#Pulse: Ajay Shukla

We had ideals when we chose to be journalists. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was the icon of any discussions on journalism. Advocacy had been our family profession. I too studied law and entered practice for some time but I cherished to be a journalist. My editor Vinod Shukla while providing me the opportunity to be a journalist listed the anecdotes of Ganesh Shanker Vidyarthi and he became my ideal and in his absence we can at least grace ourselves with his ideals. Whenever during my tenure as a correspondent and a sub editor in Kanpur we used to address “A Community” while covering any communal issue. Our endeavor was to retain the same as news only and to avoid the same to be converted into a cheap communal saleable commodity. An incident of Agra, when I was the Editor of Hindustan, is worth a mention when rest of the print media was reporting a murder to be a communal incident, I apprised my Chief Editor Shashi Shekhar ji of the facts and sought directions he gave me the gist of journalism that is to present what is, as is and where is. We trailed for some time but thereafter we surged ahead on credibility to be numero uno. This is what was taught by Vidyarthi ji. When I joined the TV Channels in the year 2009 such was the state of affairs but whether it is even an iota of journalism today? This is the larger question. Sometimes I find myself misfit in the present scenario. Vidyarthi ji would have found journalism blemished on seeing the state of affairs of the print media and channels operated by big conglomerates, in the manner in which words like Hindu minded, Muslim oriented, Khalistani, Pakistani and Christian missionary.

Ganesh Shanker Vidyarthi was staunchly against the blending of religion and politics. He had written that it was black day for independence of the country when Khilafat, Preachers, Maualvis and saints were ensconced in the Campaign for Independence. He despite being a follower of Gandhi opposed him for supporting Khilafat Movement. He led the Congress with politics of substance when Nehru in 1930 nominated him as the Chief of its UP unit. He never compromised with journalism despite been associated with politics and remained steadfast in his idealist journalism. He sacrificed his life countering communalism and harbinging peace. When Kanpur got engulfed in communal riots the very next date to 23rd March 1931 after the martyrdom of Saheed’s Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Raj Guru, Vidayrthi ji was engrossed in maintaining peace and shifting the victims to safer locations he was successful in the Muslim dominated areas but he was murdered in Hindu dominated Chaubey Gola on 25th March. His mutilated corpse was found in a hospital after two days of arson and the British secretly cremated his body as was done in the case of the Hathras victim. He never poisoned but promoted reformist revolution from the fountain of his pen. From his birth in Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad) on 26th October 1890 till his death on 25th March 1931 in Kanpur in his entire 41 years he promoted harmony and nationalism whether it was his journalism or politics or the independence struggle. He was jailed five times but he neither sought bail nor forgiveness.

Today when both journalism and politics have been deep dyed in the color of communalism, it’s but natural to remember Vidyarthi ji. Nehru never allowed his sacrifice to fade in his political life. Congress holding to the ideals of communal harmony and larger public welfare won the country its independence and further developed it but nowadays the shades of religionism is reflected in it too but thankfully it’s not communal. Religion is always a private affair and it should not be demonstrated on social or political platform. If Congress like other communal and regional parties attempt to display such a character then what would be the difference between it and others. Congress Legacy protects the ideals and values more than political power. It’s time to raise an army of workers who follow the ideals and values of Congress who would struggle to establish harmony and peace instead of following greedy and inept leaders. Congress has to save India and its values even if it has to devour the poison being administered to this ever changing society. This is the message given by Nehru through his book “Discovery of India”. Today the majority in the country is of the same class which strives for harmony, peace and development of the country and this the reason that more than 58% voters do not vote for the communal parties. When during the period 1937-46 Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha were engrossed in dividing the Nation, around 68% of public in UP stood with Congress. Post-independence on the issue of Nation building more than 90% of the population in UP and 78% in the country was with Congress and the face of journalism was creative and not vindictive.

Our leaders and journalists should remain steadfast with issues concerning public good and should not carve a niche by following the Pied Pipers. Today the country is a victim of inflation, corruption, unemployment, criminalization and looting of the public assets and public is reeling under the burden of numerous taxes and people are dying for want of medical treatment as public health infrastructure has collapsed. When incomes are dwindling while the burden of debts is increasing no public good can be achieved by leaders visiting Mandirs, Masjids, Gurduwaras or Churches. Common man requires a flawless order. Locking away of fundamentalism and progressing on larger public good is the legacy Congress holds. Ban on communal and hate publications and programmers of Indian media is the need of the hour and State subsidy for religious pilgrimages should be stopped and politics based on religion and caste should be made a cognizable offence and such expectations are only expected from Congress and not from any other party. Sonia Gandhi has delivered a stern message to Congressmen which is required to be complied with. Priyanka has made a good headway and Rahul by openly opposing the targeted killings of Muslims in Tripura and Pundits in Kashmir valley has rejuvenated Congress policies and Congress can lead ahead only by following its policies, values and ideals. In case Congress imitates BJP or any other caste-religio parties of the country then it shall be the end of Congress and doom of the country.

These are tough times. We need to free our country from the clutches of the castiest and religious fundamentalist parties, who are sipping it dry and this can be done only by following the path shown to us by Nehru, Mullana Abdul kalam Azad, Annie Beasant, Ganesh Shankar Vidayrthi, Madan Mohan Malviya and the policies of Bal-Lal-Pal. We need to understand that Nation and its legacy always comes first to caste or religion. The political teachings of Congress had been overall development in public welfare and it should be retained and not to appear religious to please some leaders or the intolerant section of public. It’s the duty of journalists to create a secular and a tolerant country and not a divisive and communal one because power is not everything but humanity is. Our erstwhile Prime Minister sacrificed her life fighting communalism and some fundamentalist religious organizations plunged the country in the fire of anarchy and arson and fastened the blame on Congress for it.

(The author is a renowned journalist of India.)