A void has occurred in the intellectual life of our country. For, there is no one in sight who can fill the vacuum caused by the passing away of Girilal Jain. In his death journalism has lost one of the most outstanding members of the profession. During his stewardship, Girilal Jain imparted to The Times of India an élan which newspapers crave to earn, often unsuccessfully.
He was a great editor because of the qualities of a versatile leader who could get the best out of an army of individuals and individualists with diverse talents, differing viewpoints and strong opinions.
After leaving the Times he became a passionate crusader for a cause which had come to possess him rather late in life; the cause of Hindu awakening. The vision of a great India stirred him deeply. He believed that India has arrived on the threshold of new civilisational resurgence which would enable her to rise to great heights and make invaluable contribution to the future of human society. He saw the ferment in Hind society as a manifestation of that resurgence.
Girilal Jain always described himself as journalist and was proud of this fact. He brushed aside those who would admire him for his philosophical propensities; though increasingly he tended to examine contemporary developments in philosophic terms and in their historical context.
He believed he was carrying forward the tradition of the great rishis. Once I asked him if he had met a particular leader who I was sure would appreciate his line of thinking. Giri replied in the negative and then, after a pause, added: “In our tradition, the raja should come to the rishi.”
Girilal Jain had arrived at his intellects destination through a circuitous route. Like several of his contemporaries, early in his youth, Marx and Lenin attracted the attention of this young man from Haryana.
But before Marxism could grip his mind, Arthur Koestler, whose Darkness at Noon influenced him considerably, knocked Giri away from the psychological thraldom of communism. From the intimidating alley of dialectical materialism, he wandered for some time in the labyrinth of MN Roy’s humanism; but he could not find in Royism a comfortable home for his restless spirit.
It appears Giri was able to have peace with himself only when, after leaving The Times of India, he began to wander in the cobbled lanes and bylanes of the history of ideas without the need of responding to current events under pressure of deadlines.
Girilal Jain’s writings were often provocative, sometimes extremely disturbing to the mindsets secured in the comfort of liberalism. But, whatever the subjects, he brought to bear on his writings the stamp of comprehension and incisiveness.
Even when his comments tended to inflict a shattering blow to strongly-held beliefs, Giri provoked in his critics not bitterness but the spirit of intellectual combat. That few chose to join issues with him at that plane shows that he marshalled his facts and arguments with considerable thoroughness. It was also a measure of the respect in which he was held even by those who disagreed with him.
During the later part of his life, Girilal Jain was engaged in an incessant search for coherent answers to complex questions. This led him to make forays in different areas: politics, history, sociology, international relations and religion. His quest for finding credible responses to contemporary challenges had not come to an end when he fell ill and was hospitalised. Though he was not given sufficient time to formulate all the answers, Girilal Jain has left with us numerous questions which must be answered convincingly if India is to overcome successfully the grim multi-dimensional crisis it is facing. With Giri no more, one more stimulating link with the past has been snapped.
RK Mishra is chairman of the Observer group of publications
The Sunday Observer, 25 July 1993
Also carried in The Observer of Business and Politics