LAHORE: Aged 95, Kuldip Nayar passed away as frail old men often do. A chill is followed by pneumonia that attacks the weakened lungs and there is nothing much that doctors can really do. Age takes its toll on the human body, and at 95, Nayar had reached a grand old age.
While his lungs may have been weak as any old geezer’s, his mind was still sharper than men and women thrice younger than his age.
At 95, the syndicated columnist’s articles were still appearing in a number of Pakistani newspapers. Across the border, his was a voice of reason that even the harshest of critics would at least stop to listen.
In his tributes to Nayar, the Indian president described him as an ‘intellectual giant’ and a “champion of democracy.” Prime Minister (PM) Modi called him ‘frank and fearless’.
In his storied life, the man wore many hats and wore them all with distinction. As a human rights activist, diplomat, and parliamentarian he remained dedicated and precise. As a left-wing commentator and public intellectual, he was a figure many across the globe often turned to not necessarily for clarity, but for moral stances.
For all the criticism he received in India for his supposed ‘anti-India’ stances and his pro-Pakistan leanings, his writings and opinions were always directed by a firm sense of right and wrong rather than any agendas that many might want to pin on him.
His commitment to peace was second only to his dedication to taking stands that would be judged favourably by history.
Where he called out India for its atrocities, he was an equally strong voice against Pakistan’s continued refusal to repent for the atrocities committed in East Pakistan during the 1971 war.
But for all the roles he played in life, they were perhaps second to his role as a journalist.
Born in Sialkot in 1923, his career took him through the drudgery of press reporting and the hardship of editorship in multiple languages and cities. It was also as a journalist that Nayar first made a name for himself as a man with the requisite grit to back his words. It was during the Indian Emergency in the 70’s that he became a vehement opponent of press censorship and a symbol of press freedom not just in India but in the entire region.
In today’s brave new world, Nayar’s will perhaps be a lasting legacy. And in the age of made up truths and fake news, it is a legacy that he would be proud of.