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The book that disappeared: Readers have right to know what transpired between YB Chavan and journalists

YB Chavan with Indira Gandhi
By Prabhakar Kulkarni*
Editors and journalists in the electronic and print media in India are enjoying press freedom. But this freedom is without any special provision in any law or the Indian Constitution. Individual freedom of expression is being used by editors and journalists and media organizations.
But is this freedom used to suppress the truth? Can a book once published be dumped and made not available to readers who have right to know the truth?
A Marathi book ‘Patra Samvad’ which was published but later disappeared and no copy is now available. The book relates to letters received by ex-Union defense minister and India’s deputy prime minister late YB Chavan.
The letters were selected by veteran editor and history researcher SM Garge of Pune; ex-civil servant Ram Pradhan (ex-Governor of Arunachal Pradesh) was the executive editor.The book was published by the Yeshawantrao Chavan Pratishtan, formed in memory of the veteran national leader.
The letters seem to be examples as to how editors or journalists woo political heavyweights for gaining some benefits or recommending favours for material facilities.
More than a thousand copies with price of Rs 450 per book was known to be published, but it being a sort of exposure of editors’ or journalists’ slavish leanings to those in power, the copies were almost dumped as they were not available.
When asked about the suppression, the book’s executive editor Pradhan said on phone: “Selection of letters written by journalists and editors to Yeshawantrao Chavan was made by SM Garge, who was the editor. There was understanding between Garge and me that I should not interfere in the selection of the letters.”
"Patra Samvad"
“Accordingly the book was published and copies were handed over to the YB Chavan Pratishtan. Later, the Pratishtan said that all copies are disposed of, and in what way they are disposed of, I do not know. A copy for reference may be available in “Virangula’ a bungalow of late Chavan at Karad where a library is maintained.”
Veteran leader and NCP chief Sharad Pawar is chief of the Pratishtan. While he was not available for comment, Sharad Kale, the Pratishtan’s secretary said that the book was not released.
In the national library maintained by the Pratishtan in Mumbai, there is a list of 66 books published by it but “Patra Samvad” is conspicuous by absence. When contacted, Priyanka Patil at ‘Virangula’ – at Chavan’s bungalow at Karad in Satara district in Maharashtra, where the library is maintained – said that one copy of the book is kept for reference, as also about 80,000 letters written by various individuals and institutions.
While all, except one, copies of the book seem to be disposed of, veteran ex-editor of Marathi daily “Sakal”, Eknath Bagul had a copy presented to him by SM Garge. When asked as to why the book was presented to him only, he said, late Garge was very close to him and he had nominated him as chief of Garge’s Trust which is publishing series of ‘Samaj Vidnan Kosh’ (Treatise on Social Sciences).
According to Bagul, he has boldly written a book (“Sampadkanchya Khurchivar” (On Editors’ Chair), published by Utkarsh Prakashan, Pune, on the subject, exposing most of the suppressed letters which have pointed out the way editors or journalists are more prone to woo with leniency for some expectations, while otherwise they boast of their own freedom, with which they harshly criticize against those who do not conform to their committed editorial policy.
Such instances are indicative as to how press freedom is being either misused or used with false notion, that it is editors’ freedom. In one letter an editor requests Chavan for favour of deputing his assistant to world tour, while other one leniently requests for permission or an order allowing him to write biography of Indira Gandhi. Obviously, as prime minister-aspirant Chavan did not reply; the biography was not written.
There are other letters indicating the committed relations. Knowing this as a sort of human trend, political rulers are prone to curb the freedom guaranteed under the constitution and periodical opinion to curb such freedom is expressed. Corporate ownership has also been a target because the influential print and electronic media are under the control of the corporate owners.
They are disseminating news and views which are influencing public in general and voters in particular. The government in power needs public views in its favour, and media may not always respond to this expectation. But media needs to be cautious enough to be aloof from the political heavyweights to maintain and protect the freedom without providing any laxity or exposure of their freedom.
---
*Senior journalist based at Kolhapur in Maharashtra

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