Vaddarse Raghurama Shetty : Remembering a Fearless Journo

Aug 9, 2010

That media is the watchdog of democracy is well known. A look at the evolution of the media the world over and in our own country proves beyond doubt that many burning, political, social, religious, educational and national issues call for concentration of journalism so as to shape the destiny of a society and bring about social change.    Our country has been fortunate to have quite a few fearless, forthright, intrepid and committed journalists who performed this role with utmost fervor and with a sense of purpose to make that vital difference to our democratic set up.

Kannada Journalism is replete with examples of journalists who have left a mark in their profession and in public mind due to their exemplary contribution in the field by their powerful writings, forthright views, courage and conviction even in the face of adversity.   Late Vaddarse Raghurama Shetty, who ruled Kannada journalism for nearly four decades from the 1960’s,  belongs to that rare breed of distinguished and enlightened journalists who made a difference to their   profession by their  fearless writings on a variety of subjects that had a bearing on the society.  Raghurama Shetty was the voice of the voiceless who espoused the cause of the oppressed and the weaker sections of the society and occupies a place of pride in Kannada Journalism.

August 9, 2010 marks the 9th death anniversary of this fearless warrior who fought the mighty and powerful with his pen, often putting his own life at risk in his pursuit to promote transparent and accountable governance and to bring about social change by championing the cause of the backward and weaker sections of the society.   He has left behind a vacuum that cannot be fulfilled as he had been a paradigm who exemplified the maxim “pen is mightier than the sword” in his own inimitable style, with tangible results.  

For him journalism was not just a profession but a passion and a way of life.    

He was a born fighter who never bowed his head to powers that be or succumbed to any temptations.   One of his younger sisters  Leela Nayak recalls that he was a straight forward person who did not hesitate to point  out the wrongs  however great the person was. . “He never compromised on his ideals come what may and could never be cowed down by politicians. He commanded respect from all”, she asserts. 

“Varase” or “Vaddarse” as he was popularly known by the acronym of the byline he used,   for his admirers,  worked in both  Kannada and English Journalism  with equal ease demonstrating a commendable mastery  over both the languages  and he achieved it with  a formal education of  only 8th standard.  As a journalist he was known for his indefatigable concern for the welfare of the oppressed, his command over the language and his relentless crusade against issues detrimental to the society.   His writings were like a potent weapon which compelled readers to ponder and act.  It is said that his powerful writings were instrumental in bringing down the ruling state government in 1982.

Vaddarse Raghurama Shetty was born in Vaddarse village of Kundapura in 1928 in a rich agricultural family, in the same house immortalized by the famous T V Serial “Guddada Bhootha” televised a few years ago.  He was the fourth among the 10 children born to Krishnappa Shetty and Venkamma.  Raghurama Shetty completed his primary education in Kota in Kundapur.

The sudden death of his father at a young age when he was studying in 9th standard at Milagres High School in Kallianpur, forced him to discontinue his studies and he headed to Mumbai at tender age of 15.  He failed to get a suitable job there and came back to Vaddarse.  He worked as a teacher for sometime but ultimately it was Mumbai that beckoned this young man in the late 1940’s.   Having begun his stint in Mumbai as a waiter in Dalal Street he drew inspiration from some journalists of Free Press Journal whom he came across while supplying tea and pursued his studies in a non-formal way.   He became a voracious reader and satiated his thirst for acquiring knowledge on a wide range of topics.  In Mumbai he came in contact with Ram Manohar Lohia and was greatly influenced by his teachings.  His contact with Lohia played a significant role in molding his thought process and personality and this was very much reflected in his writings.   

