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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 42, October 8, 2011

Our First Editor

Saturday 8 October 2011, by Nikhil Chakravartty


It was in 1960-61 that I came to know Chitta Ranjan who was then working in The Hindustan Times. I had met him earlier in Madras where he was desperately trying to run a daily brought out by a working journalists’ cooperative. When that project folded up, Chitta Ranjan moved to Delhi.

When we first met, he was a staunch Congressman, an ardent follower of Kamaraj. I was in search of a forum where there could be dialogue between Congress opinion and the Left, to start with; and then if the experiment succeeded, its spread would cover the entire spectrum of our national life. So, we struck a very close friendship.

And out of that friendship was born the idea of a paper to act as the connector between diverse opinions but all committed to striving for national regeneration. Hence the name Mainstream. Between the two of us, we even worked out a working principle—the editorial opinion would reflect whatever we both commonly shared. But if the Left was to be criticised, he could do so over his own signature while if I felt like attacking the Congress, I would similarly do so under my name. Sharp criticism to be permitted but no abuse.

We had no resources but undaunted we passed on the bowl before friends and the like-minded. Chitta Ranjan was too shy to ask anybody for funds. But I did so nonchalantly—very often exploiting his name as the co-sponsor of the project, and I found to my surprise that those who knew him personally unhesitatingly helped as much as they could.

CHITTA RANJAN was our first editor—and such a conscientious at that. From selecting an article to seeing it through production, he never faltered in his responsibility. Rather I had the problem sometimes of how to hold him back from doing beyond his capacity.

I have hardly seen a more self-effacing personality. But I knew also how strong were his enlightened views, and how fiercely uncompro-mising he always had been on questions of principles. At the same time he had an abundant fund of humour and he would laugh like a teenager whenever he had heard a good joke.

The first few months of Mainstream were exciting times. But working together did not last for long. When Edatata Narayanan decided to bring out an English daily—later called Patriot—he insisted on getting Chitta Ranjan. We had to let him go—naturally most reluctantly. But he never forgot Mainstream. Over and over again, he came back to help and guide it even when he was engaged elsewhere.
We grew up like brothers. For thirty years, Chitta Ranjan and I remained so. Rarely one comes across a person of such total integrity. And he was so completely unpretentious. Often I used to tease him: how can you be sure the meek shall inherit the earth? And prompt would come his response: who else can?

There was always in him a deep sense of dedication to the cause of the downtrodden. He once told me, when he went to prison in the freedom struggle, he dreamt of independence as the harbinger of a better tomorrow for the dispossessed. Spartan in his personal life, there was nothing about him which could even remotely be regarded as a compromise with his beliefs and principles—a claim which few can actually make at the end of life’s journey.

Mainstream shall always cherish the memory of its first editor. He was and shall be its Conscience—for ever and ever.


C.N. Chitta Ranjan, who breathed his last in the night of August 2, 1990 in Delhi, was born in Ooty on September 29, 1921. He joined the student movement connected with the battle for freedom at the age of seven and was imprisoned for participating in the ‘Quit India’ struggle. He began his career with the Indian Express in Madras in the forties. Later he moved to Delhi and joined The Hindustan Times in 1960. When Mainstream was launched in September 1962 he became its founder editor. In 1963 he joined Patriot as its assistant editor and also became the editor of Link before leaving Link House in 1970. Thereafter he was the resident editor of the National Herald in Lucknow and in 1976 he became the editor of that daily. At the time of his death he was the joint editor of India Press Agency (IPA).
He came in close touch with Kamaraj and R. Venkataraman in the days of the freedom struggle. He helped R. Venkataraman, a member of the First Wage Board for Journalists, with considerable intellectual input in placing before the Board the journalists’ legitimate demands.

He was associated with the employees unions of the Indian Express, The Hindustan Times, Patriot, as well as the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ), the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Madras Union of Journalists.

CNC, as he was known to all, is survived by his wife and three daughters.

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted