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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 47, November 9, 2013

Kolkata Observers N.C.’s Birth Centenary

Tuesday 12 November 2013


The birth centenary of Nikhil Chakravartty, the founder editor of Mainstream and the first Chairman of Prasar Bharati, was observed in Kolkata on November 3. Among those who spoke was the nonagenarian Jolly Mohan Kaul, a former secretary of the undivided CPI’s Calcutta District Committee who had worked closely with N.C. during a critical period of the party in the 1948-51 period. He recalled those days when N.C. was given the important task of maintaining contact between the party leaders who, after the party was banned, had gone underground. N.C. had also been given the sensitive task of maintaining contact with leaders abroad.

Jolly Kaul recalled those days when, after the Chinese aggression of 1962, he did not renew his party membership and so lost the party wage he was getting as a wholetimer. He then went to Delhi to meet N.C. who immediately asked him to join the India Press Agency (IPA) and thus helped him tide over the crisis he was facing. Kaul narrated how Dr Radhakrishnan, while he was in the Calcutta University, had induced N.C. to join the CU as a history teacher—a post he had held till P. C. Joshi called him away to report on the Bengal famine of 1943. That launched N.C. into journalism which was to be his profession for the rest of his life. Kaul said N.C.’s relations with Dr Radhakrishnan were so close that he could walk into the Rashtrapati Bhavan any time without appoint-ment and be ushered into the presence of the Rashtrapapti.

Prof Sandip Das, a former West Bengal MLA and socialist leader, narrated the role that N.C. played during the Banglaldesh liberation war. He recalled an incident when two Bangladesh leaders were to go abroad but faced the problem of getting passports. N.C. had not only managed to get them their passports in 48 hours but on a Sunday when all the shops were closed, N.C. had called a photographeer to his home and persuaded him to open his shop in Connaught Circus and take photographs of the two leaders to facilitate their applications for passports.

Barun Das Gupta, who had worked closely with N.C. in Mainstream and IPA, dwelt at length on the political situation obtaining in the country when N.C. decided to launch Mainstream which was to be an open forum for discussion and free exchange of ideas between progressive individuals cutting across party line. He recalled several instances to show how N.C. had maintained his professional independence and integrity zealously, uncompromisingly and fearlessly.

Prof Dilip Sinha, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Visvabharati University, and Prof Sunanda Sanyal also spoke. The well-attended function was organised by Janaswartha, a Bengali weekly which will hit the stands in January next year. At the outset, the weekly’s editor Himansu Halder said though he did not have the privilege of knowing N.C. personally, he was fully aware of the role that N.C. had played in defending Press freedom. He said N.C. had bequeathed to us a legacy that generations of future journalists would have to live up to and carry forward.

A message sent by Sumit Chakravartty on N.C. was read out at the meeting.

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