Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar passes away at 95

Veteran journalist and author Kuldip Nayar passed away in the early hours of Thursday, August 23. He had been suffering from pneumonia, and had been hospitalised five days prior to his death. He is survived by his wife and two sons. Nayar was a syndicated columnist and penned numerous books, including India After Nehru, Emergency Retold, Without Fear: The Life and Trial of Bhagat Singh, as well as his autobiography, Beyond the Lines, which was published in 2012. 

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Nayar was born on August 14, 1923 in Sialkot, which is now a part of Pakistan. He obtained a degree in law, and also studied at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in the United States. Throughout his storied career, Nayar took on multiple roles, including as a journalist, editor, human rights activist, member of Parliament, and diplomat. Beginning his career as a reporter for Anjam, an Urdu newspaper, in 1948, Nayar would go on to serve as correspondent for The Times, London for more than two decades, as well as editor of The Statesman, editor and general manager of United News of India (UNI), and editor of The Indian Express. He also previously worked at the Press Information Bureau and served as the press advisor for Home Ministers Govind Ballabh Pant and Lal Bahadur Shastri in the early 1960s. In 1990, Nayar was appointed as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. In 1997, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. 

In 2003, writer and historian Ramchandra Guha wrote in The Hindu that, in the 1970s, “Nayar wrote a series of most informative accounts of Indian politics. one of these, Between the Lines, was perhaps the first non-fiction best-seller in India. (Apparently it was so popular that Delhi panwallahs would stock it; unable to change a hundred rupee note in full, they would offer their clients copies of Between the Lines instead.)”. Nayar was one of India’s first syndicated columnists

Nayar was a staunch advocate for press freedom, and was one of the first journalists to be imprisoned during the Emergency. The Indian Express said its former editor “was among the journalists who had staunchly opposed the Emergency imposed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi. During Emergency, he was jailed under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) for leading a protest against the excesses of the administration.” In 2015, Nayar wrote an opinion column for the Express titled, ‘When you crawl, unasked‘. In it, he discussed the Emergency, writing, “If I were to explain this failing to the Indians of today or tomorrow, I would say that we faltered as a nation. Indira Gandhi switched off the lights of democracy to make us grope in the darkness of police raj.” He notably wrote then that “seeing how conformist the press is today, I don’t think it would be necessary for the government to take any extra-constitutional measures. Newspapers and television channels have themselves become so pro-establishment that the government doesn’t have to do anything to make them fall in line. I am reminded of Indira Gandhi’s days.” 



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