Comrade Surendra Kumar (1924-2015)
Comrade Surendra Kumar passed away on 8th June 2015, ending nine decades of selfless, dedicated life of a revolutionary. With his death, the country also lost one of the last surviving British Naval Mutiny rebels, who went to plough a lone furrow in the increasingly complex world of Indian media. He will be remembered by world media as the last correspondent of Indian news agency UNI to the Soviet Union, who broke many an international exclusives from the “iron curtain” of Soviets and Soviets always indulged him to do more such exclusives. Surendra Kumar was the first to report the death of Soviet General Secretary Comrade Konstantin Cherenkov, even before the official announcement, surprising the world. Reason, he was an insider, a comrade at heart and conducted himself with at most integrity as a person and a professional. His son Dr Pradeep Kumar, who studied medicine during those days at Moscow University says, Soviets consulted him even on appointment of diplomats to India during those days. India was a prime and safe posting for Soviet diplomats that period of “cold war”. He worked as an Editor translator with Press Publishing house at Moscow for almost 15 years and also as UNI correspondent, developing deep insights to the working of Soviet system and Indo-Soviet relations.
Comrade Kumar was born in Ambala 1924, though his family was from the foothills of Himalayas. He grew up in Mussooori, Kotdwara and Nathupura. He was deeply influenced by “Bhawani Singh Rawat”, an associate of Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. His anti-British activities at Mussoori gave not only his school teachers, but his entire family a hard time, as he was part of the campaign of “Quit India” and local anti-imperialist activities during the Second World War. To escape the pressure from family and school and local police, he joined the British Royal Navy, only to find himself as one of the leaders of the raising anti-British feelings inside the navy. He was arrested and imprisoned at Vishakhapatanam, for capturing the town for 24 hours as part of the Naval mutiny in 1946. He was charged with treason and mutiny, and was to face firing squads, but for the impending change in political situation. Soon after the country got independence, Surendra Kumar entered journalism, as he wanted to continue his campaign against anti-imperialist forces. He was deeply influenced by the likes of PC Joshi, the then CPI leader. From 1946 for a decade he worked with Milap, Vishwamitra, Pratap and Netaji. In 1956, he shifted to Kotdwar and published a journal “Awaz”. In 1959, he came to New Delhi and joined Novosti News Agency, with Soviet Information Service. He later worked with Samachar Bharati and “Mukyadhara “the Hindi version of Nikhil Chakravarthy’s journal, Mainstream till he shifted to Moscow in 1973.
In Moscow, he worked as Hindi Editor at Progress publishers and wrote extensively for Indian journals. In 1979 for a decade, he reported for UNI, the Indian news agency on the complex political realities, which led to the fall of Soviet Union. He was respected in Moscow and in India for his balanced reporting. He also had strong literary bend of mind and had poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and writer Mohan Rakesh as his good friends.
Unlike many others, he returned with a heavy heart to India to settle in Delhi in 1989, before the fall of Soviet Union. He also reported on happening in Moscow, scanning the Moscow papers, with the help of Russians for UNI, giving fresh perspective to the unfolding events. He remains a comrade all his life with his simple and idealistic life, supporting many a liberal little journals in Hindi with his contributions. He is survived by his only son and two daughters.