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New Delhi: Veteran journalist Vinod Dua, arguably one of India’s most popular and influential news broadcasters, died here on Saturday. He was 67.
Dua was known for questioning the government of the day in shows he anchored and had recently been hounded by the police in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party for criticising the government.
Dua had been hospitalised with COVID-19 earlier this year and spent several days under intensive care at the time. His daughter, actor and comedian Mallika Dua, who was issuing updates on his condition after he was admitted to hospital last week with post-COVID-19 complications, noted that he was “beyond critical” and later confirmed his death at 5 pm on Saturday (December 4).
His wife and companion of many years, Chinna Dua, a doctor, died in hospital earlier this year of COVID-19. Mallika said that her father was “unable to come to terms with losing the light of his life”.
In a long and varied career as a news anchor and television presenter, Dua worked at a number of news organisations, including the national broadcaster Doordarshan and NDTV. He was a contributing editor at The Wire from 2016 to 2018. where he presented a daily news show, Jan Gan Man ki Baat. in 2019, he began working at Swaraj TV and HW News.
Born in Delhi to a family that had resettled from West Pakistan after partition, Dua studied at Hansraj College in Delhi University. As a journalist, he was one of the pioneers of news and current affairs television in India. In 1974, he appeared on and later presented shows on Yuva segment of the national broadcaster, aimed at young audiences.
His joint appearances with Prannoy Roy on NDTV during elections and the annual presentation of the budget brought him nationwide attention. Roy spoke in English and Dua in Hindi which he was equally fluent in. His strength lay in explaining complex ideas in Hindi that everyone could understand. He later began doing a countrywide show on food in Hindi, Zaika India Ka.
Dua was one of the first TV anchors to reorient himself for the digital era and was one of the most highly viewed Indian journalists on YouTube.
In October 2018, filmmaker Nishtha Jain accused Dua of having harassed her in 1989. Dua strenuously denied the charge, voluntarily suspended his routine work and agreed to have the matter examined by an independent panel. The special committee set up by The Wire was headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court but was eventually unable to complete its work or reach any conclusion.
As a stern and effective critic of the Modi government, Dua became a magnet for complaints by BJP supporters and activists who used the route of trumped up criminal charges to target him and his work.
In 2020, Delhi Police’s crime branch registered an FIR against Dua on the basis of a complaint filed by a Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson accusing him of “fake news marketing” through his show on the YouTube channel HW News. One of the complaints is that Dua made “fun of the Prime Minister by using derogatory word as a scaremonger”. A Delhi court had granted him anticipatory bail.
In the same month, June, Himachal Pradesh police opened n investigation and summoned Dua after charging him with sedition, following a complaint by BJP leader Ajay Shyam, who said Dua had made “bizarre allegations” on a 15-minute YouTube show on March 30, 2020 on the return of migrant workers from Delhi following the government’s sudden announcement of a lockdown. In a landmark judgment earlier this year, the Supreme Court eventually quashed the charges, noting that every journalist is entitled to protection.
Dua won the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism award as well as the Red Ink Lifetime Achievement award for journalism. In 2008, he was awarded the Padma Shri.