Vol 1, Issue 4, July-August 2011 Editor-in-Chief Mohammed Saqib Editor Prashun Bhaumik Editorial Board Abid Hussain Mani Shankar Aiyar P.S. Deodhar Dilip Cherian Amir Ullah Khan Parama Sinha Palit Chen Si (China) Editorial Team Anchit Goel Irfan Alam Manju Hara Harshie Wahie Sumelika Bhattacharyya Design Manoj Raikwar Printed and Published by India China Economic and Cultural Council K-19 (GF), South Extension-II New Delhi- 110049 address for all correspondence India China Economic and Cultural Council K-19 (GF), South Extension-II New Delhi- 110049 Telefax: 011-46550348 Printed AT Anne Print Solutions B-32, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-I, New Delhi-110020 Tel. 011-40525878, 011-65690940 Email: email@example.com All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.
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Importance of Truth It was the winter of 1986. The hills of Darjeeling were on fire. A littleknown former school teacher’s rant had turned into a revolution. Subash Ghising had been for long talking about a homeland for those he called the Gorkhas – different from Nepalis – the original inhabitants of the land, and hence his demand for a Gorkhaland. For years nobody paid him much attention but suddenly he seemed to have caught the collective imagination. And soon the beautiful hills of Darjeeling wore a different look. Deserted! No tourists flocking the Mall which at times made it look like an extension of Calcutta. I was quite happy to have Darjeeling all to myself – having paradropped there as a cub reporter with little experience much to the envy of my senior colleagues at The Telegraph. The lack of tourists was amply made up by thousands of para-military men who joined forces with the local police to nip the agitation. The Rabindra Bhavan opposite the Raj Bhavan no longer had space for cultural evenings; it had turned into a garrisson – the top cop from Calcutta leading the charge having decided to make it his HQ and the control room for the operations in the hills. The violence escalated over the next two years and would claim more than a thousand lives. As I took my tentative bus ride up the hills on that cold January evening, I was not sure of what was in store for me. A scruffy old Nepali sitting next to me struck up a conversation just as we were turning into Ghoom, the highest point before the road dips and curls into the main bazaar of Darjeeling and onto the bus stand. Before he got off at the Darjeeling Taxi Union office, he casually asked me if I would like to meet Ghising. Trying not to jump off my seat I managed a yes. His cryptic reply, “meet me here in two hours.” That evening I met the GNLF leader at transporter Lakpa Dong’s home. The next day The Telegraph ran with the front page super lead of Ghising’s interview calling for an armed struggle. Over the next months I was busy trudging the hills up and down on foot to cover every incident that I heard of, while my senior counterparts from other newspapers and wire agencies faithfully reported what the police control room doled out (on phone). Least to say the administration was not happy with me. One morning when I walked into Rabindra Bhavan as part of my usual rounds, District Magistrate Patra welcomed me as he sat sipping tea next to a fire on the sprawling gardens of the now police control room. The welcome soon turned to threat – it came straight like an arrow – tell us all you know about Ghising and his organization (structure, leadership etc) or we (the state) don’t talk to you anymore. As Patra put it quite simply, “We have seen so many journalists come and go. You’re only a kid.” I left Rabindra Bhavan that day never to return. Soon I was labelled a GNLF sympathiser. Surely the irony was not lost when a few months later Ghising ordered that I leave the hills. His displeasure – over breakfast at his modest home in Jalapahar he scoffed at all those “Nepalis who still hang pictures of their king at home” and said “those who had come to Darjeeling post 1964 should be sent home.” What a bombshell! This self-proclaimed leader had unwittingly targeted his main constituency. I duly filed the story. Ghising duly denied it. It was conveyed to me that I was not wanted in the hills any longer. Soon I felt the heat, when covering a funeral procession I was suddenly surrounded by young boys with khukris drawn. But another group came to my rescue. It was an important lesson I learnt early on in my journalistic career – that journalism is not only about being balanced. It is about the truth.