Letter to the Editor: A tribute to Girilal Jain

Sir, — My association with Girilal Jain began in the early 1950s when he was a reporter in the Times of India and I was a sub-editor. Professionally, it was a cat-and-dog relationship, especially when I took liberty with his opinionated writings on what I regarded as mundane events like the Ramlila in Delhi. Once when he interpreted Nehru’s speech at a Ramlila function in terms of East-West cold war, I deleted what seemed to me interpretation and made it a matter-of-fact affair. Giri was naturally upset and complained to the editor. I got a dressing down and his original copy was restored for the dak editions. But such “incidents” did not affect our friendship.

Giri’s aversion for communism was more philosophical and ideological than practical, whereas my opposition to the communists stemmed from past association with them during my student days. He introduced me to the writings of western Leftists who were disillusioned with Stalin’s conduct of the international communist movement. Having been a Royist who never crossed the rubicon, Giri was unaffected by the emotional dimension in their intellectual transformation. For me, however, they were gods whose god had failed.

I vividly remember an occasion when Giri, in a highly self-introspective mood, analysed American policies towards the subcontinent to conclude that there could be no strategic compatibility between Indian and American relations with Pakistan. He thought we were wrong in thinking of a shared security approach by our two countries in the face of China’s military build-up. But I stuck to my view that there could be no durable peace in South Asia without India and Pakistan agreeing to live in peace.

The 1975-emergency saw us on either side of the intellectual divide. He did not endorse anti-democratic measures but thought Jayaprakash Narayan’s “total revolution” and agitation on the streets had forced Mrs Gandhi to embark on draconian measures. He did not also share “JP’s” aversion for corruption saying that it was a sign of middle class morality which the masses did not support. He further regarded “JP’s” policies as directed towards eroding India’s “State power” to lead to anarchy. He said these things to “JP” whom he otherwise respected as an idealist. In the Janata “crowd” he had respect only for Morarji Desai, presumably on account of his conservative and statist thinking.

In short, Giri was coldly logical, learned and cerebral. At the same time, he was intensely warmhearted towards friends.—Yours etc.


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