Arvind Bosamia, the controversial genius
Arvind Bosamia practised journalism in Gujarat for decades. Sharp and curt, he made many friends but seldom sustained any. He died alone and in penury on May 5, 2021, to be remembered for his rude genius that offended and enamoured at the same time.
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When you look back in life, you come across people with whom you didn’t always get along but they had a profound impact on your life. In my case, someone like that passed away a couple of days ago. Arvindbhai Bosamia, 70, a British citizen and freelance journalist in Gujarat, with an eagle-like eye and cutting-edge analysis on issues to do with cultural nationalism, national security, and Islamism. Arvind Bosamia breathed his last on May 5, 2021.
Many decades ago, I first met him as a friend of one of my gurus in journalism, Pramod Pagedar, who taught me how to develop a story before I joined India Today in 1987. Pagedar died of cancer some years ago.
None other like him: Arvind Bosamia. (Photo: Author)
Bosamia and I kept running into each other in Ahmedabad (I was in charge of India Today in Gujarat from 1987 to 2015). In the early 1990s, I started discovering a unique streak in him when it came to analysing national trends. His analysis was razor-sharp, though I differed with him on multiple occasions. One of his most striking analyses was on the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992. He said it had generated such a wave of Hindutva that even a small, nondescript sanitation worker felt as if she was holding a sword instead of a broom. Bosamia believed that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement failed at that time, only because the heat was too much for the RSS and BJP to handle.
Bosamia saw a self-pacifist Gandhian streak in the RSS and always believed that anyone following the Gandhian ideals would always be weak when it came to protecting national security. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have proven Bosamia wrong by removing Article 370 from Kashmir and clearing the path for the construction of the Ram Temple. Chanakya Niti or strategic retreat as part of a larger strategy in the national interest was always dismissed by Bosamia as a cover to hide impotency. History has proven him wrong.
Though an admirer of the common Muslim untouched by Wahhabism, Bosamia had an unfailing insight into the growth of Islamic revivalism amongst a section of Indian Muslims, spread by the Wahhabi tanzims. He was a stern critic of Wahhabi movements like Tabligh Jamaat. There is a term most commonly used today to identify the dress of Tablighi Jamaat followers, comprising a long kurta and short pyjama. The pejorative phrase - elder brother’s kurta and younger one’s pyjama - was coined by Bosamia in the 1990s.
It was in the same decade that Bosamia played a significant role in directing my energy to the study of Veer Savarkar’s ideology of unalloyed nationalism. Though he himself was not aware of the entire history of Savarkar, his analysis of Savarkar's nationalism implored me to study and understand the importance of his ideology for the nation. He had also played a role in me taking up the study of Islamic revivalism and Pan-Islamism, and understanding the difference between a Pan-Islamist and a believing Muslim.
Arvind Bosamia (second from right) with Arun Jaitley and BJP leaders Anil Jain, Dharmendra Pradhan and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. (Photo: Author)
It was I who discovered Bosamia’s often revolutionary though controversial thoughts and views, and introduced this new Bosamia to the world. This new Bosamia demonstrated the streak of a genius many times. Once his views on important national issues were known to many people in the RSS, Bosamia’s stock went up. His sharp political analysis so impressed late Arun Jaitley, that in 2002 polls he often sought Bosamia’s advice in crucial matters and indeed did so in 2007, 2012, and 2017 Gujarat State elections. Jaitley used to address him as 'Guruji'. But Bosamia had this streak of finding fault with everyone he knew and therefore he sustained no long-term relations. And once he turned against you, he could be quite difficult to handle. This streak in him distanced me from him in the early years of this century’s first decade though we continued to remain in touch and exchange knowledge and views. I learn he had stunned Jaitley too with his comments on a couple of occasions.
But the biggest service he did to me was in December 2002, when soon after Narendra Modi’s great Gujarat victory, he virtually dragged me to meet Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev, after the latter had just finished his yoga camp in Ahmedabad. The reason he gave me was that I was very obese and that Swami Ramdev had the potential to set my health problems right with his yoga and Ayurveda tips. This proved to be a game-changer for me. For, after learning Pranayam from Baba Ramdev, I took to a sattvic lifestyle and quit smoking (I was a chain-smoker) and non-vegetarian food and this helped me a lot in my career growth from then onwards. It greatly added to my willpower and single-mindedness of purpose in life when it came to pursuing principles of unalloyed nationalism. In one sense, Bosamia was one of the first to identify the great potential of Baba Ramdev, back when he was not known.
A bachelor, Arvind Bosamia led a totally austere life. His transport was his bicycle. He had spurned offers of financial help from people like Arun Jaitley though he was living on meagre means. One person who helped Bosamia in his bad times was Dr Pravin Togadia. I also helped Bosamia on a couple of occasions. He died alone and in penury, to be remembered for his rude genius that offended and enamoured at the same time.
There will be none like Arvind Bosamia.