(January 6, 1937 – May 8, 2011)
One of the respected journalists, O N Koul was exceptionally intelligent and knew his job well. A witness to most of the post-partition history, he was perhaps the only exception among the ‘elder journalists’ who knew the nitty-gritty of the militancy that broke out in 1990s.
Koul, a resident of Rainawari in Srinagar died at the age of 74 in New Delhi. He was bed ridden for a long time. He was cremated in Gazipur where one of his journalist daughters resides. He is survived by three daughters – all settled, and an aged wife, Makhani. Born on January 6, 1937 in Srinagar, Koul had his schooling in Srinagar.
He did his bachelor’s degree in Arts from University of Jammu & Kashmir in Srinagar. Later, he joined Delhi School of Economics where he did his post-graduation. Soon after he was appointed a lecturer in a college at Jaipur Rajasthan. However, he could not continue for long and returned home to his parents. In Srinagar he decided against being a government employee and became a journalist.
His first job was sub-editing Kashmir Post that Ved Bhasin was editing. It was around 1960. After Bhasin resigned in 1963, Koul replaced him. In October 1964, in a swift turn of events, the then Chief Minister G M Sadiq arrested Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, who was to move no confidence motion against him (Sadiq) and also banned Kashmir Post. Koul too was arrested and kept behind bars for three months.
Post arrest, Koul worked for a number of newspapers including UNI, Hind Samachar group of newspapers, Observer and others. However, it was The Economic Times that became his identity. He retired as special correspondent. At the same time, however, Koul was working in the newspapers in J&K as well. After initial years of militancy, he was at the helm of affairs in the Jammu-based Excelsior newspaper. He later joined the Kashmir Times as the executive editor.
Apart from writing under the penname OAEN, Koul in Kashmir Times worked with the new generation of reporters who are now manning most of the major media in J&K.
Koul was a reporter and an analyst. He was one of the finest sub editors who knew the art of skirting copies, and sometimes issues as well. Never ever did he permit anything un-newsy to become news. He wanted a clear distinction between comment, analysis and news and rarely permitted anybody to create a cocktail of the three.
The brilliant journalist had many scoops –mostly political, to his credit. Till the last day of his career, he remained committed to secular, progressive ideas and composite culture of Kashmir. His innings as reporter was almost over when he took over as Dr Farooq Abdullah’s media adviser for a period of two years. It was after this assignment that he suffered a paralytic stroke in Jammu in 2002 from which he could not recover fully. Later, he was shifted to Delhi for treatment where he breathed his last.
The condolences that were offered from all the sides of an ideologically divided landscape offers an idea of the influence that O N Koul had in Kashmir. At the peak of militancy, leaders were waiting for their turn to meet him. Whenever he visited Kashmir, it was always a busy schedule.