Author: K Hari Warrier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 27, 1997
How should the editor of a weekly being published by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh look? It is not difficult to have preconceived notions going into such an interview, looking for a broad-shouldered, moustachioed giant, maybe with an inclination for paan, and definitely clad in dhoti-kurta - an ideal shakha figurehead. Having equipped myself with this Atlas kind of image in my mind, I diffidently walk in to meet Tarun Vijay, editor of Panchajanya. And the house of cards come tumbling down. This editor is a short, slim, bespectacled, mild-mannered Professor Calculus kind of person who seems to be even more diffident than oneself about this meeting.
No sign of paan, and the accoutrement is kurta-pyjama. Tarun Vijay, 36, has been at the helm of Panchajanya since 1989. He joined the magazine in 1986 as executive editor, after nearly a decade of freelance ' journalism and work among tribals in Dadra and Nagar Haveli as a pracharak of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. This last-mentioned sojourn, in fact, had attracted him the attention of noted film-makers Basu Bhattacharya and William Greaves, the latter from the USA, who featured him in a documentary.
What hits the eye upon entering Vijay's small room is a brand new multi-media computer centre taking up all of one corner. Vijay follows my eye, and grins: "Abhi liya hai, just last month it was inaugurated by one of the Sangh officials. But it is mine, and I am paying nearly half my salary on the installments with 18 per cent interest!" The computer is only one item to attract attention. There is a huge photograph of what appears to be a lake in the Himalayas. Mansarovar? Yes, the man has been to Mansarovar Lake in Tibet, and has written a book on the visit - in Hindi, which makes it an absolute rarity.
The photographs are his own, and mighty impressive, witness the enlargement on the wall. It does not take him much to set him off on his travels, and he calls his secretary for a copy of the book. I hastily interpose that I will obtain a copy from the market - but apparently, the thing is so popular that the edition is sold out! Vijay's penchant for travel is obvious. In the years as editor of Panchajanya, he has visited various parts of the country - and various countries.
In fact, he is just back from a month-long tour of Europe: Holland, Germany, Denmark and England. The tour, sponsored by Sangh workers abroad, was a huge success, he says, as we are interrupted by a telephone call from Germany: one of his sponsors tells him of a story in German press about his visit, and promises to send a translated copy soon. The computer, these visits, what do they do for Panchajanya? Does it explain the huge success that the magazine has been enjoying of late?
"The computer is personal, all journalistic work is done manually. As for the success, you see, what I did was to change the basic approach. I have tried to make the magazine more broad-based. Before I took over, all it had "s hard-core party news, not even reportage or analyses of what other parties say and think.
I have tried to give a balanced picture. Of course, the thrust is on the RSS and BJP angle, but we carry interviews with leaders of other parties - even Muslim leaders, because our readers are interested in their views." This "unprejudiced reportage" has, as a matter of fact, fetched results. In 1995, the Audit Bureau of Circulation credited the magazine with a circulation of 85,000, a figure which Vijay claims has crossed the 1 lakh mark today. No political party even pretends to claim these kind of figures - but then, theirs are serious party organs with serious articles about what their leaders think and say. But why should that detract from the product, Vijay asks. "And despite our Sangh background, I can confidently say that no leader - Congress, JD, Muslim - will today deny us an interview, because they know that we will print their words without any interpolation. If we wish to give our own views, we do that in other articles carried alongside. The traveller's itch is still troubling him, no matter if he has just returned from a trip. That was official. He wishes he could pack his bags and go off into the mountains. "That is the problem. Yeh jegah nahin chhodti, there is no end to work..." An all too familiar plaint. He promises to call me should he decide to set out for Mansarovar again. And I take leave, carrying with me the impression of a very likeable man - were he not the representative, albeit a moderate one, of a very extreme school of thought. A moderate extremist.