Having been part of the television news industry for three decades, first as a reporter and then as a commentator and author, I have rarely witnessed the sort of outpouring of grief that followed the death of NDTV India’s Lucknow bureau chief, Kamal Khan. On 14 January, 61-year-old Khan died at his home of a heart attack.
Khan was known for his reporting from across Uttar Pradesh. He joined NDTV in the 1990s, when it was still under the Star News banner, and began working as the head of the channel’s Lucknow operations. He moved to NDTV’s Hindi channel when it was launched, at the turn of the millennium. In all, he spent three decades working in the NDTV organisation. Khan had a deep understanding of Uttar Pradesh’s layered politics, supplemented elegantly by a scholarly knowledge of Hindi and Urdu literature, Hindu and Muslim scripture, and Indian history and sociology. He was dedicated to his craft, never letting the limits of fast-paced television journalism take away from his measured reporting philosophy.
Khan’s beat became even more significant after the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi’s rise to power in 2014. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mothership, turned an eagle-eyed focus upon the state, making it a testing ground for its divisive communal politics. But even in these intensely polarised times, encomiums and condolences for Kamal poured in from across party lines—including from the office of the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP’s Adityanath; Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party; the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati; and the head of the Congress’s Uttar Pradesh unit, Priyanka Gandhi.