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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 42, October 8, 2011

Remembering C.N. Chitta Ranjan on his 90th Birth Anniversary

Saturday 8 October 2011, by Sumit Chakravartty


The following was written last week just before C.N. Chitta Ranjan’s 90th birth anniversary on September 29, 2011.

C.N. Chitta Rajan’s ninetieth birth anniversary is being befittingly observed on September 29, 2011. All his relatives, friends, admirers and those fortunate to have been groomed by him in the profession of journalism will remember him that day as a person who, imbued with exceptional idealism, dedication and sense of purpose (values that have indeed become rare in today’s world) on the one side and extra-ordinary professionalism on the other, left a niché in Indian journalism while playing a leading role in the country’s working journalists’ movement. It was his deep association with and involvement in the freedom struggle (he suffered imprisonment during the ‘Quit India’ Movement) that was the source of his boundless energy to stand by and wage resolute battles in defence of the oppressed and the dispossessed.

A meeting held in the national Capital on August 18, 1990 to mourn his death (he breathed his last in New Delhi on August 2, 1990) adopted a resolution wherein it was, inter alia, pointed out that

A pioneer of the working journalists’ movement in Tamil Nadu and the country as a whole, he indefatigably fought against the industrial houses controlling the newspaper industry whenever they sought to curtail the legitimate rights of the Press employees. He played a pivotal role in effectively projecting the journalists’ demands during the functioning of the First Wage Board for Working Journalists. His longstanding asso-ciation with R. Venkataraman was further streng-thened in those days as the present President of India was a member of that Wage Board and Chitta Ranjan had helped him in providing the intellectual input for projecting effectively the working journalists and newspaper employees’ legitimate demands.

Indeed the message sent by R. Venkataraman on August 3, 1990 as the President of India recalled his association with C.N. Chitta Ranjan in the journalist movement and observed: “The gentlest of persons, he was an intrepid upholder of the rights of the downtrodden.”

C.N. Chitta Ranjan or CNC, as he was known to a large number of his colleagues, was the first editor of Mainstream, the publication which I now have the privilege of bringing out. In his tribute to CNC after his demise, Nikhil Chakravartty, as the journal’s founder, wrote in Mainstream (August 11, 1990):

Mainstream shall always cherish the memory of its first editor. He was and shall be its Conscience —for ever and ever.

ON a personal note, let me recount what one had said at a meeting a few years ago to remember Gandhiji as the editor of Indian Opinion:

We are all aware of the role that Gandhiji himself played as a great communicator in promoting the freedom struggle in India and how he ran the publications he edited. And we also know that there were not a few among the editors of yesteryears who carried forward his tradition in journalism leaving indelible imprints on the sands of time. Among them was Gandhiji’s youngest son, Devdas who, like his father, regarded journalism as a service, not just a profession. One feels privileged to have been groomed by three distinguished editors who also thought on similar lines.

Those three persons were Edatata Narayanan, C.N. Chitta Ranjan and Nikhil Chakravartty. Unfortunately none of them is with us today. Incidentally, CNC—inspired by Gandhiji in his childhood—remained a lifelong true Gandhian in his words and deeds.

One can never forget him precisely because one learnt so much from him in life. Beyond the realm of journalism, one basic lesson he taught me was how to be and remain self-effacing in every sphere of activity one is engaged in.

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