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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 17, April 22, 2023

Tribute: Harish Chandola— Endearing Writer Who Roamed the World in Search of Solutions to Complex Conflicts | Bharat Dogra

Saturday 22 April 2023, by Bharat Dogra


Harish Chandola breathed his last on March 26. His life of 94 years, including over six decades of active work as a journalist as an author, was full of highly energetic, interesting, and meaningful reporting and writing from several parts of the world.

He was born and brought up in a remote Himalayan village of Garhwal. At a young age he started working for some of the established newspapers based in Delhi. During one of the earlier assignments of covering a visit by Jawaharlal Nehru to Delhi, in the hope of getting early access to the Prime Minister in the morning, he wrapped up himself in a makeshift tent to spend the cold night in a corner of the circuit house where the dignitary was staying. Next morning he was woken by the Prime Minister, who had come to take an early morning walk, wishing him Good Morning! Needless to add, he got his interview along with a hot cup of tea.

Instead of settling himself in a comfortable job in Delhi which would have been easily possible given his early start with big newspapers and editors, Chandola preferred to take the more difficult path of travelling to various trouble spots. He crossed over to the Tibet side to do some rare reporting from there which if taken more seriously, would have given advance warning of the impending Chinese aggression towards India. In fact he was even imprisoned by the Chinese for a few weeks.

Later he reported extensively from the North-East region of India, particularly Nagaland, where he was also married. He became a part of the Naga peace process and made important contributions. He was recognized as one of the best-informed journalists in his reporting from this region as well as for his coverage of India-China conflict.

His growing fame brought him offers for jobs from newspapers in the UK where he worked for some time and then took up assignments for coverage of various conflict zones including Algeria, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iran, Iraq, Kenya and Indonesia.

In his elderly years he returned to his home region and had a beautiful house constructed in traditional architecture style, close to Joshimath. He was deeply concerned about the various problems of the villages of Uttarakhand and mingled freely with those sincere social activists who were struggling on some of these important issues. It was at one such gathering that my activist friends introduced me to him and I was immediately drawn to him. At the time of the second such meeting he invited me to travel together to Delhi so that on way we can discuss a host of issues of mutual interest. Sadly I could not avail of this generous invitation having more work to finish in Garhwal. How I later regretted this missed opportunity.

His writings became less frequent in this phase of his life but were eagerly awaited and read by many readers in journals like Mainstream. These were always interesting and provided valuable insights.

His books ‘At Large in the World: A Memoir’ and ‘ The Naga Story—First Armed Struggle in India’ have been widely admired.

Rest in Peace, Harish.

(Author: Bharat Dogra contributes articles on high social relevance)

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