Journalism in Jammu and Kashmir lost another old hand as Editor-in-Chief of Daily Excelsior SehDev Rohmetra or S D Rohmetra — as he was popularly known — passed away on July 5, 2012 due to cardiac arrest caused by prolonged illness at AIIMS in Delhi. He was 72.
He is survived by wife Usha, sons Kamal and Neeraj and daughters Neelu and Seema. Hailing from a nondescript MullaChak hamlet of RS Pura, Rohmetra studied at St Xavier’s College in Kolkatta. Prior to joining journalism, he was running a shop. After joining United News of India (UNI) in 1969, Rohmetra remained associated with it till 1993, when he was its Bureau Chief. On January 1, 1965, he launched Excelsior as a weekly newspaper that was upgraded to a daily publication in 1977.
The newspaper, however, started showing growth only after 1990 when the newspaper clearly crafted its own policy over the happenings in the state after the onset of millitancy. For all these years it remained strictly pro-government and supportive of the right wing policies on Kashmir that fetched it acceptability in the system, growth as ewell as good revenues. In spite of his known and clear leanings towards the political right, Rohmetra over the years had mastered the art of keeping himself in the good books of every nationalist political party.
The numerouno status of Excelsior in Jammu region was reaffirmed by the massive participation of people from all walks of life in his funeral which was also attended by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand along with a number of ministers, advisor to the CM and legislators. During his career, the soft spoken Rohmetra travelled abroad, especially post 1990- to places like Hague, Russia, UK and US where he pleaded New Delhi’s case on Kashmir.
“The mission he set forth for himself and his paper was of strengthening the ties between J&K State and the rest of the country,” the Excelsior wrote about its founder. The post-SDR Excelsior is expected to be led by Kamal Rohmetra who was already manning the newspaper in his father’s frequent absence on account of medical treatment over the past three years.
Assuring readers that nothing will change, Kamal in a front page editorial said: “The mission that has come down to us from him can be summed up as this: (a) total emotional integration with India (b) defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country (c) promoting inflow of talent and industry into the State from the rest of the country (d) strengthening of communal harmony in the State and (e) providing full support to the state in fighting and defeating cross-border infiltration of terrorists.” Rohmetra has remained popular with his staff because he used to take extra care of them, especially during days of crisis. He is remembered by his associates as being a wonderful person having a large heart.