New Delhi: K.R. Malkani, the RSS stalwart and the first editor of its mouthpiece, Organiser, was a fierce supporter of press freedom.
He had once said: “To threaten the liberty of the press for the sole offence of non-conformity to official view in each and every matter, may be a handy tool for tyrants but is only a crippling curtailment of civil liberties in a free democracy.”
Malkani was among the first people to be arrested by Indira Gandhi’s government during Emergency. Coincidentally, he shares his birthday with the former prime minister.
Malkani began his career as a lecturer, then made a transition towards journalism and then went on to become the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. He was also the youngest editor of Organiser, and also the longest-serving one, as well as the only person to be the chief editor of both Organiser and Panchjanya — the weekly Hindi magazine published by the RSS.
On his 99th birth anniversary, a look at the journey of this RSS ideologue and journalist-turned-politician.
Early life and career
Kewalram Ratanmal Malkani, aka K.R. Malkani, was born on 19 November 1921 in Hyderabad’s Sindh (now in Pakistan).
Malkani studied in D.G. National College in Hyderabad Sindh, Fergusson College in Pune, and obtained Masters degree in economics and politics from School of Economics and Sociology in Bombay (now Mumbai). During his college days in 1941, Malkani had joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
His first job was at his alma mater at the D.G. National College as a lecturer, where he worked for two years (1945-47) before joining Hindustan Times as a sub-editor in 1948.
This was the same year he had joined Organiser, which was still in its infancy. He also edited The Motherland — a sister publication of Organiser — from 1971-75.
Malkani was also the Niemen Fellow at Harvard University during 1961-62 and served as the General Secretary of the Editors Guild of India (1978-79). After he completed his tenure at Organiser in 1983, he was appointed as the vice-chairman of the Deendayal Research Institute, where he served till 1991.
He was appointed by the BJP as its vice-president that year, which he served till 1994. Malkani became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1994 and was there till 2000. The last political position he held was that of the lieutenant governor of Puducherry — from 2002 to 2003, when he died.
His arrest during Emergency
Senior journalist Coomi Kapoor writes in her book ‘The Emergency: A Personal History’ that on 30 January 1975, The Motherland had carried a report claiming that there was a plan to arrest Jayaprakash Narayan, ban the RSS and seal The Motherland. It was the part of a front-page article, predicting the proclamation of Emergency.
Kapoor writes in her book about how Malkani was arrested from his house a day after the Emergency was imposed in 1975.
“Malkani was woken up before 1 am on 26 June by a group of policemen who banged on the gate of his Rajendra Nagar bungalow and told him he was wanted at the police station. His house was surrounded on all sides, his small garden swarming with policemen”, Kapoor writes.
News of Malkani’s arrest was also carried as a small box item on the front page of The Hindustan Times, which was the only Emergency news that made it to the next day’s newspapers, according to Kapoor.
Former Union minister late Arun Jaitley was Malkani’s jail mate during Emergency, who wrote how Malkani told him that he was grilled by the intelligence agencies about the source of information on the basis of which The Motherland article had predicted Emergency.
Views on Kashmir, Babri
The Emergency is not the only prediction he had made.
As the BJP vice-president and spokesperson, in June 1993, Malkani had outlined his party’s solution to the Kashmir problem.
He wrote that Article 370 was “temporary and transitional” and “must go”.
“But it can go only when there is a two-third majority for it in Parliament. That is going to take some time. And the BJP would avail of this time to convince everybody, and particularly the Kashmiris.”
“Kashmiri must be introduced as the medium of instruction and administration… to strengthen and revive Kashmiriat and checkmate the appeal and influence of Pakistan,” he had suggested.
When the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, Malkani said the incident was “unfortunate”.
“We wanted the disputed structure to be removed and relocated peacefully while respecting the rulings of the court. But the kar sevaks demolished it. Of course, the incident was unfortunate,” he said.
Malkani had written a number of books such as The Midnight Knock (1977), The RSS Story (1980), The Sindh Story (1984), Ayodhya and Hindu-Muslim Relations (1993).
His last book Political Mysteries, published in 2009 after his death, explored several major Indian political assassinations, including that of Mahatma Gandhi, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
On his death, former prime minster Atal Bihari Vajpayee had written that Malkani, who combined his political activism with a lifelong commitment to research-based writing, will be remembered for his advocacy of Hindu-Muslim amity.