is not very big in a journey of a nation. In the case of Bharat having thousands of years of civilisational ethos, it is certainly not. But it is undoubtedly a significant and long journey for a publication that started just before the dawn of Independence and incessantly works as a voice of Bharatiya nationhood. In fact, since Independence, there is hardly a moment in the progressive evolution of this great nation that can be completely separated from the journey of the Organiser.
The Idea of the Organiser
Generally, RSS Swayamsevaks are not considered to be media savvy. Therefore, starting a media group and that also in English was a courageous move in 1946-47, when Bharat Prakashan (Delhi) Limited was formed with the contribution of thousands of shareholders. Though the idea of the Organiser as voice of Bharatiyata and the Bharatiya point of view on various issues was germinated well before Independence, but could be materialised only a few weeks before the Independence.
One such group was led by a young and dynamic pracharak, Vasantrao Oak, the main strategist behind this move. Along with him, Devendra Vijay Dadhwal, editor of a Hindi journal “Dainik Bharatvarsha”, Amarnath Bajaj and Chiathram, both government employees, supported this idea. Lala Charat Ram of Delhi Cloth Mills (DCM) was also a great supporter of this endeavour. The famous Latifi Press, which was printing DAWN till partition, became the first printing press for Organiser also.
Ironically, the first copy of Organiser was put in place with Shri A R Nair as Editor, who was not from the RSS school of thought but more known for his tilt towards Marxism. As it was conceived as an independent media venture devoted to the cause of the nation, Shri Nair was the choice for his superior editing and linguistic skills in English.
Fight for Freedom of Expression
The August 14, 1947 edition hit the market with a bang. However, the Organiser experienced the first stumbling block after the brutal assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The ban on RSS with nefarious designs forced the fledgling weekly to close down with six months of its beginning. After the unconditional lifting of the ban on RSS, among many things that resumed normal activity was Organiser. This time, Kewal Ratan Malkani, another experienced journalist, then working with Hindustan Times, was called in to edit the weekly. KR Malkani soon became the face of the weekly and edited the weekly from 1948 to 1982, for thirty-four years. During his stay away in England on fellowship, the weekly was edited by one of its “film correspondents”, Lal Krishna Advani.
Another important hurdle occurred in the smooth publication within a month of enactment of the Constitution of Bharat. Amidst the calls for war with Pakistan and violence against Muslims in West Bengal, the Organiser published a front-page article entitled “Six Questions” on February 27, 1950. Another article, “Villains versus Fools,” criticised the government on the policy of administering claims to Muslim evacuee property on an individual basis rather, without considering the claims of most needy Hindu refugees. Another write up was published questioning the loyalty of Muslims having links with the Muslim League.
The then Congress government used the iron fist to curb the reporting on these sensitive issues, and K R Malkani was called to explain himself to the Central Press Advisory Committee for these three articles, which he again protested through editorial, calling it ‘official acts of harassment. In March, Malkani was served with a “pre-censorship” order under the East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949, requiring him to submit all “communal matter and news and views about Pakistan” for prior scrutiny before publication. He published the order in the March 13 issue of Organiser, writing ‘Facts are sacred’. On April 17 the Organiser decided to challenge the constitutionality of the East Punjab Public Safety Act in the “Supreme Court of Bharat.” On June 5,1950 finally the Court declared the relevant section of the East Punjab Public Safety Act unconstitutional which was described by the Organiser “A Great Event”. This was not established the credibility of the Organiser but made it a torchbearer of ‘freedom of expression’ in post-independent Bharat.
Shaping the Policy Matters
In 1947 itself, with the infiltration from the Pakistan side and subsequent accession of the princely State in the Union of Bharat, discourse on Jammu and Kashmir has dominated the national strategic and foreign policy concerns. The Organiser has been active in shaping that debate. On the issues ranging from the legality of accession of J&K, Nehru-Liyaqat pact, refugee policy and first-ever gallop poll conducted by a media group on the issue of resettlement colonies for refugees, plebiscite issue etc, the Organiser did not only report the matters with immaculate facts but sensitised the public opinion with expert insights. The Praja Parishad Andolan, which was a watershed in bringing Jammu and Ladakh region into the discourse and strengthened the nationalist voices in the state of J&K was meticulously reported by the weekly. On the mysterious death of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in the prison after leading the movement successfully, Organiser raised questions about the unfortunate incident and cornered the government.
