ATAL BEHARI VAJPAYEE
Prime Minister of India
Shri Ram Nath Goenka was a true freedom fighter and iconoclast
who served the nation in the fairest spirit of Indian
heroism by his refusal to submit to what he felt was not
correct. He was willing to stake all he had for his principles
and set the highest standards for Indian media in pursuit
of truth. His legacy lives on in
The Indian Express.
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher,
L K ADVANI
Deputy Prime Minister of India
The most trying period in modern Indian political history
began with Jayaprakash Narayan’s launch of his all-India
movement and ended with the traumatic Emergency experience.
I have seen Goenkaji very closely during this period.
It is rare that you have such a person who is so committed
to values and principles and at the same time so fearless
in standing by them. All of us who have gone though that
crisis would recall that whenever anyone had a question
in mind as to what should be done or not done, everyone
realised that Ram Nathji’s counsel would be the most appropriate.
On the occassion of his centenary I offer my deep respect
to the great soul.
I remember an upstanding and extremely courageous proprietor who
backed his editors to the hilt when convinced they were right.
I know of many instances, including the Bofors expose, when major
attempts were made to plant stories with a spin, but on the spot
Ram Nathji could sniff them out and instead he threw his weight
behind his editors. I remember like yesterday the way he marched
in the hot Delhi sun with much younger people in 1988 (I was marching
alongside), against the Anti-Defamation Bill that Rajiv Gandhis
government wanted to introduce after Bofors. Ram Nathji was a
real institution builder who made a newspaper with a difference,
a strong paper that upheld truth. I know that many have faced
his wrath in his organization, but he was in the grand mould,
he came out of the Freedom Movement and upheld its principles
all his life.
The Hindustan Times
Though our families had been friends for many years, I came into
real contact with Ram Nathji in 1985 when I became the first woman
on the Press Trust of India board of which he was a senior member.
I have very fond memories of the couple of years that we interacted,
he was a mentor, an elder guiding me. He could make many directors
shudder, I have seen him getting very aggressive and shouting
very loudly, but I was fortunate that I experienced only the warmth
and affection behind that steely exterior. He was really very
charming underneath. The Indian Express has always stood
apart from the rest of Indian media, its zeal for investigative
stories puts it in a very different slot, a niche of its own,
and that was Ram Nathjis doing: it is still regarded as
anti-establishment, as bold as its founder.
K. M. MATHEW
Chief Editor-Publisher, Malayala Manorama
I had a lot to do with Ram Nath Goenka in so many ways regarding
freedom of expression, and I admired him for the boldness of his
decisions, regardless of the consequences. I particularly liked
the way he would write strong editorials himself without needing
any professional touches - he spoke out himself. He supported
Morarjibhai and I did not, but we remained friends to the end
of his days. He had the courageous mental makeup that most editors
lacked, including myself. Today we need more people in the media
with the boldness of The Indian Express, to tell both the NDA
and the Congress how to run the country: Ram Nath Goenka certainly
JUSTICE H. R. KHANNA
Former Supreme Court Judge
He was a principled man who never bent to Government pressure.
He was always prepared to take risks, without giving a thought
once, he had to give up his post as Chairman
of PTI for taking on powerful people.
Chairman & Managing Director
The Indian Express Group
Introspecting around the time of India’s
50th anniversary of Independence, I recalled an editorial
published in this newspaper in August 1942. Headlined ‘Heart
strings and Purse strings’, it was a declaration by our
founder Ram Nath Goenka that he would rather shut down his
newspaper than comply with the British Government’s desperate
efforts to gag the press. He wrote: “We cannot publish news
relating to our leaders, to the Congress movement, or relating
to anything…not even facts which vitally affect the community
unless it is contained in a government communique or in
a report from our registered correspondent, blessed by a
district magistrate. It would be nothing less than fraud
on the public for us to send out a paper containing just
that and nothing more…the hard fact of the situation is
that if we went on publishing, The Indian Express may be
called a paper, but cannot be called a newspaper”. A newspaper
has a larger social purpose. It informs people, helps make
rational choices, binds scattered communities. It was precisely
to perform this larger function that Ram Nath Goenka became
a publisher. In fact it was because Mahatma Gandhi spoke
of the need for a national newspaper that Ram Nath Goenka
started The Indian Express. This is why he became the most
combative newspaper owner in the country, repeatedly taking
on the establishment - British or independent Indian - in
his pursuit to sustain democratic values. The mantle of
his stature is not easy to bear. But we have inherited it
and are committed to further this mission. Like him, I believe
a newspaper ought to be a medium of communication, not merely
a profit center. We will not be hostage to our purse strings.
