Today, 3 November 2013, is the birth centenary of Nikhil Chakravartty, the “barefoot reporter” who founded the journal Mainstream.
NC or Nikhilda, as most who knew him called him, plunged into active journalism as a special correspondent with the Communist Party organ People’s War (1944-46) and People’s Age (1946-48), and later Crossroads (1952-55) and New Age (1955-57).
He then set up a feature news service, India Press Agency (IPA) in collaboration with another Communist journalist David Cohen.
In 1959, IPA shot into prominence with a report of the then prime minister’s personal assistant M.O. Mathai, that rocked Parliament, forcing Mathai to resign.
Tellingly, he declined the Padma Bhushan conferred on him by the National Front government In 1990, with a dignified letter to the then President, “pointing out that a journalist carrying out his professional obligation should not appear to be close to any government and/or any political establishment.”
A commemorative issue of Mainstream, released at a seminar organised by the Editors Guild of India in New Delhi yesterday, records:
“He always called himself a ‘reporter’. He did have the finest attributes of a reporter, and despite airing his own views in commentaries and editorials never discarded fairness in reporting or tampered with facts.
“His fidelity to facts was extraordinary. And he knew what to report and what not to report—always preserving the confidence reposed in him by his interlocutors.”
Nikhil Chakravartty passed away on 27 June 1998, by which time he had stepped down as editor of Mainstream to become its editorial advisor.
Mainstream is now edited by his son Sumit Chakravartty.
Also read: Why Rajdeep, Barkha must decline Padma Sri
External reading: Usha Rai on Nikhil Chakravartty