A veteran journalist’s poignant introspection on India’s independence

A veteran journalist’s poignant introspection on India’s independence

By T.Ramakrishnan/The Hindu

Chennai, August 16: Seventy years ago, P. V. Krishnamoorthy, a programme assistant in the Tamil unit of the external services of the All India Radio (AIR) in Delhi, was just 26 years old, with barely three years of experience. As he could not make it to Parliament on the night of August 14, he was keen on being present at the studio of the AIR.

He was tasked with the crucial assignment of carrying out recordings of the historic event, and moreover, such recordings had to be made available in other languages including Chinese, Japanese and Burmese.

As the clock approached five minutes to midnight, Sucheta Kripalani, a prominent member of the Congress, who would go on to become the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, rendered melodiously the first stanza of ‘Vande Mataram’. Then came the inspiring speech of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Having studied English literature at the Yangon University in Myanmar [earlier known as Rangoon University, Burma], Mr. Krishnamoorthy enjoyed “every bit” of Nehru’s “faultless, excellent” speech. But what struck him the most about the speech was Nehru’s reference to the absence of Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi on the occasion of the country’s first Independence Day. Gandhiji was in Kolkata — then reeling under communal riots — to bring about harmony.

Referring to Nehru’s observations on the need to wipe the tears of the poor, Mr. Krishnamoorthy, who became the first Director General of Doordarshan (DD) in 1976 and held the post for three years, feels that those words remain relevant today. “Have we wiped the tears of the poor?” he asks.

P.V.Krishnamoorthy, first Director General of Doordarshan

Along with his recollection of cycling around Delhi to observe how the people were celebrating their very first Independence Day, he also speaks of “terrible killings” that took place there a few days later. He recollects vividly the “small role” he played in saving the life of a Muslim watchman. It took some time for the government to bring the situation under control.

Even against a backdrop of gloom, Mr. Krishnamoorthy is able to spot some finer qualities among the affected people. Speaking of refugees who came from what was then western Punjab [now part of Pakistan], he says, “They didn’t want the dole. They wanted to stand on their own feet. They wanted to work and earn a decent living. Despite losing all their properties [in Pakistan], they did not lose hope.”

Mr. Krishnamoorthy is a veteran broadcast journalist who played a key role in the production of 1,320 hours of television programmes on science education in four languages, which were beamed to 2,400 remote villages in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha and Bihar through a satellite lent by NASA [the U.S. space agency]. He says, “For this country, television, a powerful medium, should be used for development and social upliftment. At the same time, I am not against entertainment being accorded importance, but there should be proportion.”

He adds that AIR and DD should remain public service institutions.

(The featured image at the top shows T.Ramakrishnan interviewing P.V.Krishnamoorthy in Chennai)