ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: In what should go down as a first in the 128-year-old history of The Hindu, a senior member of the paper’s staff in Bangalore was last week given the option of an “honourable exit” during a long-distance telephone call from Madras.
Arakere Jayaram, the former chief of bureau of the paper in Bangalore, was told over speaker-phone by editor-in-chief N. Ram that his output and conduct in recent times were not quite in sync with the Hindu‘s needs and that the time may have come for the organisation and the individual to shake hands.
Three other staffers of The Hindu, Bangalore—Parvathi Menon who replaced Jayaram as the person in charge of the Karnataka edition, news editor M. Baba Prasad, and city editor Sugandhi Ravindranath—who had been specially called to Madras for a discussion with Ram, were present as Ram switched on the speaker phone.
After his ouster as the head of the Bangalore branch, Jayaram, a long-time political correspondent, is said to have gone to slumber, contributing little to the paper by way of journalism. More importantly, an impression had gained ground that he was unhappy over being replaced and was “inciting” some staffers against Parvathi Menon.
Jayaram’s reported participation in a “press conference” at the Press Club of Bangalore on the Cauvery issue is also said to have drawn the editor’s ire.
Ram’s speaker phone call to Jayaram was preceded by a one-on-one discussion with Menon. After the one-on-one meeting, Ram and Menon walked in to the room where Prasad and Sugandhi were sitting.
“I want you to listen in on this,” Ram told the threesome, and then called Jayaram.
Ram said it might be best for everybody if he left immediately. Jayaram attempted to justify his actions, but when Ram seemed unrelenting, Jayaram asked if he could take voluntary retirement at the end of the month. Ram conceded and gave the veteran the “honourable exit” he was seeking.
Hindu insiders say this is the first time a senior staffer has been shown the door “with such drama” in an organisation that prides itself on the graceful and dignified manner in which treats its employees. Retired employees get the group’s publications free of cost, and a dhoti is delivered at the time of the annual bonus every Pongal.
RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY adds from Bangalore: At a seminar on “Media and Social Responsibility” in Mysore on Saturday, Jayaram left no one guessing on where he stood vis-a-vis Ram and Menon, and some of the paper’s recent activist postures.
Although he did not name The Hindu, Jayaram is said to have questioned the media’s blind support to Eenadu during its recent strife with the Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh on the Margadarsi Financiers issue.
(Ram is a signatory to the Special Leave Petition that some leading lights including Kuldip Nayar have signed.)
During the course of the speech, Jayaram also hintingly questioned the manner in which the arrest of Mangalore editor B.V. Seetharam, who has been jailed for inciting hate against the Jain community, has been turned into a freedom of expression issue.
It is a strange turn of events for Jayaram. Five years ago, at a seminar on investigative journalism, shortly before he took over from S.K. Ramoo as chief of bureau, Jayaram repeatedly kept referring to N. Ram as the man who broke the Bofors scam till somebody in the audience stood up and demanded a correction that it was Arun Shourie not Ram .
And now this.
Cross-posted on churumuri