In the passing away of Shri M. K. Dharmaraja, the country has lost a distinguished journalist and a Jain scholar who observed the principles of religion in letter and spirit.
I had the advantage of knowing him ever since I joined the Press Information Bureau in the middle fifties. Dharmaraja was a newsman in the All India Radio and one could see him with his colleagues from the Newsreel unit of the Radio reporting and recording events, from developments in the national scene to sports events.
He was almost two decades elder to me and bestowed me with affection. I came to know that he hailed from the Karkala Taluk of South Kanara. Dharmaraja went to St. Aloysius College in Mangalore and passed out with a Masters in Economics from Loyola College, Madras (now Chennai) in 1938. His classmates would have joined the Indian Civil Service those days, but Dharmaraja decided to join the All India Radio as a sub-editor. It never occured to him to change his profession.
He was present in the Parliament of India during crucial debates, at conferences in the capital every day, and watching events and reporting them. He took special interest in sports and prepared special programmes for the All India Radio. I spent hours with him during events like the National Games in the fifties and later at the Asiad in Delhi in 1982.
Dharmaraja was fluent in English and did commentaries for Test Cricket in the early years.
During the India-Pakistan War of 1971, Dharmaraja used to help me in projecting the events through the All India Radio (Newsreel). He was present in Parliament when Indira Gandhi made the crucial speech of announcing the surrender of Pakistani forces at Dacca in December 1971. Soon afterwards, he was recording an interview with the Army Chief, General Sam Manekshaw. I also remember Dharmaraja interviewing General Sam Manekshaw, when he was conferred with the rank of Field Marshal in 1973.
When I took over as head of the News Services Division of All India Radio, Dharmaraja was a valued colleague. We were witness to events that followed Operation Blue Star in Amritsar , the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the elections that followed.
Dharmaraja was a good host too. I remember the hospitality that I enjoyed at his residence and the warmth that my wife and me received from Laxmimathi, his wife. A devout Jain, Dharmaraja would finish his meals before sunset. His close-knit family includes his son Dr C.K. Ballal, a medical specialist at Mangalore, Raja Ballal, a lawyer in Delhi , Col (Retd) S. K. Ballal who served in the Garhwal Rifles, and a daughter Dr Srimanjari a Professor in Miranda House, Delhi University.
A founder member of the South Kanara Club , presided over by Oscar Fernandes in the capital, he promoted art forms of the district like Yakshagana and Bayalata. We both had the privilege of being honoured for our contribution to the Tulu language at the Tulu Sammelana in Dharmastala in November 2009.
Honours and awards sat lightly on the shoulders of Dharmaraja. Only those close to him knew that he was honoured at the World Conference for Religions in the United Kingdom. He was a keen student of Jain philosophy, and was present at events like the Mastakabisheka of Bahubali at Sravanabelagola, Karkala, Dharmastala and the most recent event at Venoor near Karkala in February this year
Among the books on sports and religious written by him are "India in World Sports", published by the Publications Division. I had the opportunity of meeting him last Saturday, when I told him that we would celebrate his 100th birthday, only six years away. That was not to be. By I. Ramamohan Rao (ANI)