With the exposure he acquired in Mumbai he returned to Mangalore a much knowledgeable young man and chose journalism to give vent to the sea of thoughts raging within on the prevailing social inequality, injustice, caste prejudice and rampant corruption.  He began his journalism career in 1956 in “Navabharat”, a Kannada daily published from Mangalore when he was appointed as its Bangalore Staff Correspondent.  In 1959 he joined Prajavani Kannada Daily and worked for nearly 7 years before he was transferred to its sister concern Deccan Herald, English daily.  Much to the vexation of his detractors Raghurama Shetty showed his prodigious talent by mastering English language even though he had not completed his High school. He was promoted as Prajavani Chief Reporter in 1979 and worked in that capacity till he resigned in 1983 owing to some differences with the management and made earnest preparations to  start his own newspaper “Mungaru”, ( monsoon), from Mangalore.   

Dr Puttaswamy, who is the PRO of Bangalore Development Authority, Bangalore, worked with Raghurama Shetty having begun his journalistic career in Prajavani recalls “ Varashe was a campaign  journalist who proved to be the voice of the voiceless and the oppressed.  He had strong views on many burning social  issues and he guided the young brigade of journalists on the need to highlight such issues.”
During his stint in Prajavani and Deccan Herald Raghurama Shetty strived hard to make Kannada as the only first language in the curriculum of Secondary education in Karnataka.  He was a staunch supporter of Raitha Chaluvali and always championed the cause of the farmers for getting reasonable price for their products.  He also extended full support for the Gokak agitation that swept across the country.  He was the first to recognize the social transformation initiated in Karnataka by late Devraj Urs.  He made a thorough study of the problems of farmers and was an authority on power and irrigation situation in the state.  With his deep knowledge he had predicted almost two decades back that Karnataka would face severe power shortage, a prophesy which has come true  now.  Armed with an in depth knowledge his ‘Sadana Sameekshe” (assembly reviews) that mirrored the true picture of the state of affairs and the hollowness of politicians were looked upon with awe by politicians and in admiration by the public.  

Apart from fighting for issues relating to public interest he had to wage a lone battle against Indian media which was clandestinely supporting the repressive regime under the pretext of being independent.  He set new benchmark in Kannada Journalism.  In discharging his duties he faced threats to his life which failed to silence his writings.  

It was desire to provide “voice for the voiceless” that prompted Raghurama Shetty to start a Kannada Daily paper from Mangalore which was a novel experiment in Kannada journalism and can be termed as a landmark in Kannada journalism.  He wanted the common readers to be the owners of the newspaper where they could buy shares by contributing just Rs. 1,000/-.  “Chithaneya hole harisi janashakti belethegeva Mungaru” banners appeared in every nook and corner of Dakshina Kannada, creating a kind of excitement among the people. The newspaper was launched on September 9, 1984 with Raghurama Shetty as the Editor of “Mungaru” and as the Managing Director of Mungaru Prakashna Limited. 

In his endeavor of balancing the ideals he stood for, the reality and the commercial aspects involved in bringing out Mungaru,   Raghurama Shetty struggled hard and fought a loosing battle and finally had to give up the fight by resigning from the newspaper he built so diligently.  He fought inimical forces within the organization and outside, without his having the slightest inclination.  His lack of acumen as an administrator also proved to be his undoing.   “Mungaru” advocated the cause of the downtrodden, the deprived and the weaker sections of the society.    A year after his departure, the paper was also closed. It was a great setback for Raghurama Shetty as he could not recover from the harshest truth. 

Having resigned from 'Mungaru' Raghurama Shetty concentrated on writing books and articles for other newspapers.  He brought out two books tiled “Bahurupe Arasu” on the life of Devaraj Uras and wrote biography of former Railway Minister titled “Glimpses of a visionary”.   Later on he lacked concentration and motivation to write especially after the untimely death of his wife Prafulla Shetty who had passed away in 1996, as she was his pillar of strength who stood by him through the thick of times.  His three sons also could not stay with him as they were just getting settled in their respective careers. 

The then Karnataka government appointed Raghurama Shetty as the Chairman of Devaraj Urs Research organization where he served for a year in 1997.  In 2000 the Karnataka government honoured him with the prestigious TSR award, the highest award given in the field of journalism by the state, in recognition of his valuable contributions as a journalist.   

