Shri KR Malkani was a versatile personality, a journalist par excellence, and a fine human being embodying several talents and skills. During his journalistic career, he broke many investigative stories that shook the then ruling regime. He was the boldest and the most fearless Editor I met during my 65 years of active journalism. I have had the privilege to work with well-known editors like Shri Frank Moraes, Shri Shyam Lal, Shri Giri Lal Jain, Shri DR Mankekar, Shri DK Rangnekar and many others, but I found Malkaniji as the most upright, bold, and uncompromising. He would not hold back his pen on anything he was convinced about.
During my days with Malkaniji as the Editor of The Motherland, the first English daily newspaper that voiced the RSS and Bharatiya Jana Sangh views, I found his writing was completely based on his own conviction, irrespective of the dissenting views of anyone either in the ruling party or even in his own party. Second, he never had a closed mind. He was open to discussion and debate on any issue. I remember telling most BJP stalwarts like Shri Nanaji Deshmukh, Malkaniji, Mankekarji, Ved Prakash Bhatia and others that the then Bharatiya Jana Sangh lost in the 1971 General Elections not because of the Russian ink as alleged by many. The Jana Sangh lost as it fought for the Maharajas and Princes following the abolition of their privy purses and for big bankers after the nationalisation of banks by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In one instance, I remember arguing with him on why the traditional Jana Sangh voters, which included bank employees, workers, teachers, journalists, and the small traders, should vote for the Jana Sangh. Those who had formally joined the party may have voted for it, but our traditional sympathisers had stayed away. It is pertinent here to mention that the first labour strike in Punjab National Bank and Ayodhya Mill workers in Delhi was joined by RSS activists who suffered a lot by losing their livelihood.
I told Malkaniji that I too voted for the Jana Sangh only because of my RSS background but failed to convince my very own fellow colleagues to join me in voting for the Jana Sangh. Our own supporter base alleged that the Jana Sangh stood for big people and not for the toiling classes.
On another occasion, when The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972 was passed and General Insurance was nationalised, the Government of India, through Nationalisation took over the shares of 55 Indian insurance companies and the undertakings of 52 insurers carrying on General Insurance business. At that time, Malkaniji called me and sought my views for writing his editorial on the issue. I told him that my view was that these giant insurance companies were owned by big industrialists who were misusing and siphoning out these funds and aggrandising personal wealth. The decision to nationalise general insurance would obviously go against them. I said it was imperative that thousands of crores of the nation’s meagre resources which were being misused by the owners of these banks and companies should be ploughed back into creating national infrastructure. Only nationalisation can bring these funds into the hands of the Government to be used for the people’s good. Malkaniji agreed with me and decided he would not oppose the nationalisation of general insurance and wrote an editorial in its favour. This was a far-reaching decision on behalf of Malkaniji as against the overall philosophy of Jana Sangh to oppose nationalisation. This incident goes out to show how free and fearless was the journalism practiced by Malkaniji.
Malkaniji’s decision to support the nationalisation of General Insurance companies caused many ripples at that time, so much so that the The Times of India wrote that the Jana Sangh seems to be reconsidering its policy. At a much later stage, it was Shri Deen Dayal Upadhyayji and Shri Dattopant Thengdiji who introduced revolutionary changes by working for the last man in the queue, thereby meaning people from the lowest strata of society and organising trade unions among workers and farmers.
During my stint of reporting from the Parliament for The Motherland, several ministers in the Indira Gandhi cabinet complained to me about being hounded by The Motherland only because they were in the ruling party. They claimed, and rightly so, that they too had belonged to the RSS cadre during their younger years. I told Malkaniji about their complaints and I still remember the expression on his face. He took immediate action to ensure that no one was being hounded without reason and in some particular cases he told me to assure them that they would not be chased without reason, simply because they were part of the party in power.
Prediction Turns Prophetic
Shri Malkaniji is often remembered as the man who predicted that an Emergency would soon be imposed! He had published front-page news in The Motherland as early as January 1975 saying that Smt Indira Gandhi shall soon impose an Emergency and throw all Opposition leaders behind bars and ban RSS, etc. Nobody believed the prediction when it was made, but later it came true. Emergency was imposed within six months of his prediction. This news was presumably written on the basis of a prediction made by a Jana Sangh stalwart from Bombay Shri Vasant Pandit who happened to be a great astrologer too. Pandit had told Shri LK Advani that there would soon be a two-year exile. Only an Editor like Shri Malkaniji could have dared to publish such a story during those days.
