Cushrow Russy Irani ' Cushrow to all who knew him well ' was 74 years old when he died on Saturday afternoon after a longish illness. He was the chairman and editor-in-chief of The Statesman. But he originally trained to be a lawyer in the Government Law College in Mumbai and then worked in insurance. He came to The Statesman, the newspaper with which his name has come to be inextricably linked, in 1968 at the initiative of Nani Palkhivala, a close relative.
Once in The Statesman, Irani never looked back and within a few years came to control the newspaper and the organisation. He was the author of major changes in The Statesman during his long innings at the top. These changes would not have been possible without Irani at the helm of affairs.
Irani was known for his strong views. He was at one time an active supporter of the Swatantra Party and he advocated anti-communist opinions. He stood up in public fora to speak for the freedom of the press. He won his spurs as a campaigner for the freedom of the press during the hardship imposed on all newspapers at the time of the Emergency.
His continuous campaign for the freedom of the press earned for him the vice-presidentship of the World Press Freedom Committee, an apex body of press freedom organisations all over the world. He was also elected the chairman of the International Press Institute in 1980 and was the first Indian to hold this post. He was re-elected in 1981 and came back to the position in 1990 and 1991. In May 1982, he was made honorary life member of the institute. He was chairman of the Press Trust of India for three terms (in 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1995-96) and served on its board of directors till his death. The support to the campaign for freedom of the press brought to Irani a number of international awards.
His strong views and his training as a lawyer were most evident in his signed column called Caveat which appeared regularly over a number of years on the front page of his paper. He wrote always not as a journalist but as a crusader against all that he considered to be wrong and unfair. The target of his attacks invariably wilted under Iraniís zeal. The Caveat columns have been put together in three volumes. His other articles form the contents of another book called In Pursuit of Freedom. He also wrote a book entitled Bengal: The Communist Challenge.
Even though he was not of Calcutta by birth, Irani had made Calcutta his home. He claimed for himself the status of an honorary Bengali because of his love for hilsa.