|First issue||20 April 1988|
Nakkheeran is a leading Tamil investigative print medium, published bi-weekly, operating from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. Established by Rajagopal in 1988, Nakkheeran has set a benchmark through its distinct style of journalism. Since its inception and with the heart-etched motto of "Truth, Courage, and Determination", Nakkheeran has been pioneering a model of people's journalism with unending courage and responsibility.
Steering constantly on the track to fight for justice for the affected and the oppressed with the slogan of "Netrikaan thirappinum kutram kutrame" a dialogue from popular classic Tamil cinema, 'Thiruvilaiyadal', which can be rendered as, "Crime is a crime, even if it is committed by God", Nakkheeran has successfully laid down a holistic track of journalism by establishing its work in cinema, education, literature, and spirituality.
Currently, Nakkheeran is publishing prominent magazines with different genres - 'Iniya Udhayam'- the monthly magazine covering literature and poetry, 'Bala Jothidam'- a weekly magazine for astrology, 'Pothu Arivu' - a monthly release of general knowledge and current affairs for the students preparing for competitive exams, and 'Om Saravana Bhava'- a monthly magazine covering devotion, under its umbrella. Digitally, Nakkheeran has a potent presence and followers on social media and YouTube, which has become a vital force, lighting the world of our journalism.
As Rajagopal and Nakkheeran are inseparable in the eyes of readers, he has been fondly called Nakkheeran Gopal. He has been captaining the model successfully and deferring the competitive ecosystem, Nakkheeran is unequivocally serving the Tamil community with its model of investigative journalism and has a history of exposing a slew of crimes and grim injustices committed by the people under the guise of power, policy-makers, autocrats, and bureaucrats. Nakkheeran has sowed a principle of unbiased journalism and being a visionary, Nakkheeran Gopal has never compromised the principle though facing obstacles and ordeals unlike any other journalist in India.
The journey of Nakkheeran was hard, yet remarkable. Established in April 1988, the initial marketing of what has now become a renowned investigative journal was taken care of by a team of dynamic youngsters by distributing free copies of the magazines in crowded places to the public. They had successfully carried out this strategy with an endearing strategy - "We are new comers support us, if you find us as an interesting read". Nakkheeran is one of the hand-picked popular Tamil investigate print journals, which has successfully imprinted into its third decade, the more interesting is to know how challenging, with undisputed and unrivaled boldness has taken place and taken them to new frontiers.
Nakkheeran's investigative journalism didn't only limit to political aspects, but also to various other social injustices, violence against women, accumulation of disproportionate wealth and assets by politicians and policy-makers, conmen under the skin of godmen.
Nakkheeran's post-judgement investigation of 90's sensational and controversial convict Auto Shankar is widely popular and acclaimed beyond the borders. Auto Shankar's interview and his death confession to Nakkheeran had involved in pinpointing the wrong doers and bystanders who were of ruling party, top-level cops, celebrities, etc. So there were hindrances in publishing the same and Nakkheeran boldly opted a legal battle to publish Auto Shankar's death confession by highlighting media's freedom of speech and won the same, which strengthened the media's freedom of speech in India. Later, this landmark verdict won by Nakkheeran has itself become a case study under the sections 'Right of Privacy' and 'Freedom of speech and expression' for law pursuing students.
Nakkheeran is the first ever regional language magazine in Indian media history to interview a Prime Minister ever so far. The magazine's interview with the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the year 1998, under the article named as, 'I Dreamed'; has turned heads and still prevails as one of the greatest milestones accomplished by the magazine.
In 1993, Nakkheeran boldly ventured out on its next mission, the first magazine to publish the picture of the that time sandalwood smuggler, elephant tusk poacher and forest brigand Veerappan. That was the first time people, government authorities and even the forest officials, who were on the search hunt got to see his image through the groundbreaking. Further to Nakkheeran's cover page article and pictures, Nakkheeran in 1996 released a video footage of the interview of Veerappan with his fellow mates, about his lifestyle in the forest, his operations, evasion maneuvers from the forest cops, his skills of treating and curing illness and lot more of his 50 years of his operations and political views and the same were released by associating with Sun TV network. This has sent a huge political surge around and created distraught among the ruling government and eventually led to creating friction and upsetting the ruling party by breaking their winning chances in the next election into pieces.
