1978, Surya magazine editor Maneka Gandhi shocked the nation
by publishing the photos of Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram's son
making love to a Delhi University student.
The nine self-timed photos, which Suresh Ram, 40,
took as he copulated with Sushma Choudhry, were snatched from his
car and passed on, among others, to journalists including Gandhi
and National Herald Editor Kushwant Singh.
Singh, who was also helping Gandhi in editing the
magazine, thought the photos were explicit. Recently he recalled:
"If the Kamasutra has 64 poses, that one certainly had 10."
Gandhi, however, felt that she could make a political killing for
her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, by publishing them. The Indira
Gandhi-led Congress was then fighting to win back power from the
Janata Party Government in which Jagjivan Ram was a top minister.
So, at the risk of running into obscenity and privacy
laws, the photos were put up for printing with orders to the staff
to show all but the most objectionable parts. "We had to use
a lot of tape," Singh remembered.
Indeed, when the magazine hit the stands, reactions
were intense and varied:
climbed. Maneka Gandhi had to order at least three reprints to meet
the demands for its copies.
the original photos found their way into the market. In New Delhi's
Chandni Chowk, copies of the photos were sold for Rs 50. Photo discounts
were offered to well connected at New Delhi's Tis Hazari session
Price: Rs 25. In Bombay, some businessmen even used
them as sales incentives
buy one and get one free!
community was in a tizzy. Though the photos made it to the private
collection of many reporters, at work none of them was willing to
be seen with the photos. (At Hindustan Times, an extreme crop of
the photo was used to tell the Surya story. The photos were bought
from the market and kept with the office administrator in strict
confidence. Later, the photos were "removed from the office
without leaving a trace".)
The publication sparked off massive debates, especially on journalistic
ethics and breach of privacy.
The biggest fallout was, however, political.
Jagjivan Ram, who was tipped to be the next prime minister, stood