We believe that the dictates of the heart are rather more
Former Editor, The Indian Express
He was a man in a hurry, complex, contradictory irascible, yes
affectionate, who built a vast newspaper empire as a sword and
shield to fight for causes he held dear - India and freedom of
Freedom fighter - Social activist
Ram Nath Goenkas life is a clear message to the new millennium
that you cant get a better life for yourself unless you
first get a better life for the country. Hes the reason
why our press is the freest and strongest in the world, as befits
the worlds largest democracy. The Indian Express
is a living illustration of this. Ram Nathji came into contact
with Gandhiji as a pre-university student in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
He joined the historic Champaran Movement begun by Gandhiji. From
that time until his dying day, he stuck to his principles.
Dr MANMOHAN SINGH
Former Union Minister for Finance
I would like to take this occasion to pay homage to Ram Nathji.
He was a free and fearless man and a great source of strength
to every democracy. He made a phenomenal contribution to the growth
of free press in India, which is the bulwark of our democracy.
Lawyer and Parliamentarian
He was old but he had a fiery temper. Once he got provoked by
a servant and I saw him jump over beds and furniture in hot pursuit
of the poor fellow. He caught hold of him and gave him a dressing.
His laughter at the same time was contagious. He enjoyed a good
joke, the saltier the better. Along with this he combined a profound
knowledge of the scriptures and western philosophy. He often spoke
in Parliament and was heard with attention and respect. He was
head and shoulders above his contemporaries.
Page from History
Emergency is declared on the night
of June 25. Government censorship is back three decades
after the British Raj. Power is cut off to The Indian Express
for two days in an act of intimidation. But once again,
Ram Nath Goenka risks bankruptcy and protests with a blank
editorial on June 28, 1975. The newspaper quotes Tagore
to cheer the frightened public: “Where the mind is without
fear and the head held high…” The pattern is repeated every
time and in each test, The Indian Express “never hesitates
on the doorstep oh history”: Bofors, the first fodder scam,
the Kamala case, the Antulay expose, down to present times
with Kargil coverage, the Best Bakery case and whistleblower
Satyendra Dubey’s murder. The international press community
notices our fiercely independent Gujarat coverage and The
Indian Express is awarded the Vienna-based International
Press Institute’s first Indian award in 2004 for its coverage
of the tragedy and its aftermath.
Former Union Minister & senior Congress leader
I knew Ram Nathji from late 60s to early 70s. In my eyes he was
the one man who fought for the freedom of the press relentlessly
in this country. I must admit we took positions of confrontation
but he never bowed down to any political pressure or administrative
pressure. He fought for the freedom of the country before Independence
and after that he fought for the freedom of the press. As Revenue
Minister in the 70s, I had tremendous personal respect for him.
The way he built up the The Indian Express into the largest
chain of newspapers shows his sagacity. We may have differed on
principles, ideology and approach, but my respect for him will
always remain undiminished.
Union Minister for Law, Justice &
I had an opportunity to work very closely with Ram Nathji as a
student. He was the personification of free and fearless media.
He loved a fight. He never shied away from it. He had the ability
to give a direction to public opinion. But for him, a lot of facts
would have remained concealed. He added meaning and substance
to the readers right to information.
Former Editor, The Indian Express
Posterity will judge Ram Nathji for the relentless war he waged
against the autocracy of the Emergency. His commitment was transparent
and his dedication overwhelming.