Later, this led to various events were editor Rajagopal was sent as emissary by both state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, to have peace talks and convince Veerappan to surrender for his illegal operations that he had been orchestrating that far and for which he accepted and acted accordingly by making a brief pause to his activities, but soon for the sake of his own safety and to threaten both the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Governments, he kidnapped nine forest workers of Department of Forest belonging to Karnataka Government. In order to rescue them safely, both the State Governments chose Nakkheeran Editor Rajagopal as the chief emissary to conduct peace talks, convince Veerappan to release the nine hostages. He succeeded the mission on 24 August 1997 after 45 days of hardships and this nine-men rescue operation was sensational and emotional to a greater extent, as the safety of Tamil speaking people in Karnataka was at stake and questioned every now and then.
It is noteworthy to mention that, for the first time ever in India, a media person was appointed as an emissary to conduct continuous peace talk & rescue operations. For performing this selfless and noble assignment, Nakkheeran editor Rajagopal was awarded many a time by various prestigious and reputable bodies, including both State Governments', for appreciating his bold, selfless and social responsibility act.
Nakkheeran Gopal, as a gallant journalist, always took social responsibility as a serious task. One such instance was when pro-government media and other media houses were busy portraying the damage caused by Veerappan to the forest and other resources, Nakkheeran shifted its focus on injustices and inhumane activities, that occurred to the poor tribal people by the Veerappan tracking team 'Special Task Force' (STF) of both the states' which include forest guards and police officials. Under the guise of interrogation, the police officials mercilessly tortured many tribal men to a greater extent that caused permanent damage and trauma, while women were brutally molested and sexually harassed. The officials stormed into their houses, devastated their lives, and unleashed cruel conduct against the innocent people. After the expose of the chain of illegal activities perpetuated by the forest officials, many rapes of tribal women, atrocious physical torture to men, which they were doing recklessly, were plunged to a greater extent and stopped as those barbaric crimes were gaining serious attention among the law abides. Nakkheeran also went ahead to submit a petition to the human rights organisation to investigate the atrocities that these officials conducted, which led to the implementation of the Sadasivam Commission, which redeemed many of the affected and ensured that justice is served to the tribal people.
In the year 2000, Veerappan orchestrated the massive kidnap of veteran Kannada actor Rajkumar which bought a shock waves across both the states. Nakkheeran Editor Rajagopal, was again been declared as the mediator for the actor Rajkumar's rescue mission by conducting peace talks with Veerappan. During this time, he happened to show hesitation and avoided at initial stage, due to the involvement of suspicious terrorist activities from his own sources and in fact pointed out that his life could be put in danger by the forest officials over there who were fuming with rage over him for previous happenings and surrounding political vendetta. This particular delay in his acceptance to go as the emissary also gave roots to risk of Tamil people's lives in Karnataka. Understanding such an intense responsibility, he agreed again to be the mediator for this Himalayan task even by risking his own life.
In the year 2006, Nakkheeran exposed inhumane habit of senicide practiced in Southern districts of Tamil Nadu by name Thalaikoothal, were elders of the family were killed by made to fall sick to die soon or poison them involuntarily. These elders were considered as burden to the family due to poverty and lack of monetary contribution to the family. This widely practiced inhumane habit led to the killing of many senior citizens in the community. Nakkheeran was the first to report this issue and brought it to limelight with the cover story and drew the attention of the Government to intervene and take action against this, which led to the rapid fall of this behavior on a wide scale.
