Sociologist Ashis Nandy presented Marathi journalist Nikhil Wagle with the 2018 Kuldip Nayar Journalism Award at a function held at the Constitution Club, New Delhi, on 20 April 2019. The Gandhi Peace Foundation has instituted the award. Kumar Prashant, chairman of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, handed Wagle a cheque for Rs 1 lakh, which is part of the award.
‘The unlimited potential of Indian journalism’
The citation for the award said that Nikhil Wagle has been honoured for his “straight, restrained and committed journalism”. Reading out the citation, Pramod Ranjan, a member of the jury and managing editor of Forward Press, said: “Power always targets the truth and the more unprincipled and directionless power becomes, the more steadfastly the truth has to hold on. Only an eternally vigilant journalist can do that. Unless society nurtures such brave wielders of the pen, democracy can’t survive. Such journalists are indispensable for democratic polity. This journalism award is the recognition of the fulfilment of this social responsibility.”
On behalf of the jury, he said: “Beginning with the Mahanagar newspaper, Shri Nikhil Wagle has influenced Marathi-language journalism at many levels. When he entered the din of TV channels, with his keen and sharp presentation of the truth, Wagle dumped the cowardly shrewdness of sensationalizing concerns and turning truth into advocacy. He underlined the power of fact and wisdom. He restored human dignity to Marathi journalism. Through his TV programmes, he lent credibility and depth to TV journalism, in the absence of which it becomes just a tool in the hands of the powerful and the moneyed. By conferring the Kuldip Nayar Journalism Award 2018 on Shri Mikhil Wagle we are underlining the unlimited potential of Indian journalism.”
Wagle was inspired by JP, Gandhi, Ambedkar
Speaking at the function, Nikhil Wagle dedicated his award to the brave journalists working for vernacular publications. He said he would donate the award money to two organizations, one of which is People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), which is being run by P. Sainath and is dedicated to rural issues. He said he was physically attacked on numerous occasions during his journalistic career and every attack made him even more determined to stand by the truth. He said he was first assaulted in 1979, when he was just 20. He was attacked with a blade by supporters of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who were angered by the publication of an interview of the Sena chief taken by him. He noted all the attacks on him took place when the Congress was ruling Maharashtra.
He said that he became a journalist when the country was reeling under the Emergency. He became associated with the JP movement, which influenced him greatly. Later, he read Gandhi. Gandhi’s thoughts had a lasting impact on him and lent him the courage to stand by the truth. Ambedkar was also a major influence on his life and inspired him to use his pen for portraying the life and struggles of the last man in the last row of society – the deprived and exploited humanity.
Wagle said that in Delhi, the status of “national media” is reserved only for the Hindi and English media. He said it was painful to see that journalists writing in various regional Indian languages were not getting the recognition due to them despite the fact that they were engaged in journalism of courage. He said that the definition of national media should be broadened.
Om Thanvi: Wagle is a fearless journalist
Om Thanvi, senior journalist and vice-chancellor of Haridev Journalism and Mass Communication University, Jaipur, threw light on the journalistic career of Nikhil Wagle. He said, “Wagle was and is synonymous with fearless journalism. He was appointed editor of Marathi daily Dinank when he was just 19. Later, he launched several magazines. In 1990, he started publication of Marathi daily Mahanagar. The newspaper’s office in Mumbai was located just across the road from the office of Saamana, the organ of the Shiv Sena. In 1991, Shiv Sena supporters attacked the Mahanagar office following publication of a story against Thackeray. Later, stung by a story against Narayan Rane, Shiv Sena workers assaulted Wagle.”
Thanvi said that he was a member of the Editor’s Guild at the time when Shiva Sena goons attacked Wagle. He had spoken to Wagle, possibly when the assault was still taking place. “But even then, Wagle was calm and composed and did not sound scared at all,” he recalled. “He faced his assailants courageously.”
Om Thanvi also recalled: “When the Maharashtra Assembly passed a resolution condoling the death of an MLA who had a criminal background, Wagle questioned it and was sentenced to seven-day imprisonment for contempt of the House. But he did not budge from his stand.”
Kuldip Nayar remembered
At the outset, veteran journalist Neerja Chowdhury spoke about the contribution of Kuldip Nayar to the field of journalism. She said that the journalism of Nayyar was people-oriented and he remained a journalist till his last breath. “Scoops were his forte,” she said. “He had great relations with people in the government but that did not dissociate him from the problems of the common man. He laid great stress on credibility of journalists and journalism. He believed that a journalist is not only responsible to his editor and his organization but also to the people at large.”
Neerja Chowdhury said Kuldip Nayar scaled great heights. “His stories related to the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri and lifting of the Emergency were widely acclaimed. He broke many stories of momentous importance but always ensured that he stuck to the basic tenets of journalism. Besides a committed journalist, he was also a conscientious citizen.” In this context, Neerja referred to Nayyar’s efforts for establishing peace between India and Pakistan.
Kumar Prashant: India is afraid and divided
Kumar Prashant, chairman of Gandhi Peace Foundation, in his address, said that things were going from bad to worse in India. “An atmosphere of fear pervades the nation,” he said. “The country is scared and divided. Violence is in the air. All this is very terrifying. We need to take the initiative to free the country and society from fear. Journalists can play a key role in this.”
Talking about the Kuldip Nayar Journalism Award, Kumar Prashant said that the first award was conferred on Raveesh Kumar in 2017. “After a gap of two years, it is being given to Nikhil Wagle,” he said. “In between, Nayyar passed away.” He said that Nayyar had instituted the award to promote and encourage journalists doing exemplary work in the field of Indian-language journalism, and that the jury has selected Wagle for the 2018 award.
Ashis Nandy assails Narendra Modi
Ashis Nandy, sociologist and chairman of the Kuldip Nayar Journalism Award committee, congratulated Wagle. He launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that Modi was an impersonator pushing the country into the cauldron of frenzy.
Nandy said: “People often say the Indian press is fearful. But the fact is that it is Modi who is fearful of the Press and does not have the courage to face it.” He said it was for the first time in the history of the country that a prime minister did not hold a single press conference in his entire term.
Nandy said that other parts of the world were also witnessing the emergence of anarchic rulers like Modi. He said Donald Trump was creating a similar atmosphere in the US and Modi was trying to emulate him.
Nominations invited for Kuldip Nayar Journalism Award 2019
Vijay Pratap, who moderated the awards ceremony, said that the award committee has unanimously decided to constitute a separate jury for the award. At present, the award committee, which is also the jury, comprises Ashis Nandy, Neerja Chowdhury, Sanjay Parikh, Om Thanvi, Rizwan Qaisar, Vijay Pratap, Kumar Prashant, Jaishankar Gupta, Pramod Ranjan and Anil Sinha.
Vijay Pratap invited nominations for the Kuldip Nayar Journalism Award 2019. He said that, as Nayyar wished, the award is open to any Indian-language journalist doing remarkable work. He said that the nominations could be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by post to Gandhi Shanti Prathisthan, 221-223, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg, New Delhi-110 002.
(Translation: Amrish Herdenia; Copy-editing: Anil)
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