Standing the check of time

Manmohan Singh
former Prime Minister

Today marks 140 years of existence of one of India’s most celebrated news dailies, The Tribune. It has, without an ounce of doubt, evolved and emerged during this course of time as the daily staple, as indeed a record-keeping sentinel of the northern states and UTs, as also of the nation itself. I am happy to say that it is ‘my Morning Paper’ — has been for the longest time, and will continue to be.

This great journal’s journey through 140 years is a journey of India — our evolution as an independent sovereign country and thereafter nation-building. It is a remarkable testimony to the vision of its founder Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia. Imbued with liberal values and committed to fight obscurantism and superstition, Sardar Majithia wanted a means of reforming society. He was an enlightened and visionary patriot who believed that the salvation of the country lay in imparting all-round, systematic and modern education. To fulfil his great purpose, he allocated a substantial part of his assets for establishing three trusts, each responsible for setting up an institution that would endure the test of time. Thus, an English newspaper, a public library and a college came into existence. Of these, The Tribune, founded in February 1881, has proven to be the most popular and by far the most influential.

The Tribune began its fascinating journey from Lahore in February 1881.

At its very inception, the pioneers who launched The Tribune had put out a statement of their objectives in words that stand true even today. The statement titled ‘About Ourselves’, audaciously declared, “The projectors and conductors of The Tribune have no pet theories to maintain, nor any personal interests to serve through the medium of this journal. No considerations of pecuniary gain have incited them to this enterprise. They profess simply to act for the public weal, and they are conscious that the public weal is more advanced by charity and moderation than by rancour and harsh words.” The Tribune hoped “to advocate the cause of the mute masses fairly and temperately.” It wanted to represent public opinion and to create and educate such opinion. It steered itself clear of any particular class, creed or party line and championed the cause of the people and resolved to speak against class interests in case they clashed with the welfare of the masses. It thus stood for the people and made journalism an instrument of service to the people.

Its coverage connected the masses to the national/international events as they unfolded. As it went along, crossing one milestone after another, The Tribune reported the ups and downs of India’s freedom struggle, what India went through under the British Raj, two World Wars, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the passing of the Independence Resolution on the banks of the Ravi river in Lahore, from where The Tribune was then published, Partition of the country, the birth of a free India, the adoption of the Constitution and the evolution of Parliament, an independent judiciary, the freedom of the Press and much more. The Tribune has been witness to and an impartial informant of India’s epoch-making journey. It can further be stated that The Tribune played a significant role in spreading the doctrine of Indian nationalism and bringing about unity in a society that was afflicted by differences on questions of religion, caste, language and region.

I have been a daily reader of The Tribune, and I feel that it is one of the few papers that publish news and views without any bias or prejudice. Restraint and temperance, rather than partisanship, are the hallmarks of this institution. It has followed an independent policy and has tried steadfastly to promote a liberal and secular outlook among its readers, in accordance with the wishes of its founder.

There have been innumerable instances wherein I have interacted with The Tribune and have shared my opinions on various topics, as have been a recipient of good word and harsh criticism by them. When my name was suggested by Sonia ji for Prime Ministership, The Tribune, on May 20, 2004, had carried a special editorial titled ‘The nation is in safe hands’. It said: “Despite all its shortcomings, the nation has the wisdom and resilience to throw up a Prime Minister who can be trusted to provide the kind of leadership it needs at this time… After some dilly-dallying, the country has found the man who can understand the pain of the poor, the loneliest and the lost and at the same time pursue the vision to build a strong economy meant for the twenty-first century India.” Less than a month later, on June 12, 2004, under the headline, ‘Criminals in the House: The danger is collective, so is the solution’, The Tribune wrote: “Whatever the political compulsions, Dr Manmohan Singh and the Congress Party should not have agreed to share power with the kind of members who have no business to be in Parliament and least of all in the government.”

I have always maintained that credibility is currency when it comes to media/journalism and this fine paper with its vintage and heritage has stood the test of time and maintained its credibility with the masses for 140 long years of selfless service to a very large extent. As I pen these thoughts, I am reminded of William Shakespeare’s saying, “Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.” I congratulate the Editor, the journalists, the entire staff and management of The Tribune on achieving this huge milestone. And I exhort them to keep doing what they have been so wonderfully doing for the past 140 years, with joy!

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