POTA (Prevention Of Terrorism Act)
In May 2001, during the State Election campaign, ADMK party put forth their enmity against Nakkheeran and its Editor Rajagopal by declaring in their official election manifesto, that he will be arrested once they regime into power and they did happen to win that term's elections. Since then, the ruling government started to unleash their rage. The Jayalalithaa-led ADMK government began raiding Nakkheeran office and its reporters' houses, leading to the arresting of a Nakkheeran reporter under the pretext of interrogation where they were held as captives and series of tortures were unleashed by imprisoning them on various false charges and torturing them by raining down various inhumane and cruel techniques, pushing and compelling them to turn into witness and give false statements against the former Chief Minister Dr. Kalaingar Karunanidhi and Nakkheeran Editor.
Meanwhile, countless raids and interrogations were set on Nakkheeran in order to bring distortion and keep the family of Nakkheeran at unrest, but family of Nakkheeran stay strong and united by taking various measures like seeking the support of the then Karnataka Chief Minister Mr. S.M. Krishna by explaining him the situation, the strings attached on this case, the tortures that were imparted on the reporter by the police. Understanding the seriousness, S.M.Krishna got himself involved in the releasing efforts of the reporter and following the continuous stern and rigorous actions taken by Nakkheeran and Gopal, the reporter was released from prison.
These actions were actually taken to frame Nakkheeran Gopal into the scene and arrest him ultimately. However, Nakkheeran has knocked the court with its anticipatory bail lawsuits due to which the ADMK regime couldn't succeed in apprehending Nakkheeran Gopal. So their last resort was imposing POTA act (The Prevention Of Terrorism Act) on Nakkheeran Gopal in the year 2003. As a case against POTA is non bailable, it gave them teeth to take their vengeful bite on him. When Editor Nakkheeran Gopal was leaving his office, he was intervened by a group of people who addressed themselves as police and manhandled and arrested him vigorously, which led to a chain of chaos and actions, as he was arrested without any intimation of legal base, procedures or protocol.
Nakkheeran editor Gopalan was arrested on POTA act and was treated in a way to threaten, yet he and Nakkheeran family stood bold and strong to face anything legally. Whenever the police take him to the court and to various district jails in long and distressing journeys and purposeful delays at various junctions by curbing all his benefits and testing his patience to a greater extreme, Gopal happened to write a letter to his Nakkheeran family that goes like, 'Imprisonment is for me, punishment is for you", since the entire Nakkheeran family was also put through various mental depressions that no words can describe. When his family was going through this mental depression, Nakkheeran Gopal's mother Rajamanickammal fell ill and was admitted at hospital.
When he moved his bail plea to the court to meet his mother, the then Deputy-Inspector General (DIG) Mohammed Ali, who was working with inclination and interest towards the ADMK party, while responding to the bail plea, asked for a report from the hospital that will read as, Gopal's mother would pass away next day. These events were continuously putting the Nakkheeran family into intense depression. This ill and rude treatment was not only limited to Gopal's family, this further extended to many of the Nakkheeran's employees as they were also brought under radar to keep them in a tense mindset, by conducting unnecessary raids, mental tortures, and threats. These tortures extended to a huge loss in Gopal's family. His father-in-law, R.S. Pandian, 55, passed away during Gopal's incarceration, which is a huge tragic loss to their family morally and emotionally.
There is a famous Tamil saying about the judiciary that goes as "A thousand criminals can evade the punishment of law, but not a single innocent should be harmed". In strong faith and belief in the same, a peaceful hunger protest was organised within the premises of Nakkheeran by its staff against the arbitrary detention of Nakkheeran Gopal. Meanwhile, to make this more concrete and gather support, one of the senior reporters escalated this issue to Delhi by taking support of Members of the Parliament. It was a success as a total of 152 Members of Parliament signed and supported the petition towards the release of Nakkheeran Gopal, which is one of the greatest move ever made, alongside of meeting Prime Minister of the country and also approaching the Supreme Court of India, to create and establish pressure back on the State Government of Tamil Nadu.
