Anil Thakraney: Deshpande: The truth died with him

05 Jul,2013

By Anil Thakraney


Let me state upfront that whatever we journalists/columnists write on Charudatta Deshpande’s suicide is speculative in nature, and I don’t do speculation, not even in the stockmarket, leave alone journalism. This is because Tata Steel’s former Head of Communications killed himself without leaving a suicide note, therefore no one can be certain of the real reason behind his death.


What is instead being bandied around is, yes, speculation. There are theories floating about the alleged leak of confidential information about the company to a trade press journal, and the subsequent persecution of Deshpande by his colleagues at Tata. There are allegations of phone tapping, the executive being ‘bullied’ into signing bonds/ documents, etc. All hearsay stuff. The Tata group has launched an internal enquiry, so we’ll have to wait for the findings. Though if the enquiry is being conducted by the group itself, one has to wonder how objective it shall be. An independent enquiry would have been befitting.


That said, let’s assume for a moment that Deshpande was indeed being harassed, and that indeed was the reason behind the suicide. One thing bothers me about this situation: Deshpande was a tough journalist before he shifted to corporate communications. His former colleague at The Indian Post, Salil Tripathi, has this to say about the man (courtesy: Mint): “We knew Charu was a tough man, a reporter who had covered crime, politics, and business, and was not one to get intimidated easily. Those of us who knew him-for years or months-knew that beneath his calmness, there was a cool mind which figured out what was going on.” For someone of such a background and temperament to wilt under organizational pressure does sound a bit strange to me. And for a person who’s been a professional journalist to not leave behind a revealing note? Had age and PR mellowed the man? Like I said, we don’t know and we’ll never know.


I have only one clear opinion in this matter: Politics and power play happens in the corporate world all the time, and it can sometimes get very dirty. If you are at the receiving end of it, you have just two choices: Deal with it. Or hand in your resignation letter. And if the organization has crossed the line of politics and has begun illegally tormenting you, then blow the whistle. File a police complaint. Or call a press conference. But self-murder? Ermm, that doesn’t make any sense to me in this case. And the sad truth is, Deshpande’s death will always remain a mystery. Alas.


PS: Speaking of suicide at workplace, Misery Bear’s predicament reminds me of my own terrible days in the ad agency client servicing department. No, my phone wasn’t tapped nor was I being forced to sign dodgy documents. I was simply unable to suck up to the clients. And yes, the nearest watering hole proved to be a life saver. 🙂


Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney


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