In the 1960s, during the two wars of 1962 and 1965 with China and Pakistan, respectively, Organiser played a lead role in building national consensus and spreading the message of unity and integrity among the masses.When the cow protection and anti-conversion became mass movements, Organiser as a media house not only provided insights on the issues but took a stand in tune with the Bharatiya ethos. Recently, when the weekly came up with Gandhi and his message of cleanliness on the front page, many argued that it had happened for the first time. Though there were many articles and reports about Mahatma Gandhi were already published in Organiser, in 1969, at the time of his birth centenary celebrations, Organiser brought out a special edition.
The Untold Story of Motherland
Realising the need for a daily newspaper to ensure nationalist voice in daily news reporting, on February 5, 1971, the first issue of The Motherland Daily, launched by Bharat Prakashan, Limited, appeared on the stands, again edited by K R Malkani. Pledging to preserve and defend democratic values in the country and foster national integrity and political unity, soon The Motherland virtually became the only defender of democracy along with the Organiser till its last issue (the edition dated June 27, 1975). Amidst undeclared censorship on most newspapers through threats and inducements in this period, the Bharat Prakashan Publications became a thorn in the deceit designs of the then Congress Government. Arabinda Ghose, who used to represent the publications in the briefings of Home Minister Uma Shankar Dikshit and was the only media person making critical comments about the government in this informal meeting meant for inducement. No wonder, when Emergency was declared at the midnight of June 25-26, KR Malkani was among the first media persons to be arrested. On June 26, at 3 am, the police disconnected the power supply to all printing presses and newspaper editions in Delhi to prevent news publication.
However, the courageous staff of Organiser and The Motherland managed to give a sneak to the mighty state power led by Mrs Indira Gandhi and with the resolve of ‘No censorship for the Motherland’ became the only Newspaper to declare not only the promulgation of Emergency but arrests of Malkaniji along with all opposition leader including Jayprakash Narayan, Chandra Shekhar, Krishan Kant, Charan Singh, Ram Dhan and others in Delhi and Atalji and Advaniji at Bangalore. On June 27, 1975, also The Motherland published the edition with contributions from Dr Jay Dubashi, Shri Sudhakar and RP Singh, our Assistant Editors. This copy was despatched by train to outside stations. When the same team was preparing to bring out the late city edition of June 27 at about 11.30 pm, the Paharganj police came, switched off the electricity connection once again, drove the staff out of the office, and locked up The Motherland. That was the end of the paper.
Unfortunately, that legacy was never revived. The Motherland presented an example of valour and the true democratic spirit of media to stand against the brunt of State Suppression.
Organiser stood up again on its feet along with its sister publication Panchjanya. It again took up the national cause and started addressing issues of institutional decay and corrupt machinery, which was direct outcome of Emergency. When regional sentiments were on the rise, the Organiser presented the integrationist view highlighting the cultural unity of the nation.
The Shahbano Case verdict and subsequent Constitutional amendment brought the debate on Uniform Civil Code to the forefront; again the Organiser became the voice for the supporters of this Constitutional expectation. Ram Janmabhoomi movement aroused the sentiment of Hindu unity and cultural resurgence of Bharat; the weekly became an active partner in this process. On the issues ranging from foreign policy, liberalisation and globalisation to the emergence of coalition politics and trends of social disintegration, the Organiser is always considered a strong voice in the national interest.
With the changing times, Organiser transformed itself and launched its digital edition in 2004. In 2014, the tabloid format was changed to a magazine format to increase the shelf life. The digitalisation of all archives since inception is on the way. So is the app-based presence. A weekly newspaper with a national perspective has turned truly into a ‘Voice of the Nation’, thanks to the incessant efforts of numerous people who have been patrons, directors, staff members, advertisers or just brand ambassadors of Organiser. At the juncture of entering the 75th year of existence, it is right time to salute their spirit and approach to run this unique media group. When media is more a business than a service, the reach and relevance of Organiser like initiatives is all the more significant to sustain the democratic and national ethos. On this occasion, we hope the Organiser will continue to stand up to the expectations of millions of readers, supporters and well-wishers in decades to come.