Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tributes to my friend, Azad Chisti

  • He came to my rescue when I was hurt during  Hyderabad riots

It was November 1979, Hyderabad. Communal riots began in old city. Then I was working as in-charge chief sub-editor and reporter with ‘Samachara Bharati,’ a news agency. Our boss was Adiraju Venkateswara Rao, a dynamic journalist. I left my place at 7 am for Chandrayana gutta. My uncle Yadagiri Acharyulu, a doctor from Kandukuru, was  with me. He was in his dhoti, kurta and a tuft to be easily recognized as a Vaishnavite.

Both of us were traveling by auto. We passed through Charminar, Lal Darwaja and were approaching  Sayed Ali Chabutra when some Muslims dragged my uncle from auto and were about to beat him. I tried to stop them. I was dragged out of the auto. They did not have knives. Had they had knives we would have been killed there and then. About 25 persons attacked me. An umbrella was snatched from my uncle and used as a stick to beat me.

My shirt and banyan were torn into pieces. There was blood all over the body.  My head was full of blood from wounds. It had swollen all around. No one could have recognized me at that time with the shirt and banyan in shreds.  I cannot recall how I escaped from that gand. They did not leave me. I somehow got out of their control and was running towards Charminar away from the marauders. There was not a single vehicle on the road. Though I was injured, no policeman took pity on me and allowed into his vehicle. Shouting at me “Curfew hai, Jaanta Nahi Hai Kyaa. Chalo, Bhago,” the policemen were using their lathis. I was surprised. I had no other go but to walk the distance. It was difficult to walk with wounds all over the body. At last, I reached Charminar.

Police or any one did not take notice of me. Nobody heard me. No policeman came forward to take me to hospital in a jeep. Then I saw Azad Chisti. He did not recognize me. He came forward to help me even though he thought I was a stranger. When I told my name, he recognized me. He said, “Are, Sridhar. What happened? Have they beaten you too?” He tried to put me in a police jeep. But no one cooperated with him. He scolded the policemen and brought forth his Bajaj Chetak. He took me on the pillion to Osmania Hospital, He organized doctor, got me bandaged and medicines were given. Then he dropped me on his scooter at my office in Basheer Bagh. Some friends who were not aware of my ordeal were laughing at me. Others who knew sympathized with me. Luckily, my uncle was not hurt in the incident.

Adiraju was very kind to me. He took him to his residence which was behind our office. His wife and children took care of me. Adiraju had given a strong message to Chief Minister Chenna Reddy asking, “Is you government still there or had it fallen?” Then he released a new item about the attack on me. It was published by all the English newspapers. I could not open my eyes till evening. I went to Warangal, my native place,  late in the evening. My parents were not aware of the attack until they saw me. They did not recognize me at first. Azad and Adiraju were journalists with human touch. Had Azad not recognized me that day, I don’t know what would have happened to me.

I can never forget Azad. I narrated this incident when I was asked once to speak on Constitution and religious harmony.

When I went to Delhi as Information Commissioner, he interviewed me twice in Hyderabad. He praised, appreciated and congratulated me. Azad had love and affection for fellow journalists. His helping nature is extraordinary.

It is very painful to know that Azad Chisti left us all of a sudden. I could not meet him due to Corona. I did not know he was unwell. I cannot believe that he is no more. My tearful tributes to my great friend, Azad. Thank you, Azad. I can never forget you.

Satyamurthy says how grateful he is to  Azad

More than 380 persons liked this tribute I posted in my face book.  I liked the tributes paid by two journalist friends. Satyamurthy has written as follows:

