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Issue No.: 576 | June 2015
 

Nurturing a Tradition

Jehangir Patel
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They were two disparate people. Minoo Masani was thoughtful, insightful, oft times stubborn statesman turned editor, and S. V. Raju restless, energetic and pragmatic. Raju took on the editorship of Freedom First (FF) when his mentor Masani tired. When Raju passed away on May 19, 2015, the monthly journal lost its helmsman of many years. Raju saw the transition of FF from a quarterly into a polished monthly with articles and columns on current affairs, history, book reviews in a well-designed format with pertinent covers printed on art paper. 

He did not sacrifice form for content or vice-versa. He ensured that all points of view were published, stressing on the liberal antecedents of the magazine. A one-time secretary of the Swatantra Party that opposed the socialist policies of the Nehru-Indira Gandhi regimes and espoused economic liberalization, Raju remained staunch in his espousal of liberal values especially as far as the economy was concerned. He welcomed the Narendra Modi government’s scrapping of the Planning Commission that he and many others viewed as a body that stifled commercial growth and shackled free enterprise. He was sympathetic to the pro-business Bharatiya Janata Party and, at one time, thought well of its president L. K. Advani. But the demolition of the Babri Masjid soon put an end to that admiration. Like Masani, Raju for the most part steered clear of endorsing any particular political party, keeping a distance from all. FF under his stewardship therefore remained an independent publication almost till his end. His esteem for the pro-economic policies of the Modi government steered him in favor of the Gujarat strongman though serious doubts remained amongst several of his FF editorial board colleagues towards the BJP and Modi’s outlook toward minorities, especially Muslims.

While Modi publicly has distanced himself from the anti-minority hotheads and hardliners in his party and affiliated bodies, there was still consternation that he had not done enough to reassure the minorities. Raju tended to dismiss some of these worries, panning an article in The New York Times expressing concern about the government’s willingness and capacity to ensure the wellbeing of minorities. The frequent attack on churches, the ghar wapasi (return to your original religion) program and the purported anti conversion bill raised concern not only in India but also abroad. The attacks on Greenpeace and the Ford Foundation added to the concern. Raju channeled his considerable energies in defending the Modi government rather than condemning its illiberal policies while at the same time attacking the Congress and its leader Sonia Gandhi.

Nurturing a Tradition

When the only major disagreement in the editorial board over a column attacking Modi played itself out, Raju, to his credit, finally allowed the piece to be carried as an article with minor editing. Perhaps he was a little peeved since he had been taking on all the editorial and financial responsibilities of publishing FF and his judgment was being questioned.

The half day FF editorial meetings held quarterly at the spacious hall of the Ripon Club, followed by a contributory dhansak lunch, were the high points of the year. There was much discussion, give and take, and bonhomie among the disparate members of the body. Actually Raju was continuing a precedent set by Masani and members of the Democratic Research Service which would meet over dinner several times a year. The dinners held at the residences of some of the members eventually stopped as differences arose among them and people were involved with their personal lives. The editorial board lunch was also put on hold.

Thus, both Masani and Raju, whatever their individual preferences or eccentricities, were totally devoted to the journal. What makes an individual take on such onerous responsibilities? A periodical has to publish on schedule. There is no scope for capriciousness.

The need to express oneself freely, to take up causes, to fight for one’s beliefs is what drives one to publish journals. All other considerations have to fall by the wayside. During the Emergency, Masani shut down FF rather than be subject to the whims of the censors, but not without first challenging the arbitrariness of the censor in the Bombay High Court. Soli Sorabjee, one of the country’s foremost jurists, had then appeared for FF pro bono. The judgment laid down guidelines for censorship but the Indira-Sanjay Gandhi government was not the type to be bound by any judicial niceties. When the Emergency ended two years later, the publication of FF resumed.

Raju’s energies were devoted to the editorial side of the magazine. As long as there were funds to continue publishing, he did not devote much effort to increase advertising or subscription income. But a publication runs on funds and, in an increasingly digital world, a printed journal is like a dinosaur, difficult to sustain when resources are scarce. But with foresight Raju had ensured the magazine’s archives were digitized and uploaded on the journal’s website www.freedomfirst.in. These remain there for anyone to access free of cost. Even if the publication ceases, FF’s contribution to the country’s development is there for all to witness.

Jehangir Patel

 
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Other Articles in this Issue

Editorial

In this issue ...

 

Tribute to S. V. Raju

Nurturing a Tradition

Jehangir Patel
 

Fond Reminiscences of our dear Editor ...

 

Raju and Freedom First

Ashok Karnik
 

Remembering Raju

Firoze Hirjikaka
 

Guntur Remembers Raju

 

Tribute to S. V. Raju

Condolences

 

The National Scene

NDA’s Management of the Economy – More of the Same

Ranga Kota
 

Agrarian Crisis – Rural Distress – and All That

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Rahul Resurgent

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The Year That Was ...

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The Rural Perspective

Agriculture and Rural Indebtedness - VIII

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Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides

Zaki-ur-RehmanLakhvi

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Being Salman Khan

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Farmers’ Suicides

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Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

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ISIS - A New Threat

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Dawood’s Return?

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Swastika: Whose Symbol Is It Any Way?

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The Swatantra Party in Gujarat - A Historical Perspective

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat: A Shooting Star (Part II)

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