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Six of The Hindu directors want Monday’s resolutions recalled


October 25, 2013 Section: News Category: Media Publishing

Controversies are far from over for the company.

The recent change of guard at The Hindu group of publications, wherein the family members have returned to the helm of daily operations, is likely to get into more controversy.
Six of the 12 board members who’d opposed the move – it went through with the chairman’s casting vote – are now demanding the board recall and cancel the resolutions passed in Monday’s meeting.
In a letter dated October 23, whose subject line is ‘Illegalities at the meeting of the Board on October 21’, the dissenting members have said all actions by the chairman (N Ram) during the meeting were “clearly arbitrary and illegal”. Asking for a reply in three days, the letter said, “We reserve our right to initiate suitable action if the above reasonable requests are not met.”
When asked, N Ram, chairman, and N Murali, co-chairman of Kasturi & Sons Ltd (KSL), the holding company, said: “This is nothing new and nothing to be concerned about.”
The six directors opposed to the Ram-Murali decision are K Balaji, K Venugopal, Ramesh Rangarajan, Lakshmi Srinath, Vijaya Arun and Akila V Iyengar. Their four-page letter says, “The impugned resolution of October 21 be forthwith recalled and cancelled.” The letter has been sent to the other members – N Ram, N Murali, N Ravi, Nalini Krishnan, Nirmala Lakshman and Malini Parthasarathy.
On Monday, after the KSL board meeting, Ram announced it had decided to appoint him as chairman, N Murali as co-chairman, N Ravi would be Editor-in-Chief and Malini Parthasarathy the Editor of The Hindu.
The dissenters have said the way the board meeting was conducted was illegal. “The draft resolution is ex-facie illegal and untenable as roles have been unilaterally decided and assumed by each of you above named and some roles have been allocated unilaterally to the undersigned,” the letter said.
Also, “It appears the decision to use a casting vote and ensure illegal passage of the resolution seemed to have been taken before the meeting commenced and you had decided to ignore the view of the rest of the board.” The letter says the casting vote was used by Ram to place himself and his family members in positions of absolute power. “All of these actions are clearly arbitrary and illegal.”
They alleged the entire proceedings were conducted in an arbitrary, high-handed and unilateral manner. “The holding and the manner of conducting this meeting is also in gross violation of the provisions of the Companies Act.”
The dissenting six have also said due process were not followed in confronting the editor and chief executive officer (removed as a result of Monday’s meeting) “on various vague and baseless allegations and accusations, to which the undersigned raised their protest during the meeting”.
The dissenting members have also alleged that the draft resolution was prepared before the Monday meeting and not circulated to all members.
Of the removal of the editor and CEO, Ram had later spoken of “…recurrent violation of the code of editorial values of the Hindu and recurrent violations on the business side”, for the action against Siddharth Varadarajan (editor) and Arun Anant (CEO). The dissenters have said the removal of these professionals was arbitrary and legally indefensible.
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The Hindu: From Dynasty To Plain Nasty

English: Editor in chief of The Hindu

English: Editor in chief of The Hindu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Satya Sagar

The shocking spectacle of Siddharth Varadarajan, the Editor of The Hindu, being forced out of his post by a cabal of its owners is a brutal reminder to journalists all over the country that however fine a professional you may be you will always remain at the mercy of media proprietors.

Just around two years ago when N. Ram, the then Editor of The Hindu, passed on the mantle to Varadarajan, a highly respected and independent journalist, he had touted the move as a radical shift away from being a family run outfit to one headed by professionals.

Ram’s motives were neither clear nor very noble, engaged as he was in a bitter struggle with his siblings over control of the newspaper. Still, for the newspaper to move away from its long tradition of tight family control was a welcome, positive departure in a land where dynasties run everything from politics and religion to cricket and cinema.

Unfortunately, this flowering of corporate democracy was not to last too long. Ultimately the family managed to strike back with a vengeance, ganging up in a Board of Director’s meeting to demote Siddharth from the post of Editor to ‘Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist’ prompting his immediate resignation.

In a statement published in The Hindu, Ram justified the move as being due to ‘recurrent violations and defiance” of both the institution’s business and editorial values, without explaining what this really meant. It was also not clear at all whether Siddharth was ever given a chance to defend himself before the Board acted against him.

The key vote against Siddharth at the meeting incidentally came from N.Ram himself, for whom his former protégé’s independence may have been a bit too much to bear. Ram’s own tenure for years as Editor of The Hindu had seen the newspaper go from being a conservative but balanced newspaper to one full of glaring biases.

The Hindu’s whitewash under N.Ram, of the atrocities of the CPM government in Nandigram or the Mahinda Rajapakse regime’s genocide of Sri Lankan Tamils in Mullaivaikal, will forever go down as among the sorriest episodes in journalism anywhere. Ram’s refusal to give even a millimeter of space to anything that went against his political or business prejudices bordered on the maniacal, though one truly unsavory characters to get regular and ample coverage then was Subramaniam Swamy– with whom he apparently shared a common ‘love’ for China.

In sharp contrast Siddharth brought refreshing change to The Hindu, with some of the finest editorials on a wide range of themes to be ever written anywhere in recent times appearing on its pages in the last two years. Very courageously, he also opened it up to varying viewpoints and people – from Dalit intellectuals to anti-nuclear activists- who normally never get a say in much of the Indian media.

Thanks to Siddharth, for the first time ever, the ‘Mahavishnu of Mount Road’ got off His pedestal and became accessible to ordinary mortals. Under professional leadership The Hindu actually became what it has always pretended to be earlier – but never was – engaging, democratic and progressive.

Within The Hindu today there are stories doing the rounds that the Board’s action was a ‘pre-emptive one’ and motivated by a case filed by Ram’s friend Swamy challenging Siddharth’s eligibilty to be editor of an Indian newspaper as he was a ‘foreigner’. Siddharth is supposed to be a US citizen but this was obviously known when he was appointed and besides, in a country run by people with Indian passports and hearts in Washington, does it really matter?

Another story being spread is that The Hindu in the last couple of years took too hard a line against Narendra Modi and there was no distinction between ‘editorial’ and ‘news’ anymore. The Hindu’s coverage of anti-nuclear protests, particularly the Koodankulam issue in southern Tamil Nadu, is also supposed to have spelt his doom.

N Power, N Modi or N Ram- we will never know which one of them was really the cause of Siddharth’s ouster. The fact however remains what The Hindu has done to its former Editor is the public humiliation of a professional that should not just be condemned but challenged by journalists everywhere.

To let it go unchallenged would spell the end of the slenderest possibility that remains of the Indian media being an instrument of telling any truths and offering space to anyone of courage and integrity. The petty assertion of dynastical privileges in The Hindu goes to the heart of everyting that is wrong with Indian democracy today and should be resolutely resisted by all who value its survival.

Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health worker based in Santiniketan, West Bengal. He can be reached at [email protected]

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