‘Arun Shourie: a Hindu, right-wing pamphleteer’

There are few more polarising figures in Indian journalism than Arun Shourie.

For many of his professional peers, he is everything a journalist should not be: a wonky-eyed, hired gun of the Hindu right, selectively and deviously using facts to push its ideological and political agendas.

Arrogant, intolerant, abusive, dictatorial, .

For multitudes more, he is the proverbial Sancho Panza, tilting at the windmills of political correctness, shining light on the dark corners of Indian political and business life, with his exposes and editorials.

Saying it like it is, without fear or favour.

In his just released memoirs, Ink in my Veins, the veteran editor Surendra Nihal Singh, who was Shourie’s boss at the Indian Express, dismisses Shourie as a pamphleteer who thought “a newspaper was a stepping stone to politics and political office… and used journalism to achieve his political ambitions.”



My experience with Arun Shourie was not happy.

To begin with, he had got used to doing pretty much what he wanted because S. Mulgaonkar [who Nihal Singh replaced as Express editor at his recommendation] had been ailing for long and usually made only a brief morning appearance to do an edit if he felt like it.

To have to work with a hands-on editor who oversaw the news and editorial sections was an irksome burden for Shourie.

Our objectives collided.

My efforts were directed to making the Express a better paper, while he was basically a pamphleteer who was ideologically close to the Hindu right. Even while he oversaw a string of reporters’ stories, which drew national attention (for which he claimed more credit that was his due), his aim was to spread the message.

Goenka himself could be swayed by Hindu ideology. In one instance, he sent me a draft editorial from Madras full of all the cliches of the Hindu right. One of Goenka’s men in the southern city was S. Gurumurthy, a sympathiser of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a pro-Hindu organisation.

The issue was the mass conversion of Harijans to Islam at Meenakshipuram (in Tamil Nadu) in June 1981. I put two and two together and it added up to Gurumurthy’s handiwork. I threw the editorial into the waste-paper basket. And I did not hear a word about it from Goenka.

Shourie exploited his proximity to Goenka to terrorise the reporters and subeditors. As executive editor, he was the No.2 man in the editorial hierarchy but often assumed the airs of a prima donna. His office being twice as large as the editor’s room and far better furnished always puzzled me.

Shourie believe that rules were made for others, and our clash began when he took umbrage over my cutting his extensive opinion piece to conform to the paper’s style. On one occasion, I had to spike a piece he had written on Indira Gandhi, in language unbecoming of any civilised newspaper.

In an underhand move, he quietly sent it to the magazine section, printed in Bombay, without inviting a censure from Goenka.

To a professional journalist, some of Shourie’s arguments sound decidedly odd. He declared, “When an editor stops a story, I go and give it to another newspaper. I am no karamchari [worker] of anybody’s. Whether I work in your organisation or not, I really look upon myself as a citizen or first as a human being, and then as a citizen, and as nothing else. If I happen to work for Facets [a journal in which his extensive piece appeared as its January-February 1983 issue], I will still behave the same way. If you use my happening to work for you as a device to shut my mouth, I’ll certainly shout, scream, and kick you in the shins.”

Shourie told the same journal that he had no compunction in mixing his editorial and managerial function ‘because the Indian Express is in an absolutely chaotic state. Ther is no management worth the name. Anyone wanting to help it must also help solve the management problems.’

To give him his due, Shourie had many good qualities. He was a hard worker and often did his homework before writing. However, we could never agree on the paper’s outlook because, for him, a newspaper was a stepping stone to politics and political office.

For me the integrity of a newspaper was worth fighting for.

Goenka swayed between these points of view. He used to tell me: ‘Not even five per cent readers look at the editorials.’ He called Frank Moraes, a distinguished former editor of the Indian Express, ‘my race horse’. Shourie he once described to me as a ‘two-horse tonga‘ (horse carriage).

Shourie later distinguished himself in the political field under the banner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); he even Goenkaachieved the position of a cabinet minister. In effect, he successfully employed journalism to achieve his political ambition.


(Editor of The Statesman, The Indian Express and The Indian Post, Surendra Nihal Singh served in Singapore, Islamabad, Moscow, London, New York, Paris and Dubai. He received the International Editor of the Year award in 1978 for his role as editor of The Statesman during the Emergency)

(Excerpted from Ink in my Veins, A life in Journalism, by S. Nihal Singh, Hay House, 308 pages, price Rs 499)

Also read: Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

How Arun Shourie became Express editor

Arun Shourie: The three lessons of failure

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

28 Responses to “‘Arun Shourie: a Hindu, right-wing pamphleteer’”

  1. Yogendra Bhatt Says:

    Between the two, Shourie is the clear winner. So who cares what Nihal thinks about him? The winners always make their own rules and that’s why they win while the losers gripe about ethics, morals and pontificate on the virtues of being principled.

