G. Kasturi was a legend in journalism, a role model for all journalists. The standards he set were so high that those will be difficult for anyone to surpass.
I had the privilege of speaking to him when I was Chief Justice of the Madras High Court during 2004-2005. He told me that his uncle, Kasturi Srinivasan, was a close friend of my grandfather, Kailash Nath Katju, who was Union Minister of Home, Law and Defence in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet; Governor of West Bengal, and Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Mr. Kasturi appreciated my work as Chief Justice. Such praise, coming from such a senior and highly respected journalist, was a matter of great encouragement to me.
When Mr. Kasturi became Editor in 1965, The Hindu had little readership in North India, and was confined to South India. By the time he retired in 1991, it had truly become a national newspaper, with a large readership in North, West and East India. The credit goes largely to him and the team he built. He introduced modern technology at The Hindu, which became one of the most respected newspapers in India.
I may sound partial, but many people even in North India prefer The Hindu to all other newspapers, and this is because The Hindu gives readers highly objective and balanced news. The Hindu responsibly addresses the real issues facing the nation, that is, poverty, unemployment, price rise, healthcare, education, and so on. Its reporting of farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha and elsewhere, for instance, highlighted a great tragedy. Most people were unaware of them until The Hindu revealed them.
Its reporting of the high proportion of malnutrition among children in India (47 per cent) was another example of responsible journalism.
In a poor country like India, the press has a duty to inform the public about the socio-economic hardships people are going through in the present transitional period of its history, instead of emphasising the lives of film stars and cricketers, showing photographs of half-naked women, presenting irrelevant and trivial facts, and so on.
How many newspapers or magazines are performing this duty?
Mr. Kasturi insisted that the press must act responsibly and bring the true facts to the knowledge of the public, however ugly or depressing they may be. He was not one of those journalists who believed in pandering to the low tastes of the masses. He believed, like the great European writers Voltaire, Rousseau and Thomas Paine, that the duty of the press is not to go down to the low intellectual level of the masses, but rather to uplift intellectual levels, and expose, and attack backward and evil social beliefs and practices such as casteism, communalism and superstition. Because of him, The Hindu today enjoys a very high level of respect among the Indian public.
On his sad demise, I pay my humble tribute to this giant of journalism.
(Justice Katju is the Chairman of the Press Council of India.)