Siddharth Varadarajan

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Siddharth Varadarajan
Siddharth Varadarajan CC image.jpg
Siddharth Varadarajan
New York
Alma materColumbia University
London School of Economics
Brockley County Comprehensive School
Mayo College
OccupationFounding Editor of The Wire (Indian web publication)
Spouse(s)Nandini Sundar
RelativesTunku Varadarajan
AwardsShorenstein Journalism Award,
Bernardo O'Higgins Order,
Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize,
Ramnath Goenka Memorial Award for Journalist of the Year

Siddharth Varadarajan (born 1965) is an Indian-American journalist, editor, political analyst, and academic. He is one of the founding editors of Indian news website The Wire. He is the former editor of Indian national daily The Hindu. He has reported on the NATO war against Yugoslavia, the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the civil war and peace process in Nepal, and the crisis in Kashmir. Varadarajan has edited a book titled Gujarat:The Making of a Tragedy which is about the 2002 Gujarat riots.[1] and co-authored Nonalignment 2.0. He was also a member of the Expert Group on International Humanitarian Law, formed by the Indian Society for International Law to make recommendations to the Government of India on ratifying the optional protocols to the Geneva Conventions.[2]

Early Life and Influences[edit]

Siddharth Varadarajan was born into a to an IAS officer, Muthusamy, and Usha, a housewife-turned-businesswoman. He did his initial schooling in Lucknow and Ajmer. Varadarajan was studying in Mayo College when his father was sent on a diplomatic posting to the Indian High Commission in London in 1978. There, Siddharth joined the Brockley County state school.[3] He went on to study economics at the London School of Economics (LSE) which, he claims, shaped much of the world view that he has today[4] In LSE, he was very involved in progressive causes such as opposing racism, apartheid, the arms race and supporting the historic miners' strike against Margaret Thatcher. One of his favourite memories from his LSE days is spending a couple of days with a striking miner, which gave him a strong insight into the life of the British working class.[4] London was also a formative time in that it was the first time that he had a chance to form relationships with fellow students from Pakistan and through them gained an understanding of the shared heritage and common problems of South Asia.[3]

In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by a Sikh guard and Varadarajan has described the subsequent pogroms against the Sikh community in Delhi and other north Indian cities, in which the erstwhile ruling Indian National Congress party was involved, as a personal turning point, when he realized he wanted to return to India and contribute in any way possible to ending communal violence and getting justice.[3]


After studying economics at the London School of Economics, Varadarajan moved to New York where he studied and taught at Columbia and New York University. Along with an active community of Indian students, he was very involved in the fight for human rights, justice for the victims of the 1984 massacres and other riots and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.[3] This is also when he first turned to journalism, freelancing for Frontline magazine on international affairs, especially on nuclear and arms control issues. He returned to India to work as a journalist before joining The Times of India as an editorial writer in 1995 and has lived in India since then. In 2004, he joined The Hindu, India's second largest English-language newspaper, as Strategic Affairs editor. He then worked as The Hindu's Chief of National Bureau, succeeding Harish Khare, who was named as then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's media adviser, in June 2009.[3]

Editor of The Hindu[edit]

In May 2011, the shareholders of Kasturi and Sons Ltd. held an extraordinary general meeting and voted to appoint Varadarajan as The Hindu's editor on the recommendation of the company's board, thus making Varadarajan the first editor of the newspaper not drawn from the family of shareholders in its 150-year history.[5] Prior to his appointment, The Hindu's editors were drawn from the family of the company's owners.

During his time at The Hindu, Varadarajan reinforced walls of probity between the editorial and business sides, and between the comment and news sides. He set up new foreign bureaux at Addis Ababa, Jakarta and São Paolo; ramped up regional coverage in South Asia and increased the emphasis on investigative stories.[3]

On October 21, 2013, Varadarajan publicly announced via Twitter, his resignation from The Hindu, citing a change in policy by the owners of the newspaper to go back to being a family-run and edited newspaper.[6]

While Varadarajan was the editor, Subramanian Swamy filed a case in Delhi's High Court challenging his appointment as editor on the grounds that Varadarajan was a US citizen. Swamy also made a written complaint to the Registrar of Newspapers of India under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.[7][8] N Ram denied that Varadarajan's resignation was in any way related to Swamy's case but admitted that it "was hanging like a sword over our heads".[9] Swamy's petition was ultimately dismissed by the Delhi High Court as the issue had become infructuous with Varadarajan's resignation.[10] However, the court noted that there was in fact no legal bar in the PRB Act or any other statute on a foreign citizen editing an Indian newspaper. Varadarajan has said in an interview that Swamy had demanded more coverage in The Hindu of his statements through an intermediary. Barbs and warnings were then given by Swamy to Varadarajan, and when Varadarajan kept refusing to oblige, Swamy filed his case in court.[11]

