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Harpal Singh Bedi: Kashmir-born journalist who won hearts and laurels worldwide

Throughout his career, Harpal covered numerous high-profile sporting events, including eight Olympic Games, several Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, and World Cups of cricket and hockey and many more.

New Delhi, June 19: The world of sports journalism lost a legend on Saturday as Harpal Singh Bedi, a veteran journalist with an illustrious career spanning over four decades, passed away at the age of 72 after a prolonged illness.

Born and raised in Srinagar, Kashmir, Harpal's journey from a curious child standing for hours, after his school hours, reading magazines, and newspapers at a news kiosk, Sikandar News Agency in Lal Chowk, as he could not buy them then, to becoming one of South Asia's most respected sports journalists is nothing short of inspiring.


Harpal was the eldest of six siblings, growing up in a household deeply rooted in Sikh traditions, with his father, Giani Pritam Singh, serving as the Head Priest of Srinagar’s main Gurdwara in Lal Chowk. As a school-going child, Harpal witnessed the historical events of Lal Chowk, the bustling commercial hub where political leaders often delivered speeches to the masses.

Living in the heart of Lal Chowk Gurdwara, Harpal and his siblings would watch these events unfold from the veranda of the Gurdwara building. This vantage point offered a panoramic view of Lal Chowk, with the Ghanta Ghar on one side and the Jhelum River and its bridge on the other. These experiences provided Harpal with a unique perspective on the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, maturing his understanding at a young age. Though he seldom commented publicly on political matters, his private analyses were sharp and insightful, cutting through complexities with ease.


Despite humble beginnings, Harpal's insatiable thirst for knowledge led him to gain admission to the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where he earned his Masters and M.Phil from the School of International Studies, a department that has produced academics. intellectuals, bureaucrats, and ministers of the highest standards.

Minister of External Affairs, Dr S. Jaishankar, who studied alongside Harpal at JNU, expressed his sorrow at the loss of his old friend. "A particularly sad day for first-generation JNUites. Harpal Singh Bedi, the legend of our times, passed away this morning. My condolences to his family. Om Shanti," Dr. Jaishankar posted on social media, sharing a group picture featuring him and Bedi from their university days.

Throughout his career, Harpal covered numerous high-profile sporting events, including eight Olympic Games, several Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, and World Cups of cricket and hockey and many more.

Whichever country he visited, he comfortably made friends, that may be sports journalists, officials, or sports players, he would build a one-on-one relationship in a typical Punjabi style but professionally, he would not compromise and was a sports critic not only in his writings but would dare to speak or question directly any sports personality or officer.

His tenure at the United News of India (UNI) saw him become a revered figure in sports journalism, known for his in-depth coverage and insightful commentary. In 2012, he served as the national Olympic contingent's press attaché, charming the media box with his inimitable wit and warmth.

Sheikh Manzoor Ahmed, his long-time colleague at UNI and both belonging to Kashmir in a message said, “To lose a friend is the greatest of all losses. Veteran sports Journalist and my close colleague and friend Harpal Singh Bedi died after a prolonged illness. He was a gem of a person and great entertainer. Me along with Ashok Tuteja used to spent hours together and we were known as a gang of three in UNI.”

PTI news agency, while paying tributes to Harpal in an article mentioned that Harpal was more than just a journalist; he was a mentor and a friend to many. His colleagues remember him as a father figure in the press box, always ready with a joke to ease the tension and a piece of advice for the younger generation. “He could make nervous newbies comfortable with his trademark humour."

One of the newspapers quoting veteran journalist and sports administrator G Rajaraman said "Harpal Singh Bedi was a quintessential newsman, loved and respected…His finger was on the pulse of Indian sport and sports administration."

Despite his extensive achievements, Harpal remained humble, never boasting about his knowledge or accomplishments. His understanding of international relations, especially India-Pakistan dynamics, was profound, yet he chose to keep his views private, focusing instead on his love for sports.

Harpal's influence extended beyond journalism. He was a regular at the Press Club of India, New Delhi, where his cheerful presence and friendly handshakes were a staple. His ability to stay away from politics, despite his background in international studies, earned him respect across the board.

"Harpal Singh Bedi ji, the most cheerful among sports journalists, is no longer among us. Rest in peace," said 2008 Olympic bronze-winning boxer Vijender Singh, echoing the sentiments of many as reported by the media.

His media colleagues reported that the former sports editor of the United News of India (UNI) was among the tallest figures in Indian sports journalism and was working as a consulting editor of the Statesman newspaper for the last couple of years. "Harpal Singh Bedi was a quintessential newsman, loved and respected by all," said a UNI spokesperson.

Harpal is survived by his wife Revathi and daughter Pallavi. As we bid farewell to this remarkable man, we remember his contributions to sports journalism, kindness, intelligence, and unwavering integrity. Harpal Singh Bedi's legacy will continue to inspire and guide future generations of journalists and sports enthusiasts alike.

Kashmir will also miss him as some of his family members still live in the valley and he would every summer visit his relatives and friends and many a time to guide young journalists, who would like to take the profession and settle beyond the realms of Jammu and Kashmir.