It will not be out of place to mention that Shri Malkaniji consulted me about the selection of staff as he didn’t want any Leftist to make a backdoor entry into the newspaper. I had the privilege to introduce many senior professionals from other papers. Among many others, I introduced Shri DN Singh to him, and it was Shri Singh who succeeded Malkaniji as Editor of The Motherland following the arrest of Shri Malkaniji. Shri Malkaniji phoned Shri DN Singh from his bathroom that he was being arrested. After our Editor’s arrest, we went ahead and produced an afternoon supplement which was actually in contravention of rules applicable during Government’s censorship. We are really proud of all those employees of The Motherland who dared to publish this special supplement, giving news of the detention and arrests of Shri Jayaprakash, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shri LK Advani, and many other Opposition leaders. Our Manager Shri Bharat Bhushan sent copies of the supplement to railway stations so that the news could reach all over the country. Those days, newspapers were the only source of information for the public. Radio and television were State-controlled. The news of the imposition of Emergency was not carried exhaustively by many newspapers due to fear of Smt Gandhi. Even the consequent arrest of Opposition leaders was played down by the so-called national newspapers.
Shri KR Malkani shall always be remembered as a true journalist and one who cared for his fellow journalists. Although The Motherland was launched with huge fanfare, after being published for a few months, the management decided to shut it down because of the exhaustion of the limited resources with its publishing company Bharat Prakashan founded soon after Independence in 1947. Under pressure from the management, Shri Malkaniji had to announce its shutdown with a heavy heart. Since I was the President of The Motherland Employees Union so many of my journalist colleagues were worried about losing their jobs, they raised a hue and cry on how the Jana Sangh can possibly fall short of money when it was supported by eminent and royal leaders like Mrs Vijayaraje Scindia and others. I knew about Bharat Prakashan from its inception when it had bought the press publishing Mr MA Jinnah’s newspaper, Dawn. Other publications like the Organiser and a Hindi daily named Bharatvarsh were also published by Bharat Prakashan. Yes, of course, the company had notched up heavy losses in the total absence of big corporate advertising as the latter feared giving advertisements to The Motherland. In a bid to save the newspaper from impending closure, I along with some of my colleagues made a last-ditch effort and reached out to our chairman Lala Hansraj Gupta, with a request not to discontinue publication as it will throw hundreds of staff out of job. He listened sympathetically but also described the true picture that resources were limited and refused to budge. As president of the union and with vast experience of having worked in Indian Express and The Times of India, I gave him 20 proposals on how we could shed the top-heavy management and editorial department and run the organisation with minimum resources. This included shedding one full floor and getting rid of all managerial and editorial cabins and complete staff sitting together in one big hall. The union also agreed to accept salaries whenever available and defer increments and bonuses for the time being besides not filling up any vacancies. It was also proposed that we can do with only one news agency and that too with cheaper service and dispense with the feature agencies. It was indeed great that our Editor Shri Malkani agreed to all these proposals made by us. Very soon, the management started to pay on time and credit everyone’s account with increments and bonuses. With this harmony, The Motherland continued its publications until it was seized by the police on the evening of June 25, 1975. I may add that even during the Emergency, the management did pay some employees their dues. Besides, Indian Express owner Shri RN Goenka absorbed some Motherland employees as a gesture.
As the BJP vice-president and spokesperson, in June 1993, Shri Malkani had outlined the party’s solution to the Kashmir problem. He minced no words when he said Article 370 was “temporary and transitional” and “must go”. Thirty years ago, he predicted that it would go when there is a two-thirds majority for BJP in the Parliament
Later, I joined The Economic Times but continued my contact with Malkaniji after he was released. Shri Malkaniji was indeed an institution, from whom journalists and editors will continue to draw immense inspiration. Shri Malkani has written a number of books such as The Midnight Knock (1977), The RSS Story (1980), The Sindh Story (1984), Ayodhya and Hindu-Muslim Relations (1993).
His last book Political Mysteries, published in 2009 after his death, explored several major Indian political assassinations, including that of Mahatma Gandhi, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi.
On his death, former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had written that Shri Malkani will be remembered for his advocacy of Hindu-Muslim amity.
Advocated Abrogation of Article 370
Shri Malkani combined political activism with well-researched journalism and advocated what was right. As the BJP vice-president and spokesperson, in June 1993, Shri Malkani had outlined the party’s solution to the Kashmir problem. He minced no words when he said Article 370 was “temporary and transitional” and “must go”. Thirty years ago, he predicted that it would go when there is a two-thirds majority for BJP in the Parliament.
It was daring of Shri Malkani to take a stand on the Babri Masjid which was not palatable to many. When the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, Malkaniji called the incident “unfortunate”. He said, “We wanted the disputed structure to be removed and relocated peacefully while respecting the rulings of the court. But the kar sevaks demolished it. Of course, the incident was unfortunate,” he had said.
An ace writer, a deep thinker, an undaunted nationalist, and a great editor … that is how I would like to pay my tribute to Shri KR Malkaniji.