The Associated Journals Ltd will miss its Chairman, late Motilal Vora
He began his working life as a journalist before graduating to politics. And he remained a journalist at heart, writes Zafar Agha, Editor-in-Chief of National Herald Group
Barely three days before he passed away on December 21 at the age of 93, Motilal Vora attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of Associated Journals Ltd on December 18. He had recovered from a bout of COVID just a month ago and certainly looked physically tired and weak. But his spirit was remarkably high.
Journalism had been a lifelong passion and he clearly enjoyed mentoring the AJL Group and its brands National Herald, Navjivan and Qaumi Awaz till his last breath. Indeed, he began his working life as a journalist before graduating to politics. But as the saying goes, ‘once a journalist, always a journalist’, Vora ji remained a journalist at heart.
As Chairman of the AJL Group, he led National Herald and its sister publications from 2002 onwards. While the print editions had to be suspended because of poor finances, he led the revival and in November, 2016 successfully launched National Herald’s digital foray. There was no looking back despite vindictive action by a hostile Government determined to close the publications. But in a short period of less a year, not only were digital editions of Navjivan and Qaumi Awaaz launched but the Sunday broadsheets, National Herald on Sunday and Sunday Navjivan, also began their journey.
There never was any hope of support from the Government. And the Modi Government unleashed a reign of legal terror against the AJL Group, publishers of National Herald, slapping innumerable cases in most of which Vora ji was named in person. But he remained stoical and unfazed all through, even cheerful while facing the mounting odds. The values espoused by Jawahar Lal Nehru and his mission, the kind of pro-people journalism that prevailed, he felt, had to be preserved and sustained by AJL, founded in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru.
To the surprise of some of us, he turned out to be a handson Chairman, who took an active interest in even editorial nitty gritties. Barely ten days before his death, he called me over and discussed the affairs of Qaumi Awaz, the Groups’ digital portal in Urdu. He was keen to start the print version of Qaumi Awaz. “Qaumi Awaz was dear to Nehru ji and I wish to resume its publication soon’’, he said. Unfortunately, he left us before we could do it.
Voraji’s heart was in print. He would scan the newspapers, offered his reaction and was often critical. He would give editorial tips as well. National Herald on Sunday, for instance, did not initially have a ‘letters to editor’ column. But he reminded me that readers’ opinion was always supreme for a newspaper and we must give space to readers in the publications. We soon launched the column at his bidding.
At National Herald, Navjivan and Qaumi Awaz, we will miss his leadership, his comforting presence and fatherly advice. It will be difficult to fill his shoes.
(Zafar Agha is the Editor-in-Chief of National Herald, Navjivan and Qaumi Awaz)