The Wire[edit]

In 2015, Varadarajan along with Sidharth Bhatia and M.K. Venu co-founded the nonprofit online news portal called The Wire and became one of its Founding Editors.[12]

Academic positions

In 2007, Varadarajan was a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley.[13] In 2009, he was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University.[14][15]

Other affiliations[edit]

Varadarajan is a member of the International Founding Committee of The Real News,[16] and was, until 2015, a board member of the inter-governmental B.P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation.[17] He was also until 2015, a member of the Executive Council of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies[18], and a member of the Indian Council of World Affairs. However, he continues as a member of the editorial board of India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs.[19] In 2019, he joined the International Advisory Council of the Sydney-based Judith Neilson Institute of Journalism and Ideas.[20]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In November 2005, the United Nations Correspondents Association awarded Varadarajan the Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize Silver Medal for Print Journalism for a series of articles, Persian Puzzle on Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.[21]

In March 2006, he was awarded the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by the President of Chile—that country's highest civilian honor for a foreign citizen—for his contributions to journalism and to the promotion of India's relations with Latin America and Chile.[22]

In July 2010, he received the Ramnath Goenka award for Journalist of the Year (Print).[23]

He received the 2017 Shorenstein Journalism Award for outstanding reporting on Asia and for significant contributions to western understanding of the region.[24]

In January 2019, he was given the Lokmanya Tilak Journalism Nationalism Award, an honour instituted by the Kesari Maratha Trust in honour of Lokmanya Tilak, freedom fighter and founder of the Kesari newspaper in Pune.[25]

Personal Life[edit]

Varadarajan is married to Nandini Sundar, a sociologist and anthropologist and Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics.



  • Gujarat The Making of a Tragedy. Penguin. 2003. ISBN 978-0143029014.
  • Nonalignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the 21st Century. Penguin. 2014. ISBN 978-0670086986.

Essays, reporting and other contributions[edit]

  • Varadarajan, Siddharth (January 12, 2015). "A year of living aspirationally". 2014: The Year that Was. Outlook. 55 (1): 120–124. Retrieved 2016-01-07.
  • "Global threats and India's quest for strategic space" in Great Powers and Strategic Stability in the 21st Century (Ed: Graeme Herd) ISBN 978-0-415-56054-2


  1. ^
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Making News - Palash Dave profiles brothers Tunku and Siddharth Varadarajan".
  4. ^ a b "A Conversation on Indian Media: Interview with Siddharth Varadarajan".
  5. ^ Siddharth Varadarajan appointed Hindu editor Archived 2013-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Twitter: svaradarajan Siddharth Varadarajan's resignation tweet
  7. ^ Registrar sends letter to The Hindu on editor's appointment, Business Standard, 24 January 2013.
  8. ^ Subramanian Swamy's complaint, scanned copy,
  9. ^ Ram's comment on Dr. Swamy's case as sword, livemint, 22 October 2013.
  10. ^ Not for court to legislate on definition of Editor, says Delhi High Court, The Hindu, 18 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Yes, There Is Bitterness. 'The Hindu' Was On The Cusp Of Something Great: Varadarajan", Tehelka, 23 October 2013, archived from the original on 24 October 2013
  12. ^ "The Wire". Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  13. ^ Reality, one bite at a time: On sabbatical
  14. ^ Siddharth Varadarajan, Indian Journalist, Visits Yale
  15. ^ Varadarajan lecture on C-Span: Understanding India-Pakistan relations after the Mumbai terror attack
  16. ^ The Real News: International Founding Committee
  17. ^ BPKF website Archived 2009-10-09 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ "Sage Publications". 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^ The Hindu : National : UNCA award for Siddharth Varadarajan
  22. ^ Latest India News @ NewKerala.Com, India
  23. ^ Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards Archived 2010-08-01 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor of The Wire, to Receive 2017 Shorenstein Journalism Award".
  25. ^ "Nirbhid Patrakaritela Pathbal Dhya - Varadarajan".

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Harish Khare
Chief of the National Bureau
The Hindu

2009- 2011
Succeeded by
Praveen Swami
Preceded by
Narasimhan Ram
The Hindu

Succeeded by
N. Ravi