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The honest Sardarji

Call him names if you will; I am sure he enjoys being abused, but he was the most sparkling and the most honest editor of them all to have his imprint line on a newspaper or magazine published in the country. No problem identifying him, Sardar Khushwant Singh, who converted the Illustrated Weekly of India from being a castaway rag into a red rag which provoked lakhs of readers.

‘Chamcha No 1 of Indira Gandhi’ was a sort of abuse hurled upon him, but the ex-PRO of the Indian High Commission in London (who did not agree with the late Krishna Menon), a historian of the Sikhs, novelist, short story writer and essayist and some-time editor of Yojana in the Fifties, Kushwant maintained the strength of his convictions, although many said they were misplaced.

He even provided his services as consulting editor for Surya produced by Menaka Gandhi. Apart from the loyalty to the Indira family it was also perhaps a matter of a sardar helping out a sadarini – as ordained in the Guru Granth Saheb. For those not in the know, Maneka is a Sikh sired by one Anand whose bullet-ridden death is still a mystery.

Sardar Khushwant certified that Sanjay’s Maruti car was roadworthy although the test centre of the Defence Ministry at Ahmednagar did not. Being a Sikh, his motor mechanics must be sound. He remains firmly entrenched in the Indira camp. And you can have an assessment of the type of clientele he has cultivated for the Weekly; the readers’ choice of the Indian of the Year in 1976 was Sanjay Gandhi.

Some thirty years ago, the dirty Sardar wrote his own obituary. Can you beat that?  His column With malice towards one and all was widely read and loved. He died one short of what would have been a well deserved 100.

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