INDIA-PAKISTAN: THEMES BEYOND BORDERS- Selections From Nikhil Chakravartty’s Writings
Over quarter of a century, the general reading public, particularly the more intellectually inclined in the subcontinent, had looked forward avidly to the editorials and other writings of Nikhil Chakravartty in Mainstream for illumination and understanding of the bewildering developments within the region since 1947. It is, therefore with nostalgia and great expectations that we turn to the present volume, focusing on Indo-Pak relations, containing Nikhilda’s precious writings on the complexities of developments in the subcontinent since 1947, and look for his analysis of the issues involved with flashes of prophetic ideas the relevance of which now srike us with added poignancy. The predominant and recurring theme of this publications is to harness the common humanity of both the countries for durable peace and friendship. The present volume is valuable from the point of view of correctly understanding the evolution of our relationship with Pakistan and educating public opinion about certain historical facts so that those are appreciated in the proper perspective. It is appropriate that on the 90th birth anniversary of Nikhilda this publication is being brought out. This important book will be of immense value for scholars, policy-makers, students and others. (Extract from the introduction)
– K.R. Narayanan, former President of India.
One of the leading journalists of his time, Nikhil Chakravartty (1913-1998) had his ear to the ground and therefore his writings are a treasure-trove for those studying the political processes of the period. He wrote extensively on the subject of India-Pakistan relations. The writings selected in this volume, spanning thirty-three years (1964-1997), cover vital developments in this area like Jawaharlal Nehru’s initiative to send Sheikh Abdullah to Pakistan to explore the possibilities of a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem; the conflict between India and Pakistan in 1965 over Kutch; the events leading up to the Tashkent Agreement; the transformations withing East Pakistan resulting in its dissociation from the ruling dispensation of West Pakistan (about which Nikhil Chakravartty had given some indication as early as in 1964); the Bangladesh liberation struggle and the December 1971 war; the Simla talks and the Indira-Bhutto agreement in July 1972; the democratic interlude which followed and the subsequent happenings till the Gujral-Nawaz Sharif parleys that offered possibilities of a positive turn in the bilateral relationship.
Nikhil Chakravartty’s writings were imbued with perceptions gained from his interactions with prominent decision-makers and common people on both sides of the border. These writings also analyse the various approaches, alternative structures and possible content of the India-Pakistan dialogue. This book is of abiding value in comprehending India-Pakistan relations.
Born on November 3, 1913 in Silchar (Assam) Nikhil Chakravartty had his school education at Hindu School, and Presidency College, Calcutta (1929-35). He graduated with History Honours in 1933 and stood First Class First in MA (History). Later he went to Oxford where he studied Modern History (1939). On his return to India he taught Modenr History in Calcutta University’s Post-Graduate Department (1940-44) before plunging into activist journalism as a special correspondent with the Communist Party organ People’s War (1944-46) and People”s Age (1946-48). After serving a stind in the underground as an important communist functionary from 1948, he worked in New Age in the fities upto 1957. He then set up a feature new service, India Press Agency or IPA, and in 1959 shot into prominence with a report in the IPA on the activities of the then Prime Minister’s PA, M.O. Mathai, that rocked Parliament forcing Mathai to resign. In 1962 he founded the current affairs weekly Mainstream and served as its editor from 1967 to 1992.
In 1975-77 he played a vital role in defence of press freedom during the Emergency; later in the eighties he alongwith other senior journalists fought doggedly against the Anti-Defamation Bill sought to be introduced in Parliament by the then Union Government and compelled the government to withdraw the legislation. He was a member, Press Commission (1978-80), the Chairman, NAMEDIA Conference (December 1983), and the Chairman NAMEDIA Foundation (media foundation of the non-aligned) from 1984 till his death. He was the President of the Editors Guild of India (1990-92). In 1990 he declined the Padma Bhushan Award on the ground that a journalist carrying out his professional obligations should not be "identified, in the public eye, with any particular establishment." In Novemeber 1997 he was appointed the Chairman of the Prasar Bharati Board. He visited several countries. His pieces on China after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 and Eastern Europe after the collapse of statist socialist structures there generated considerable discussion. His disapassionate analysis of the events in Kashmir and fervent plea for Indo-Pak amity evoked a positive response in Pakistan. He passed away in New Delhi on Jun 27, 1998 at the age of 85.