  2. cp Says:

    All I want to say is that S. Nihal Singh’s write-up smells of acute ‘Digvijaysinghness’

  3. Kumar Venkatesh Says:

    I am yet to come across any of Shourie’s detractors being able to point out any factual/historical mendacity in his writings connected to what they call Hindu nationalism. Same is the same with an associate of Shourie, the now deceased Sita Ram Goel. Most people who throw muck at them, like the editors of churmuri, being unable to disprove the veracity of their writings, instead choose to throw innuendos. Ironically, with an air of moral superiority induced by their pompous self-righteousness. Such is the rot.

  4. karihaida Says:

    @Kumar Venkatesh

  5. Objectivsit Mantra Says:

    One of the best books that Arun Shourie has written is The Eminent Historians – (available here- http://www.amazon.com/Eminent-Historians-Their-Technology-Fraud/dp/8172233558.)

    This book showcases everything that has gone wrong with the Indian intellectual movement. We have too many so-called eminent intellectuals, who are nothing more than “sarkari intellectuals” living like parasites on the blood of poor and middle class Indians.

    The only business of these intellectuals is to shed crocodile tears on the plight of poor, berate the majority community and come up with policies that increases poverty and lawlessness in the country.

    These intellectuals are politically connected and they carry certificates from elite leftist organisations in the west, and they take is as their birth right to impose their unworkable and stupid economic and cultural theories on hapless INdians.

    Arun Shourie is often vilified in the media and by cultural organisations because he has dared to stand up against the pseudo-western-intellectuals who have been misruling this country since independence.

    He is one of the greatest journalists, writers and thinkers that India has ever had. I am prepared to stick my neck out and say that two of the best “contemporary” writers in this country are Arun Shourie and V S Naipaul.

  6. NS Rao Says:

    In today’s world, we have seen far more worse cases of people coming into Politics in dubious ways. Take for eg., Sonia Gandhi & her son, Bellary Reddy(s), Kumaranna, Sriramulu, sons / grandsons / daughters of Union Ministers / Politicians (retired / active).

    Compared to all of these, I think Arun Shourie did no crime if he ever did propagate his own theology or ideology. As long as it was not on the other side of ethics, his path of choice doesn’t seem to be illegal to me.

  7. Mysore Peshva Says:

    Nihal Singh’s rant about Shourie seems strategic — it may help sell his book — but there are problems with it. For example:

    1. None of Shourie’s editorials is scrutinized for facts. Perhaps that is too hard for a pussy like Nihal Singh, because Shourie’s pieces tend to be well researched and logical, and they always take on issues that matter deeply to the democracy. Besides, a successful debater should attack the argument, not the speaker. Where is your class, Shri. Singh?

    2. Singh implies that Shourie “successfully employed journalism to achieve his political ambition” and that was somehow insidious. Singh’s claim is not only poorly argued, it is a bit ridiculous. If Singh had his way, it seems there would be no individuals of any distinction in the Rajya Sabha or the Union cabinet.

  8. Doddi Buddi Says:

    NS Rao +1

    Obj Mantra +1

    Dark Lad +1

    Lad Venky +1

  9. Doddi Buddi Says:

    I searched in my mind high and low but I have no recollection of Nihal Singh!

  10. kaangeya Says:

    So Nihal Singh the pompous old twit earned a kick in the shins? I admire Arun Shourie all the more, his bite is as good as his bark. Arun is one of the hardest working journalists I have known and is unsparing of either the careless or incompetent, although he supports the hardworking all the way. His Disinvestment Ministry became one of the least favoured places in the ABV administration, as many a babu found within the first week of Arun’s tenure, a boss who was there earlier than them and would not leave for home until the day’s work was done. Seven years of UPA have brought India close to the disastrous times of Lallu’s Bihar. A few Aruns, Sushmas, and Modis is all India needs to get its act together. The current cabal of Cow and Calf, PC, PM, Diggy etc., can be brought out during diplomatic visits to entertain our guests

  11. Curry Hurry Says:

    @Kumar Venkatesh

  12. Deepak Says:

    Who is Nihal Singh? Who knows his? Who cares for him?

    Arun Shourie is not just well-known, but well-respected. Rants of such has-beens doesn’t count at all.

  13. Shankar Bhat Says:

    Dear Karihaida,

    ‘Most people who throw muck at them, like the editors of churmuri, being unable to disprove the veracity of their writings, instead choose to throw innuendos.’

    Isn’t that what you do many a times at fellow bloggers? So -1 for you?

  14. twistleton Says:

    There is a very fine line dividing opinion and propoganda. It’s not right or wrong, it just is.

    As for Shourie himself, the man is hard to read. A spirited crusader, a rebel, and probably the one individual who comes closest to representing the “difference” in his party, but one who curiously enough, also succumbs to the temptation of painting sterotypes.

  15. clash Says:

    shoori thoori.

  16. Kitapati Says:

    Nihal Singh’s strategy is clear. By attacking Shourie he will get his share of readership from the ’eminent’ circles. All that this guy has done is just rant against shourie.
    Shourie’s prominent contribution is his expose of the cabal of eminent hostorians like romila thapar, irfan habib and their coterie. There has been no clear and analytical rebbutal of Shourie on his expose of these eminent historians, false gods, soul harvesters and fatwa generators. All that we hear is lot of ad hominem attacks – with typical insults like right wing, hindutvawadi, RSS, fascist thrown at him ad nauseam.
    There was one laughable book in Kannada written by Javare Gowda which was supposed to demolish Shourie’s criticism of Ambedkar as an anglophile. All that this book contained was anti RSS and hindutva rants and did not address or answer any of the well researched facts that Shourie had put in his book. Same with Ram Guha all bile and no substance.
    Spit and run seems to be the strategy od eminents.

