Neena Gopal, the former foreign editor of the Dubai-based Gulf News who was in conversation with Rajiv Gandhi just minutes before he was blown up by a suicide bomber in 1991, is to be the editor of the Deccan Chronicle edition from Bangalore.
A DC edition in India’s most crowded newspaper market has been on the cards for sometime now, but the plans have taken flight only in recent weeks.
Office space has been bought on Brigade Road, the presses have been installed in Electronic City, the editor is in, and recruitments are on with DC Hyderabad editor A.T. Jayanti meeting dozens of journalists to put together the staff for the paper.
The Bangalore edition is expected to roll off before the elections to the Karnataka assembly slated to begin on May 10. Some sources say the new edition could come as early as this month-end. The current Asian Age edition from Bangalore will cease publication with the arrival of Deccan Chronicle. (Age and Chronicle are owned by the same company.)
With a Bangalore edition, Deccan Chronicle (whose television tagline is “Face of the South”) will have presence in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Neena Gopal was rumoured to be in the running for the editorship of Khaleej Times before she took the DC offer.
Neena Gopal and Barbara Crossette of The New York Times had accompanied Rajiv Gandhi in the back seat of his Ambassador car as he sped from Madras to Sriperumbudur for an election rally. Minutes later, just yards from them, he had been reduced to a shattered mass of flesh.
Barbara Crossette wrote in NYT:
“For this rally, Mr. Gandhi’s car stopped about 25 yards short of the platform erected on an open meadow. As Mrs. Gopal and I paused to talk to Suman Dubey, Mr. Gandhi’s campaign press adviser, about whether we had had enough time with the former prime minister, and would make way for other reporters, Mr. Gandhi went on ahead toward the stairs to the platform.
“As Mrs. Gopal and I followed there was a sudden burst of what sounded like firecrackers and then a large boom, an explosion and a cloud of smoke that scattered people all around. It was over in a matter of seconds. The crowd at first froze and then began to stampede.”
Eerily, Neena Gopal was to have accompanied Benazir Bhutto on her (wapasi) return from exile to Pakistan in October 2007, which culminated in a failed suicide attempt.
Neena Gopal wrote of that incident in Outlook:
“Seventy-five minutes before Benazir Bhutto’s flight took off from Dubai airport for Karachi, her security advisor Rahman Malik called and said, “Are you packed? Your visa for Pakistan is ready. I didn’t make that flight. But I did get on the next one, landing straight into the bloody reception that most people had predicted was lined up for Benazir.”
Read the full NYT article: Assassination in India
Read the Outlook diary: The castle entered
Photograph: Neena Gopal at a farewell party hosted by the Indian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Talmiz Ahmed, for her and her husband Veenu Gopal, in Dubai, in October 2007.