Veteran journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea, a leading figure of the right to information movement, died at his home here on Monday after protracted illness.
He was 87 and survived by a son and two daughters. In a career spanning 37 years, Bhattacharjea was the Editor of leading newspapers The Hindustan Times, The Times of India and The Indian Express and after retirement had held the post of Press Institute of India Director among some of his assignments.
Born in Shimla in 1924, Bhattacharjea did his B.A. and M.A. from St Stephen's College in Delhi and began his journalistic career in 1946 as an apprentice sub—editor and reporter in The Hindustan Times.
In 1947, he flew to Srinagar soon after the first Indian troops had been sent there to repel the tribal invaders and returned to the state the following year to cover the Indo-Pakistan war in Kashmir.
Bhattacharjea joined The Statesman, New Delhi, in 1951 and ten years later returned to The Hindustan Times as its correspondent in Washington and the United Nations. He came back to Delhi as the newspaper's Editor in 1967.
In 1971, he moved to Bombay as Resident Editor of The Times of India.
He became a close associate of Jayaprakash Narayan and in 1975 he quit The Times of India to edit JP's weekly Everyman's.
When the weekly was closed during the Emergency, Bhattacharjea became the Editor of the Indian Express, which was one of the few newspapers to have spoken out against the draconian measure of the Indira Gandhi government.
After he retired from Indian Express in 1983, Bhattacharjea served as Editorial Adviser of The Democrat, Nigeria, and then of the Deccan Herald, Bangalore.
He was also a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.
In 1995, Ajit Bhattacharjea was appointed Director of the Press Institute of India where he edited the respected and intellectually-stimulating journal Vidura and launched .
Grassroots, a monthly compilation of reportage on local development issues from English and Indian-language press.
He retired from the Press Institute of India in 2004 at the age of eighty but went on to serve as the Editor of Transparency Review, a journal of the Centre for Media Studies, New Delhi, which focuses on the right to information.
He was actively associated with the RTI movement in Rajasthan and the defence of civil liberties in Kashmir and the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh.
Ajit Bhattacharjea edited, and wrote, several books which include Dateline Bangladesh, Kashmir: The Wounded Valley, Jayaprakash Narayan: A Political Biography, Countdown to Partition, Tragic Hero of Kashmir: Sheikh Abdullah and Social Justice and the Constitution.
His cremation will take place at Lodhi Road crematorium today at 10:30 am.
Paying tribute, another senior journalist Inder Malhotra said “he was a very courteous and warm-hearted person. We were friends and worked together.”