Why India Today had to shut Gujarati edition

Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta in his jottings on the Gujarat elections:

Narendra Modi and Gujarat defy simpler generalisations. Such as the idea that communalism in Gujarat rose with the arrival of Modi, and before that it was a state of perfect secular tolerance.

“If the BJP hasn’t lost power ever since it first seized it in 1995 in the state, through four chief ministers (Shankersinh Vaghela, Suresh Mehta, Keshubhai Patel and now Modi seeking his third term) there may be something peculiar about Gujarat.

“I learnt my lesson two decades ago when, while working for India Today, I travelled to the state often to launch the Gujarati edition of the magazine in the Navratri month of 1992. The magazine immediately picked up circulation and was soon touching the one-lakh mark.

“Within a couple of months, the Babri Masjid was demolished. India Today responded editorially with entirely justified anger, which still makes us so proud. The English edition’s headline was, “A Nation’s Shame”.

“In Gujarati, it was “Deshna Maathanu Kalank”.

“As the cover was going to print, the marketing head came and said if we went with that headline in Gujarat, the edition would soon shut down. He was overruled. He was also vindicated, and almost immediately.

“There was an avalanche of letters, postcards, inland covers, everything (these were still pre-internet days).

“We were described as Islam Today, Pakistan Today and worse. Agents and vendors refused to pick up the magazine. Circulation declined and settled in the unviable twenties. Eventually, the edition was shut down. It was the only language edition of India Today to shut down.

“And the Hindi edition, with the equivalent of exactly the same headline, increased circulation. Now, how do you explain that?”

Read the full article: Conspiracy of the lazy faithful


  1. puja

    i don’t think before narendra modi the gujrat state was secular now it became communalise. sorry mr writer earlier it was only gujrat where communal riots was taking place regularly.
    now there is no riot in last so many years.


    1. Sam

      Riots did happen in Gujarat before Narendra Modi.

      However, the riots that did happen under the Modi was quite different because it was BACKED by the BJP led central and state government. It is very much appropriate to call it a state sponsored genocide that happened under the active guidance of Narendra Modi, whose own minister and MLA’s have since been found guilty by the courts.

      While Narendra Modi’s apologist might like to give him credit for the states “peace” since he became the CM, the real reason why communal violence has declined all over india – especially in BJP ruled states – is because the congress led UPA came back to power.

      There is also the fact that no state has faced so much increased scrutiny, and also be on the receiving end of negative observations on the states communal harmony, by judges, as Gujarat under Narendra Modi.

      Moreover, his 20 crore / year PR team that he hired to “manage” his image (incidentally the same team that also does PR for other genocidal dictators around the world) have also asked him to tone down his communal overtones – at least in action – if he wants to nurture his PM ambitions.

      However, whenever he feels politically insecure, his “secular” mask often slips, and his unapologetic communal personality often comes to fore. The recent Gujarat elections is an example – when the Indian media started pointing holes in claims of Gujarat’s development, and predicting he might get lesser seats this time, he was back to his old tricks insinuating a congress win would bring Muslims to power and they would want “revenge” on Hindus.

  2. Pratik Bhagat

    Shekharbhai you are miss guiding your readers. Gujarat is not communal any more now. If it is then every year there should be communal riots. But there is nothing like that in our state. So please don’t spread wrong image of our state.

    Pratik Bhagat

  3. The history of communal riots in Gujarat dates back to 1725. The animosity between a hardworking, prosperous entrepreneurial class and the law-defying criminal minded “other” was responsible for simmering social tensions. These tensions often erupted into riots which the political classes exploited for sectarian gains.

    The 1969 riots were a case in point. After breaking the Congress party, Indira Gandhi called her faction the Congress-I. She wanted to crush the original formation, the INC led by Hitendra Desai, who was then the Gujarat CM. Their political tussle between the two resulted in one of the worst ever communal riots in the state’s history. The riots lasted for six months and killed about 5000 people in Ahmedabad alone and between 12000 – 15000 in the whole state.

    In hindsight, the 2002 riots were less significant compared to their more lethal genocidal precedents. Secondly, the 2002 riots had far greater, wanton provocation. Therefore the people of Gujarat were more likely to be sensitive about the characterization of the riots, especially when the provocation was the brutal burning of 59 innocent people, more than half of whom were women and children. The society in the immediate vicinity of the victims – who were brutally murdered – is less likely to be as detached as the so called “activists and intelligentsia” in the rest of the country.

    The nascent electronic media had created this myth that the 2002 riots were worst in terms of human death toll in the history of India; that they were engineered by the Sangh Parivar; they occurred because the BJP was in power and finally because Mr. Narendra Modi encouraged them by omission if not commission. As a nascent entity, the medium and especially one English news channel appeared to have had a vested interest in perpetuating the myth. It might be righteous indignation, an over-zealousness or a genuine intention to bring the culprits to book that propelled at least two electronic media journalists to hype the issue beyond all reasonable proportions. But their obliviousness or insensitivity to the causative factor, the barbaric killing of 59 innocent people, has led large sections of the majority community to the conclusion that the two electronic media journalists made a career out of the dead bodies of the 2002 riots (excluding the original 59 innocent victims). There were others who made the most unfortunate tragedy, a cottage industry to be milked for personal or pecuniary gains.

    1. So very clear who these “two” electronic media giants are…and their rightful or wrongful indignation at anything that happens around them…So much so, seeing them day in and day out filling the screen…one is really fed up of the TV news shows altogether … One wonders why the two major English news channels in this country should give them such a long rope….The channels exist by themselves, by virtue of their resources and reach, and not due to the “grand” show by X or Y. To get the people to see the same faces round the clock is, to say the least, demeaning.

  4. Aditya

    The comments herein just proves how a little bit of money in the name of one sided development, malls, etc. disillusions people

    1. “Development” is not possible without wealth creation. “Development” means building infrastructure (roads for communication/transport, electricity, water resources etc.) to aid economic activity. The fruits of development benefit all sections of the society irrespective of their caste or creed.

      It is easy to be mislead by the ‘Cadillac communists’ or ‘Limousine liberals’ carping about development being one sided. Malls too generate employement. As the economy grows it increases spending power, which increases manufacturing, which increases direct and indirect employment etc. etc.

      The CCs and LLs conveniently ignore what happened in societies which ignored the impact of economic activity both in India (the communist ruled states like Bengal) and the original Marxist paradise, the USSR.

      The collapse of the COMINTERN led by the USSR (in spite of the nations’ welfare economies) was a direct result of economic collapse. For in the end, if a state does not generate wealth, it cannot spend it. Simple, common sense!

  5. […] blasts, set up through my colleague [rediff.com editorial director] Sheela Bhatt, who edited the Gujarati edition of India Today and was a veteran on the underworld beat in […]

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