Ravish Kumar was born near the same Indian city – Motihari in Bihar – as George Orwell. In his early years as a TV journalist and nightly news anchor, Kumar did not imagine that he would live to be part of a modern-day Nineteen Eighty-Four nightmare. But that changed almost a decade ago with the election of Narendra Modi’s government in India. In the years since then, Kumar has become an increasingly lone voice of truth-telling in an Indian media landscape in thrall to the Hindu nationalist politics of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP). Kumar’s one-man campaign to maintain journalistic integrity, as mainstream news organisations became promoters of politicised fake news, earned him the “Nobel prize of Asia,” the Ramon Magsaysay award, in 2019. It also led to an unending campaign of harassment and death threats from government supporters.
Kumar, the Indian equivalent of, say, Jeremy Paxman in his prime, finally resigned from his post at NDTV in New Delhi last November, after the station was taken over by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, a close friend of Modi. He now lives in virtual hiding with his family and broadcasts through a personal YouTube channel. His story, one of repression in modern India and of the existential crisis in truth-telling worldwide, is the subject of an urgently compelling documentary, While We Watched.