SV Raju, the Keeper of the Flame

By Sameer Wagle.

It was with great shock that I read Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s piece in Mint on the day of SV Raju’s passing. What made it worse in a way is the fact that I am currently overseas and have no means of talking to other people who knew Raju. Here are a few of my recollections of him: my humble tribute to SV Raju.

I knew Raju for more than 15 years since I first became a member of the Indian Liberal Group (ILG) in the late 1990s. I continued interacting with him on and off with him over that period first as a member of ILG and then later as an advisory board member on Freedom First (FF). When I moved back to India from Singapore in 2004 Raju persuaded me to join the advisory board of FF with the stated intention to get me more closely involved with the activities of ILG and Freedom first, along with some other younger members.

However, for a mix of reasons primarily related to career which kept me outside Mumbai for a large part of the last ten years my involvement with FF remained more peripheral. In particular over the last 2-3 years when I have been based in Delhi my interactions with Raju has been primarily only during the meetings of the FF advisory board which was held every 3-4 months.

In fact my last conversation with him was in one such meeting with him a few months back at the Ripon club in Mumbai when while discussing the ‘strategy’ for Freedom First going forward I tried to make the point that Freedom First should remain a “specialist” publication focusing on areas related to the liberal cause & history rather than evolving into a general new magazine line publication. After the meeting as we were dispersing Raju patted me, appreciating my intervention and urged me to be more involved. Unfortunately work and family commitments kept me from meeting Raju more regularly and this shall now always remain a regret.

Raju was quite a character with strong views and a bit of an autocrat, though well meaning, as far as running ILG and FF was concerned. Raju was a great story teller and to hear him talk about the history of Rajaji, Masani and the Swatantra party was always a great pleasure.

What I found fascinating about Raju was how dedicated he remained till the very end about making sure that the various activities that he was managing regarding the Indian Liberal Group and the Freedom First magazine were done in a regular and timely manner. The fact that the ILG and FF remained a “niche” group and publication after so many years of hard work must have been a sore point for him but what seemed more important to him was to make sure that that the liberal torch was carried on – through the regular publication of the FF & activities of the ILG.

His dedication and persistence should remain an inspiration for all of us looking to build a better India. Pray that his soul rests in peace.

Sameer Wagle is on the advisory board of Freedom First and an advisor to the Takshashila Institution.