  17. Dev D Says:

    The first line says all. The problem with Shourie was this, so says his ex boss Nihal Singh:

    “To begin with, he had got used to doing pretty much what he wanted because”

    Shourie had a mind of his own and did not care much for his boss Nihal singh. Mr Singh was expecting a sychophant as his subordinate. He is pissed off with all the popularity that shourie had because of his acheviement and nobody know who is Nihal Singh.

  18. mounaprasad Says:

    I would love to read something like this about that N Ram or Vinod Dua…who represent the other extreme of the political spectrum…but I know it is only wishful thinking on my part and is never going to happen. All these people who rant and rave about shourie cannot produce a shred a evidence to disprove his arguments and hence resort to name calling and branding him the right winger…but as the saying goes…dogs bark when the elephant walks….

  19. kaangeya Says:

    Shourie’s critique of Ambedkar remains unanswered all these years. Even the latest “eminent “historian”” Ram Guha has not found the spunk to write a rejoinder. Shourie also makes it very clear that his criticism of Ambedkar rests on different grounds, and has not in any way diminished the regard and admiration he has for Ambedkar as a jurist, humanist, scholar and nationalist. How many can do that? It takes a scholar like Shourie to do that. Shourie’s weapons are his intellect with which he marshals fact, evidence, and then builds a theory of a ship that makes us see things for what they really are. Even the worst critics are left sputtering in frustration. Bigots like VT Rajashekar can’t do anything but arrange to have Shourie assaulted!
    Nihal Singh isn’t in the same league, being an Lutyens Delhi establishment chamcha. He should just shut up and puff away at his pipe. He’s a washed out irrelevance

  20. Pagan Says:

    OK mister Nihal Singh and Churumuri. Arun Shourie is a right wing fascist. Now answer the questions raised by him in books and articles or come up with counter points based on facts.

    Thank you.

  21. K.Balasubrahmanyan Says:

    a bit unjust as Arun is my favourite,.razor sharp, factually indisputable and cares not much for the detractors and stuck to his point.Mr Nihal singh perhaps did not know how to handle him I think or was Mr Singh inadequate? Editors need not always be right. Bala

  22. Tejas Says:

    Churumuri must rather accept few simple facts/personalities as they are. Concentrate on the monumental corruption by the central govt than posting such rants.

  23. Praveen Says:

    Ahhhh….Now I know Nihal Singh. Have not heard this name earlier….

    Might have been gathering dust in a closet all these years

    He wants to make his post retirement career by pulling the leg of his colleague. Another Crab at Work Place.

  24. twistleton Says:

    To get an answer to Shourie’s critique on Ambedkar, i humbly suggest the worthies above to read Ambedkar himself.

    Being factually correct and being intellectually honest are two entirely different things. Shourie’s cleverness lies in the art of selective and customised reporting. What he says can be proved correct, but what he doesn’t say matters so much more.

  25. Ninad Says:

    @Kumar Venkatesh

  26. akshar100 Says:


    There is a flaw in your argument. If something can be proved correct it is correct , then what is not said was not really required. Almost certainly it does not amount to any kind intellectual dishonesty.

    For example whenever I cite Shourie’s work about Missionaries, libtards say that he doesn’t acknowledge their good work in education and health across the country. (In fact in his book he does acknowledge that). What they fail to understand is that those extra thoughts are irrelevant to the point under discussion.

    In that entire fat book about Ambedkar, Shourie’s argument was that Ambedkar was a strong supporter of Birtish rule. Now which additional fact can anyone bring in light which will prove that assertion wrong ?

  27. Kirikiri Says:


    By your own logic..

    …In this entire article about Shourie, Singh’s argument was that Shourie was a strong supporter of Hindu Right wing politics. Now which additional fact can anyone bring in light which will prove that assertion wrong ?

    So what’s this whole brouhaha in this message board about? Very few people in their right sense would dispute Shourie’s genius as a journalist.

    But it is equally futile to deny or disprove where his sympathies and strong support lie. Pretty much every one knows he is a right wing poster boy.

  28. twistleton Says:


    Shorie skilfully presents evidence and cites Ambedkar extensively to “prove” his lack of patriotic fervour, stopping short of calling him a traitor, which inference his readers are led to make.

    The irony is Ambedkar never had any pretensions to the role of a nationalist. He was, shortly after its beginning, the independence movement’s sternest critic. He believed that independence would bring little difference to the downtrodden, and was so embittered by his own personal experiences of discrimination that he denounced the movement altogether.

    Does Shourie care to explain why Ambedkar didn’t care who ruled India? Or does he fall back on the classic Right-wing textbook manouvre of justifying and/or extenuating the caste-system?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: