Political class in India is anti-national class: T.J.S. George6 min read
His work remained hard hitting and aggressive while he incurred the displeasure of many as he moved from the newsroom of The Free press Journal in 1950 to becoming the founding editor of Asiaweek (Hong Kong). Thayil Jacob Sony George better known as T.J.S. George continued with the same will while writing for The New Indian Express, where he is the Editorial Advisor now.
He was one of the first Editors in India to be charged for sedition. The 84-year-old who was conferred with the Padma Bhushan award in 2011 was in Manipal last month and TMJ spoke to him about various issues.
Here are the excerpts from the interview with the veteran journalist:
In one of your recent articles, you portray the present political scenario as a “game of calculations”. How is this game affecting our nation?
My article concentrates on the context of one party leaving the collision and other party trying to make calculations on how to survive by planning to get a majority of votes in the parliament. This is how the game of politics is played. And it is affecting India in all means because now the politicians are just left with the feeling of winning the elections rather than focusing on the problems. It is a very big subject and there are a lot of political aspects to it. We can only generalise these issues. The political class in India, irrespective of their party, is very self- centred in fact, I would use a big term like anti-national class here. Politicians are just exploiting our nation at the best they can and the only solution to this is, young generation stepping forward and raising a voice against it.
During K.B. Sahay’s (ex- chief minister) government in Bihar, you were charged with sedition for your provocative writings against him. What instigated you to write against him?
I didn’t write anything provocative against him. I just highlighted the truth about him. He was a typical politician of a very bad character and I just put forward his reality in front of the world. I did what my profession allowed me and taught me to do. He was a corrupt man and because of his attitude, the whole student council of Patna went against him. They held a strike against him and that time I was the editor of a local newspaper in Patna. I heard about this fire which was spreading in Patna so, I decided to report it and edit it the way it had to be. But according to the tradition there, every report has to go through the District Magistrates and if he approves only then it can be published otherwise not. But I revoked against this tradition. During K.B Sahay’s case, he tried convincing me to support him in every possible aspect by not publishing articles against him, but I didn’t listen to him and didn’t even follow the rule because I was loyal to my profession. I wrote the reality of Bihar, he didn’t like it so he put me in jail, fair enough.
Talking about sedition, what do you have to say about its use by the government?
Indian government is using sedition as a tool. It is about 100 years old. It is adapted from the colonial world. The British had left the country but the politician’s of India are just not ready to accept this fact. This thing needs to be changed in our nation. They can’t rule over people forcefully while keeping a gun of sedition.
You founded Asiaweek Magazine in 1975 and after 10 years, its maximum shares were taken by Time Inc. And then it was dissolved in 2001. What were the reason for its dissolvent?
The Asiaweek magazine as you know was started in 1975 by me and co- founder Michel O’Neil in Hong Kong. It was the first Asian magazine which was exclusively dedicated to Asia. After working for five-six years, I left Hong Kong permanently and got settled in India. Unfortunately, after I left a lot of things changed In Hong Kong. Time took over the magazine in 1985 and after that the magazine got dissolved in 2001. Time stated that it was some marketing slump. Our magazine became really popular because it came out with a new concept and looking at this all the big magazines started approaching towards Asiaweek. But this was the biggest mistake on our part that we let the bigger magazine to be part of our own magazine. As we were growing in the market we were getting popular and so the competition was also cut throat. We needed capital for our magazine and these company’s were ready to help; so we gave them the shares. But that was our biggest mistake and we paid for it.
Out of all the Biographies you have written, the one on Krishna Menon is one of the most talked about. Why did you choose him as an icon?
Biographies are a major branch of literature and I have my own idea of what should be the subject of biography. I have always looked for personalities who have made some historically important contribution towards the Indian society. The obvious people for any author to pen down were Gandhi and Nehru, but I chose to think differently and Krishna Menon summed perfectly on my criterion. According to me, he was doing something different from what others were proceeding towards and I was sure enough that this would influence the history in a long run. I never knew him personally but as a journalist I use to follow him a lot.
I never interviewed him for the biography; my attitude of working is different as I am interested in those facts about a person which the public is not aware of and generally when you go and interview someone they will enlighten you with those things which they prefer, not what you want to know. Though collecting information this way was pretty hard, but that is my approach of writing.
In your talk, you opined that journalist today have become very shallow in nature, they have lost the means of being a journalist. Could you elaborate more?
See there are so many newspapers, channels, magazine running in India and more are coming in, every day. There are schools of journalism in the country with journalism as a subject. But I feel that it is a bit of a sham because most of the schools have retired journalist as they have faculty who don’t know the present modern journalism. They are not qualified enough to teach present day journalism. And majority of them don’t have the qualification to become a good teacher. Not only that, students who opt for journalism as a career do not have any interest in it. They hardly read books, they are hardly aware about what is happening and what is not, which is a biggest failure from a journalist point of view. They don’t have basic knowledge about economics and history and they don’t deserve to become a journalist.
Sub-edited by Priyanka Sharma