Moreover, along with all these major measures, another unexpected move was to unite the opposition parties of Tamil Nadu. Most of them weren't functioning as a united team due to various political ideology differences. Despite the internal and political differences from DMK, Congress, CPI, to CPM, they all came together as one voice in a general body meeting to protest against POTA . Veteran leaders such as Dr. Karunanidhi, Nallakannu and many came together on one stage and formed a consortium for the Protection of Freedom of Press to express their opposition towards invoking a case against Nakkheeran Gopal under POTA act, that was being used for the will of the ruling party against the people with difference of opinion and who expose the face of the autocratic regime and corrupt leaders. Among all these chaos and atrocities, the then ruling government couldn't hinder the bi-weekly publication and circulation of Nakkheeran magazine as in the midst of chilling attacks, the entire family of Nakkheeran including staff, reporters, editors, agents and readers took the responsibility to circulate and encourage Nakkheeran's courageous journalism.
Following these series of hard made efforts and legal battles at the Supreme court, Nakkheeran Gopal was released after 252 days, in which the entire Nakkheeran rejoiced and celebrated his release. This was vindicated as a victory towards protection of human rights, freedom of journalism, right to freedom of speech and expression. During this imprisonment tenure of the journal's editor, there was no lag or skip in any issue of the magazine, which functioned with utmost self-discipline and precision as guided by the publisher and editor himself, which stunned many participants and bodies of government. There was no drop in sales or revenue of the organisation, which was made possible with the combined efforts of the employees who were being dedicated and united with one motive of not to step down.
In an interview conducted by the senior reporter of Nakkheeran with Mr. Tarun Tejpal, Head of Tehelka, the journal which continuously kept exposing the major scams and corruptions of BJP and ultimately paid the price of its operations closure, by stopping their operations, due to the intense troubles and tortures gave by the BJP party,. Mr. Tejpal shared his views saying "we faced so many problems which led to the operations closure", but when Nakkheeran Gopal was subjected to POTA tortures for 252 days, not a single person left Nakkheeran amidst this crunch of chaos, that made him feel proud and it has vitally shaped the success of Nakkheeran, which built the citadel of the unity and dedication of the team. It certainly is being breathed as Nakkheeran's success formula.
All of this priceless support was not limited within the employees circle, this support further was enlarged from the agents, distributors and readers community too.
Riots organised by the authoritarian regime
In the year 2012, it was once again the ruling period of the ADMK party, where a particular cover story that highlighted about the then Chief Minister Jayalalitha's food behaviour had triggered her party members to conduct a planned riot and organised rampage on the office of Nakkheeran, with an intense motive to attack the employees of Nakkheeran and somehow eliminate Nakkheeran Gopal. The party unleashed its goons and members to conduct a chained series of attacks ceaselessly led by many hundreds of men and women, who pelted stones and huge rocks, poured petrol to torch the entrance gate, hurled threats to abuse the editor and even assaulted the reporters who were covering the riots on camera.
There were MLAs from the ADMK party who were involved in this riot and all of these attacks were meted out in front of the police, who didn't even care to diffuse tensions rather, they were idle as per the instructions from the high command. These efforts didn't collapse Nakkheeran, rather the rampage turned into exposing the cruelty and vengeance attitude of the ruling government led by Jayalalithaa to abolish the voice that rises against them.
Jayalalithaa's regime was shocked to learn that despite the rampage and riots, the Nakkheeran family has come back more strongly and successfully released their investigative magazines in the markets. The efforts assayed by the Nakkheeran family to get the magazine to the hands of people on time have shown the unequivocal and endearing commitments towards their journalism and their responsibility to fight for justice and to keep the people informed.
Awards and Recognitions
Nakkheeran's path was rigid, but through the rousing support and recognitions that showered from across and beyond the borders, the team of Nakkheeran had an audacity to pursue its path. Nakkheeran's contribution has been impeccable in an era of journalism. The following is the list of awards and recognitions conferred to Nakkheeran and its Editor Nakkheeran Gopal.
The magazine is part of Nakkheeran Publications, Which also have Balajothidam, OMM Saravanabava, Iniya Udhayam and Pothu Arivu Ulagam magazines.