With Surendra Nihal Singh’s death, India loses a true liberal democrat editor

Surendra Nihal Singh
Surendra Nihal Singh | Rajya Sabha TV Youtube

The former editor of The Statesman and The Indian Express passed away at the age of 88. Journalists remember his heyday and pay tribute.

New Delhi: Surendra Nihal Singh, veteran journalist and former editor of The Statesman and The Indian Express, among others, passed away in the capital Monday, days before he would’ve turned 89.

Nihal Singh edited four newspapers — The Statesman, The Indian Express, Khaleej Times and Indian Post — and authored several books on Indian politics and international affairs.

“Nihal Singh was one of the more outstanding journalists of the country. He was a major commentator on national political questions and international affairs. He always tried to be an objective newsman and commentator,” said H.K. Dua, former editor-in-chief of The Indian Express.

A liberal democrat editor

Nihal Singh was known for being a liberal democrat in his editorial outlook.

“Surendra Nihal Singh was fond of western music and a liberal thinker. His ideas were reflected in his editorials and books,” Dua said.

“He was fearless in his commentary both on national questions and foreign affairs. Essentially, he was a liberal democrat. He was one of the last liberal democrat editors.”

Apart from being an editor, correspondent and writer, he was a person who took active part in public life. “He was essentially a newspaper man, but whenever there was a protest, he would join in. He believed in the value of dissent in society,” said former journalist Kuldeep Nayyar.

When Nihal Singh was posted in Kolkata as deputy editor of The Statesman, he didn’t shy away from writing against the communist government in West Bengal. “He wrote about communists very critically when in Kolkata, even though our paper was considered to be leaning towards the left,” said Nayyar.

A great writer

“Nihal Singh was a journalist who wrote very well, thought very well, and conveyed his ideas very well. Not too many journalists have that calibre. I envy him because I wasn’t as a good a writer,” added Nayyar.

Expert on Southeast Asia and China

Nihal Singh was an expert on Southeast Asia, and an authority on China. “His dispatches from Singapore were avidly read by us at The Statesman. In contrast, when he was posted to Europe, he was not able to equip himself enough to write on the region with as much depth,” said Nayyar.

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