He spent the last few years of his life at his home in Yadadi, near Kundapur, lonely and depressed.  The pain of Mungaru’s failure had greatly perturbed him engulfing him entirely and finally consumed him for ever.   Having put in his heart, soul, energy, reputation and hard earned money in his efforts to bring out a  ‘people owned’  newspaper, Raghurama Shetty found it difficult to  overcome the bitter experience  of its failure and that bothered him till he breathed his last.

With his death the voice that roared and thundered giving voice to the cause of the weaker and the deprived, through his hard hitting write ups,  has been silenced forever. 

by Florine Roche
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Comment on this article

  • Mithun Shetty, Tantradi/Bangalore

    Tue, Sep 29 2015

    A very nicely written article.

  • M.Vishnumoorthi, Kota/Bagalore/Abu Dhabi

    Sat, Aug 14 2010

    Very nice article giving full insight to a towering personality in the Kannada journalism. I used to read his articles in 'Prajavani' during the 6o's.

  • Sanjiv, Udupi

    Fri, Aug 13 2010

    I am impressed with Daiji world and thanks to Florenace for putting this article.....
    Great journalist and a man of character. never compromised on his ideals....hard to find such men these days....hard to find a paper of Mungaru's stature....i always cherish my association with VARASHE

  • cyril mathias, udupi

    Fri, Aug 13 2010

    Vaddarse gave a new direction to journalism.His fearless writing and unbiased editorials were a delight to read.Todays news papers have many things to emulate from this great editor.He remained A simpleton and a man of integrity.Thanks for remembering him.

  • sanath, Udipi

    Tue, Aug 10 2010

    very nice article .. Thanks florine !

  • Francis Lewis, UAE

    Mon, Aug 09 2010

    Nice writeup about this great personality. Thanks.

  • shridhara Achar, Puttur/Bangalore

    Mon, Aug 09 2010

    I fully agree with Gabriel Vaz, that Vaddarse Raghurama Shetty was a committed professional journalist.Like Vaz also started my career in Navabharath in 1965. I worked with Shetty when he was the Chief Reporter of Prajavani, which he left later, to start Mungaru.He never compromised his ideals for the sake of which he quit Prajavani. No doubt he gave voice for the voiceless. By the by his son who is a police officer is Madhukar Shetty who is now attached to Lok Ayukta.

  • Laxmi, Saudi Arabia

    Mon, Aug 09 2010

    Thank you Florine Roche for your great article and you made every one to go back and recollect the memory for great jounalism of VARASHE. He will be remembered for ever and the mark he left on jounalism will remain for ever.

  • D M D Souza, Bantwal

    Mon, Aug 09 2010

    I still remember reading the daily MUNGARU & Its editorial. No paper has come near to it now a days except some English Dailies. In todays changed times & environment what his fate might have been(if he is alive & still writing) is a million dollar question.

  • vittal shetty, mangalre/sharjah

    Mon, Aug 09 2010

    Great journalist. Thanks to the writer for remembering the history

  • Gabriel Vaz, Bangalore

    Mon, Aug 09 2010

    In 1980, when I was working in Deccan Herald, Bangalore, I had the privilege of close association with Mr Vaddarse Raghuram Shetty, who was the then Chief Reporter of sister daily Prajavani. He always used to call me ``thamma" (younger brother). He would always pat me whenever I did a special story or exclusive. He had a soft corner for me because like him I had also started my career with Navabharath daily soon after my college in 1972. Even after I left Deccan Herald and moved up the ladder in other dailies, we used to meet often in Press Club, Bangalore. He had no hang-ups or prejudices about caste, community or religion. A true professional journalist.

    I frequently meet his son and police officer, Jeethendra, and on occasions used to discuss the kind of man the father was.

    I would always cherish my association and friendship with Mr Raghuram Shetty.

  • harini, kavoor/mangalore

    Mon, Aug 09 2010

    good article
    vaddarse-remembering personality
    good human being
    thanks for the writer.

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