“Azad Chisti. I cannot but thank this senior journalist. After I left Surya as founder-editor of the paper, I launched a newspaper with the title “Jana Vaahiniloo Needu.” Empanelment by the State Information Department is a must for a new newspaper to get accreditations or government advertisements. The rule says the newspaper has to be continuously published for not less than 18 months. Only then one can make an application. Only after checking all the details the department may empanel the paper. They may not even do it. after all. I thought about it. I am a journalist for twenty years. Even an experienced journalist like me should follow this regulation? If a technocrat starts an industry he would be getting some exemptions. Then cannot they relax the condition of 18 months of publication in case a senior journalist launches a newspaper? Putting the same question in writing,  I have submitted my application to the government. My papers were thrown into wastepaper basket. I got my application signed by the then information minister, Ram Narayana Reddy, and resubmitted. Yet, the then Information Commissioner, Parthasarathi, did not approve. File was returned. I have taken my problem to Principal Secretary R M Gonela. He could not do anything about it. I met Gonela after some days. He said he had already said he cannot do anything about it. At that time, Azad came out of Gonela’s washroom adjusting his tuck. “Hai, Satyamurthy, what brought you here,” he greeted loudly. “You know, Gonela, Satyamurthy and I reported together. Satyamurthy was with Eenadu at that time,” he told the principal secretary.  Azad and I talked about our exploits in reporting NTR to Dr. M. Channa Reddy.  Actually, Gonela was briefed by Azad about our work. Gonela’s impression about me had changed. “You must help him,” said Azad in an authoritarian tone. Gonela called Parthasarathi on phone. The secretary said it is not possible. Gonela looked at me with a question mark. “Sir if I default in bringing out the newspaper regularly for 18 months  period he has authority to annul my empanelment. Why is he hesitating to give the exemption I am requesting for, I don’t understand,” I said. Gonela   had conveyed same thing to the commissioner. The Commissioner asked Gonela to issue a GO immediately.  Thus, ‘Jana Vaahiniloo Needu’ has got the exemption from 18 months rule. Till then, this kind of exemption was given only to ‘Andhra Jyothy ‘ when it was re-launched 9IN 2002) and Surya when it was started. Azad’s help in making it possible is unforgettable. The respect Azad had for me and his  good heartedness and helping nature helped me in getting  over the rule of 18 months continuous publication for a newspaper to be started by an experienced journalist. How can I remain without thanking Azad Chisti? My tributes to Azad Chisti who used to call any IAS officer by name.

Somasekhar’s tributes

Somasekhar, who recently retired as senior editor of The Hindu Businessline has the following memories of Azad to share:

“During the 1980’s at political press conference his was the most vibrant presence.  He was the Journalist, who sat closest to Chief Ministers, Union Ministers who came from New Delhi and invariably jumped at asking the first question sometimes.

“Stout, bearded and short with a booming voice, Azad Chisti was familiar to CMs, especially NT Rama Rao, Channa Reddy, NJR, Chandrababu etc more than their own IAS officers, was the popular refrain. He used to dress in formals, suited, booted sometimes and stand out among the Journalists.

“I vividly remember, Azad Chisti, walking up to President Zail Singh, doing Adab and engaging him in Urdu at the Raj Bhavan. An impressed President, gave him a hug and also agreed to the request to recite some Urdu couplets. This was in June 1987.

“Azad Chisti was always the busy kind, jovial and dynamic. The Secretariat beat was his favourite and he would lead a troupe of Journalists straight into Ministers rooms and address them by name and get into an impromptu press conference.

“He traversed the news agency, newspaper roles and finally ended up as a Chief of Hitech TV over a period of 40 plus years. Azad was active in the politics of Journalists too, being a member of the Unions. His reach extended to the national capital too and I recollect him to be close to Rajendra Prabhu, ex-Hindustan Times and President of the National Union of Journalists ( NUJ) and representing it for sometime in Hyderabad.

“Though, I am not very conversant with his writings, his presence in important events and meets is unforgettable. Be it at the Begumpet Airport in 1984, when Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi came for the first time in that role or calling out Chief Ministers by their name in decent Urdu, Azad Chisti was everywhere.

“An important trait that Azad demonstrated as a Journalist was his ability to make his way to anyplace or any top leader with his proactive behaviour and talk, despite representing small publications or agencies. Sometimes, I used to find it difficult being from PTI as some fellow Journalists from leading publications too.

“One example of his pushy nature I experienced at the New Delhi Railway Station one summer in the mid 1990’s. I and a friend were travelling to Hyderabad and did not have a confirmed reservation. We were desperately trying to reach some Railway official for help, but not able to. Suddenly, I saw our man Chistisaab walking up. Kya Bhat hai Somu, Hyderabad challenge Rahe kya, he enquired.

“I said yes, but not able to get ticket confirmed to our surprise. He swung into action immediately. Took me to the Manager and within minutes got it done. He himself had done it a few minutes before as well. His use of ‘political reach, Journalistic duty, persuasive talk’, did the trick.

“Though, I have not met him for years. FB connected us both. Chisti Saab would always have a word of praise for me and also add a few points whenever I wrote on Hyderabadi’s, veteran Journalists, Press Club activities etc.

“Goodbye Azad Chisti, free from the world, but be happy wherever you reach. Condolences to the family.”

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is former Central Information Commissioner and Professor of Law at Bennett University

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