Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi with their children Tejaswi and Tej Pratap.
Over the years, the relationship between politicians of various parties has changed drastically. Earlier, even opponents in the Parliament would be cordial and respectful outside but now that is not the case,” says Praveen Jain, Associate Editor (Photo), The Indian Express, as he browses through the thousands of photographs that he has taken over 35 years of his career as a photojournalist. His exhibition “200 & One” will open at AIFACS gallery in Delhi today.
This photograph of Sonia Gandhi and the then Prime Minister designate Manmohan Singh was taken at Gandhi’s residence, 10, Janpath, in 2004. After Congress and its allies won the 2004 national elections, Gandhi declined Prime Ministership. “In this photograph, it is evident that Gandhi is jubilant after announcing Singh as the Prime Minister,” says Jain, adding, “You can also see other members of the Congress, including Pranab Mukherjee and Arjun Singh, who were also forerunners.”
“I want people, including politicians, to come and see these photographs,” says Jain of the showcase that spans 10 prime ministers, beginning with Indira Gandhi, eight presidents, and countless chief ministers.
The exhibition comes the same week that Jain’s photographs played a crucial role in the Delhi High Court verdict that gave life imprisonment to 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel for the 1987 Hashimpura massacre. Jain, 56, will also be sharing these photographs in the exhibition.
In this photograph, Narendra Modi is seen as a young BJP leader in charge of Jammu and Kashmir. He is standing with the then BJP party president Murli Manohar Joshi at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on January 26, 1992. Joshi was hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk to culminate BJP’s “Ekta Yatra” that began in Kanyakumari. “No one really knew much about Modi then,” says Jain. In recent years, he has photographed Modi innumerable times and some of those photographs are also part of the exhibition.
“The tension was evident when I entered the neighbourhood. Army men were marching and young men were being dragged out of their homes. I hid behind the bushes and continued to take photos despite being stopped by the army,” recalls Jain of May 22, 1987, when Meerut and surrounding areas were engulfed in communal riots, and PAC personnel allegedly killed 38 men.
A Key witness in the Babri Masjid demolition case, Jain photographed kar sevaks at a mock drill. “My photographs prove that the demolition was a pre-planned conspiracy,” says Jain. On December 5, 1992, Jain disguised himself as a member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad to gain access to the grounds where the drill was taking place. “The kar sevaks were practicing on a large mound. They used ropes to climb up, just like they did at the dome the next day, in the presence of LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti,” adds Jain.
The incident is just one of the numerous tense moments photographed by Jain since he joined the news magazine Delhi Recorder in 1983. He worked at Surya India, India Week, Sunday Mail and The Pioneer, before joining The Indian Express as its national photo editor in 1995. “A photojournalist not only has to be at the right place at the right time but should also be able to decide what needs to be photographed. One has to be patient,” says the self-taught photographer who learnt the nuances of photojournalism by assisting S Paul, the then photo editor at The Indian Express, for several months in 1981-82.
“I would travel from Rohtak to Delhi everyday. I would hold his bag, make his morning tea, and in return he gave me a stipend and taught me photography,” recalls Jain.