Obituary: Srikrishna Mulgaokar

Srikrishna Mulgaokar, journalist: born Bombay 1911; editor, Hindustan Times 1958-68; editor-in-chief, Indian Express 1973-81; died New Delhi 9 May 1993.

SRIKRISHNA MULGAOKAR was one of India's most distinguished newspaper editors, who fearlessly opposed succeeding Indian prime ministers on policy matters. Through his lucid and beautifully penned editorials and commentaries in English, for which he was known as 'India's Rudyard Kipling', Mulgaokar sliced, surgeon-like, to the kernel of public issues under debate.

He was probably the last Indian editor who intimately knew every aspect of journalism including design, proof-reading, reporting and sub- editing. As editor in New Delhi of the influential Hindustan Times and later the more powerful and anti-establishment Indian Express, Mulgaokar doggedly opposed the authoritarianism of the prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

When for personal political gain Gandhi imposed an internal emergency in 1975, suspending civil liberties and censoring the press after she was found guilty of electoral malpractices, Mulgaokar's removal from the editorship of the Indian Express, India's most widely circulated English-language newspaper chain, was her first priority.

But two years later, after the Emergency was lifted, Mulgaokar returned to head the Indian Express and single- handedly exposed Indira Gandhi's criminal transgressions, and those of Sanjay, her son, and their Congress Party. This led to an embarrassing rout for Gandhi in the 1977 general elections and the formation of the first non-Congress government since India's independence in 1947.

Mulgaokar was friendly with Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India's first prime minister, and respected by him for his intellect and journalistic integrity. But the two fell out when Mulgaokar consistently attacked Nehru's socialistic economic policies and his naive, almost childlike trust for China. As often, Mulgaokar was proved right. Socialism disintegrated under Nehru's successors and today India is fast moving towards a free- market economy, while New Delhi and Peking, a generation on, remain locked in territorial dispute.

Mulgaokar was born in Bombay, in 1911, the illegitimate offspring of a rich Parsee merchant. He took his name from his mother, who came from the Konkan region in western India, part of modern-day Maharashtra state. The facts of his birth were revealed at a famous libel trial in the Sixties when prosecuting lawyers sought to discredit Mulgaokar by cross-examining him on his lineage. They were convinced he would shrink from telling the truth, something they would reveal with a flourish. When asked about his parentage, however, Mulgaokar told a packed courtroom that he was a bastard. He won the case.

Mulgaokar was schooled Bombay and attended Wilson College, but, influenced by his Parsee father, he left before graduation and joined a brokering firm, hoping to earn his fortune. A series of bad investments drove him instead to join the Bombay Chronicle, a popular local newspaper.

In the early Thirties he moved to the Pioneer newspaper in Lucknow, north India, where Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill had worked; and in 1955 joined the Hindustan Times in New Delhi as Assistant Editor - a paper supporting the Congress Party and Mahatma Gandhi in their freedom struggle against the British. In 1961 he joined the rival Times of India as roving correspondent in South-east Asia and later the Middle East before moving on to report from London and then Washington. He returned in 1958 as editor of the Hindustan Times and over the next 10 years transformed it into a vibrant journal and the best-designed newspaper in the country.

After retiring in 1968 Mulgaokar moved to Kashmir, investing, disastrously, in a poultry farm. He spent his entire time indulging his love for cooking and ended up broke five years later. In 1973 he was forced back into journalism and became editor-in- chief of the Indian Express.

Mulgaokar's irreverence as editor was celebrated. Infuriated, he once arbitrarily doubled a reporter's salary when an account clerk queried his travel expenses after he had cleared them. The clerk hastily passed the expenses. While hiring reporters Mulgaokar would look at their faces and either take them on immediately or gruffly dismiss them.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star