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വായന

02 February, 2008

A phenomenon called R. K. Karanjia

R. K. Karanjia, who passed away on February 1, at the ripe age of 95, was not just another journalist: he was an unusual phenomenon.

In 1940, as the World War was raging, he quit the Times of India to launch Blitz weekly, which pioneered tabloid journalism in India. In its time, Blitz had more imitators than any other Indian publication. It had a pinup on the last page, and that was the most widely imitated feature. But Blitz’s success had little to do with the pinup. Kwaja Ahmed Abbas’s column, which shared the page with the pinup for many years, gave it a distinct leftist flavour.

Under Karanjia, Blitz became India’s grievance paper. People who had grievances, particularly those with genuine grievances, believed that if only Karanjia knew he would take up their cause. And he did.

He and Current Editor D. F. Karaka were bitter professional foes, who found themselves on opposite sides on almost all issues. When Indira Gandhi’s supporters bought Current, using Ayub Syed, as frontman, and Karaka was left with no forum to air his views, Karanjia gallantly invited him to write a column.

As a campaigner, Karanjia had no parallel. When Navy officer Nanavati was hauled up for the murder of his wife's paramour, Karanjia campaigned in his favour, and there was a massive outpour of sympathy for the wronged husband. As a result, Nanavati gained his freedom through a Presidential pardon immediately after his conviction and sentence.

I was myself a beneficiary of Russi Karanjia’s campaigning skill. In 1973, while heading the United News of India’s bureau in Bombay, I was involved in a feud with the agency’s General Manager over the management’s treatment of employees, particularly junior journalists. He decided to get rid of me, and terminated my services without even assigning a reason. UNI unions in Delhi and Bombay called a strike demanding my reinstatement. On the second day of the strike, Karanjia visited the UNI office in Bombay in a solidarity gesture. Sitting there, he dictated a telegram to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi urging her to personally intervene in the matter. He devoted his personal column in Blitz that week to denounce the UNI management’s arbitrary action. The support the striking employees received from the public forced the news agency to withdraw the sack order. There are several instances of journalists being sacked with or without adequate cause, but there is no other instance of a sacked journalist being reinstated as a result of employees’ action.

I met Karanjia for the last time in 1975, on the day Indira Gandhi declared the infamous Emergency. He was holidaying with his wife in Gulmarg when he got word of the Emergency. They immediately cut short the holiday and motored down to Srinagar. I was in charge of the UNI bureau there at the time. Coming straight to my office, Karanjia went through the reports from New Delhi. He remained there until it was time to catch the plane to New Delhi and on to Bombay.

Late in life, Karanjia became a devotee of Satya Sai Baba and wrote a book hailing him as God living in India.

1 comment:

gframesch said...

I RECIEVED A PERSONAL LETTER FROM THIS GREAT COURAGEOUS MAN-KARANJIA-AND TREASURE IT-THE DAY HE MET WITH SATHYA SAI BABA HE BACAME REAL KARANJIA-I ADMIRE HIM AND WILL ALWATS ADMIRE HIM-YOU CAN SEE HIS LETTER ON bandakhuda on CNN iReport com-gframesch