Veteran journalist Darryl D’Monte, who passed away on Saturday, was an inspiration to young journalists and a credit to his profession
Darryl D’Monte did stuff other editors didn’t. When the fiery Dalit Panther movement erupted on Mumbai’s political and literary scene in the early 70s, it was hailed only by a small group of Leftists. But Darryl, as editor of the Sunday Review, the magazine section of the Times of India, brought out a special issue on Dalit Panther literature. This was writing that had shocked many intellectuals by its rage and its profanity. That issue of the Sunday Review became a collector’s item.
Then, as now, the pages of the Times of India, specially the widelyread Sunday magazine, constituted prime editorial space. But Darryl was an editor generous with space for issues that others avoided. As resident editor of The Indian Express, he himself travelled to the badlands of Dhanbad to meet tribal leader Shibu Soren and Marxist trade unionist A K Roy. Their newly formed Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had started making waves with its assertion of tribal rights and challenge to the mining mafia. It was a long trip fraught with danger, because that was territory ruled by ruthless mining don and later Janata Party MLA Suryadeo Singh.
Journalist Feroze Ashraf, who hails from the area, and who arranged the trip with fellow journalist Anand Mohan Sahay, remembers Darryl and the others with him sleeping in Adivasi huts and going to answer nature’s call in the forest. Darryl’s stories from Dhanbad appeared as Page 1 anchors, bringing to Mumbai’s readers a violent world we were unaware of.
During the 1992-93 riots, Darryl was resident editor of the Times of India. It was a tribute to his balanced
editorship that the Shiv Sena and the RSS nicknamed his paper “The Times of Pakistan”.
Darryl wrote about the environment before it became a popular cause. His passionate writings against a proposed dam that would have destroyed Kerala’s Silent Valley, and the thermal power plant at Dahanu
(which finally did come up), were an education for us. He was among the first to write against the Nhava Sheva trans-harbour link.
I owe much to Darryl. Even today, freelancers are not welcome on a newspaper’s news pages; that space is reserved for staff reporters. But I was barely a few years into reporting when Darryl gave me assignments for his news pages. Most of these were unusual topics. I particularly remember one: the shortage of space in Mumbai’s cemeteries. As usual, he had summoned me to his Indian Express office early in the morning. He was one of those rare editors who reached office much before his staff did. I remember looking bewildered when he mentioned this topic. But he insisted I must do it.
Years later, I was similarly beset by doubts when, as resident editor of the Times, he asked me to analyse the charge sheet filed in the crucial Radhabai Chawl case. But I told myself, if Darryl thinks I can, I better do it.
Both assignments proved invaluable for me. I still vividly remember tramping all over dusty cemeteries in Sewri and Reay Road, areas I had only heard about till then. As for the Radhabai Chawl charge sheet, it didn’t just help me grasp police language, but was also one of my earliest lessons on how a false case can be built. The burning to death of six Hindus in the January 1993 riots was touted by the police and the Shiv Sena as the reason for the “Hindu backlash” that followed. One would have expected the police to build a watertight case. But not only was the charge sheet full of contradictions, it also went against what the victims and their relatives had told me about the perpetrators of the incident, a report which Darryl had carried in the Times. Not surprisingly, the Mumbai police came in for sharp criticism in the Supreme Court judgment acquitting all the accused.
Darryl was one of my gurus in journalism. But he was no intimidating figure. Warm and welcoming, he never let you feel that you were not an equal. To a rookie, that meant the world.
Courtesy: By Jyoti Punwani / Mumbai MirrM
Friends, colleagues remember senior journalist Darryl D’Monte
A prominent advocate of the advanced locality management, he passed away in Lilavati Hospital
Darryl D’Monte, senior journalist, columnist, and environment crusader, passed away in Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital on Saturday. He had been treated for cancer, and was in remission. On Saturday evening, he developed breathing problems and was admitted to hospital. He passed away a few hours later. He was 76.
D’Monte was editor of The Times of India’s Sunday
A prominent advocate of the advanced locality management (ALM) movement, which involved citizens in the care of their neighbourhoods, he was the president of the Bandra West Residents Association. He was also a trustee of the Mumbai Waterfronts Centre, a member of Apna Mumbai Abhiyan, chair of the Celebrate Bandra Trust, and a former convener of the Celebrate Bandra festival. D’Monte also devoted himself to environmental issues, and networking environmental journalists in India and the world. He was chair of the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India, and founder-president of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists.
Zarine D’Monte, wife of Darryl D’Monte, during the funeral on Sunday.
Friends, colleagues and associates paid tribute to him on social media.