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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 47, November 9, 2013

Knowledge blended with Wisdom

Tuesday 12 November 2013, by Mubashir Hasan


Dear Sumit,

An unfortunate accident is preventing me to attend the gathering in Delhi in honour of your illustrious father and my friend Nikhil Chakravartty. We had become friends in the early nineties when I became active in improving relations between India and Pakistan. I had occasion to visit India four or five times every year. The very next morning of my arrival in Delhi, Nikhil very graciously would be there to visit me at the residence of Syeda Hameed at Jamia.

We would discuss the world situation, the regional situation and India-Pakistan relations. In his view, and I agreed with him fully, the specifics of our situation in the subcontinent could best be understood keeping in mind the geopolitical and economic environment of the region and the world as a whole.

N.C. was a great mind. He well knew the entire background of the Indian political leaders. He had followed their successes and failures and he knew their strong points and weaknesses. His knowledge of the Indian political scene and the Indian state made him aware of what a particular leader could do and could not do and what to expect from him.

Nikhil fully understood the limitations the state put forward in the conduct of a Prime Minister and other senior Ministers. N.C. appreciated what came in the way of a Prime Minister, not letting him act the way he would have acted if he were acting as an individual keeping in mind what the people and the media desired. However, also being the custodian of the interest of the state uppermost, the PM was obliged on occasions to opt for another path.

I well remember that a certain matter of public importance had awaited a decision of the Prime Minister Narasimha Rao for a long time. N.C. took up the matter in his column saying that perhaps the Prime Minister was the follower of a certain Chinese philosopher who held that no decision on a matter was also a decision.

The next day after the column appeared there was a gathering of journalists with the Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. N.C. was also present in the gathering. When the PM saw N.C. he beckoned him to come near. N.C. told me that he thought the PM was irked by the column and wanted to explain something about it. However, as N.C. approached, all the PM had to say was: “What was the name of the Chinese philoso-pher?”

N.C. was highly respected by political leaders and journalist alike. The leaders of the ideology of the Right stoutly opposed N.C.’s Left-wing beliefs but they had to respect him for his integrity as a journalist. He was a thorough investigator. Not a word would slip out of his pen that was not true and could not be shown to be true. What made him great in his profession was not merely the knowledge but the wisdom that went with it. He was the greatest journalist of the twentieth century. He stood for peace, prosperity and equality all over the world. He was an indefectible and indefatigable fighter for the cause of the poor and downtrodden everywhere.

Nearer home, constantly improving relations between the peoples and governments of India and Pakistan was his cherished goal. Among many others he was a great supporter of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy from the first day of its founding. He lauded the efforts of the Forum for holding joint conventions in various cities of India and Pakistan.

Nikhil Chakrvaratty was a great Indian, a great South Asian and a great citizen of the world. His fight for freedom, truth and peace shall long be remembered.

The author, a noted human rights activist, is a former Minister for Planning and Finance in Pakistan.

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