Editor who fought the Emergency
Was honoured for opposing Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the dark years
Veteran journalist Surendra Nihal Singh died here on Monday, following a brief illness. Mr. Singh, who would have turned 89 later in April, breathed his last at the National Heart Institute.
With Mr. Singh’s death, the era of grand, old editors who began their journalistic careers in the years following Independence is winding to a close.
A firm believer in the importance of maintaining a wall between the editorial and business sections of a newspaper and the role of journalists in putting every government under scrutiny, Mr. Singh had the distinction of being perhaps the only editor-in-chief who resigned from three newspapers following differences with the proprietors of those organisations.
The papers were The Statesman, The Indian Express and the The Indian Post (of which he was the founding editor). He was awarded the prestigious International Editor of the Year Award in New York for his role in opposing the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
His last assignment was as Editor of the Khaleej Times of Dubai in 1994. After that, he turned independent columnist.
Mr. Singh began as a reporter with The Statesman, covering politics in Delhi as well as abroad — posted at different times in Moscow, London, the U.S. and Indonesia, years which he was to describe later as the best in his journalistic career, and which made him a foreign affairs expert.
It was those long years of reporting that made him such a good editor: for those who worked with him, it was also a rich learning experience.
He would encourage his reporters when they needed it; he would depress any pretensions when that was called for — but it was always done with such a light touch and such charm that no one ever felt he was being harsh.
He was born to Gurmukh Nihal Singh, who became Delhi Assembly Speaker, then Chief Minister and Governor of Rajasthan, and Lacchmi Devi in Rawalpindi on April 30, 1929.