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The resignations came in quick succession. Both, planned.

Kiran Jonnalagadda went first. Resigning from the board of trustees at Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), an Internet advocacy nonprofit. On 28 August. Via an email to the trustees, sent at 23:08. Nikhil Pahwa* followed an hour later. Resigning from his position as chairman of IFF. In an email sent to the trustees, at 00:10. 29 August.

A few weeks later, in a public statement, Pahwa said: “The organisation, which was set up by a few volunteers from (which was a community initiative with over 150 volunteers and several supporting organisations), has a new Executive Director in Apar Gupta*. This marks a change, since, so far, all IFF trustees have been volunteers, with pre-existing commitments to their day jobs…I have not been involved in an executive capacity with IFF for almost a year now, and have learnt of its initiatives from public announcements, for most of 2018. Thus, my departure from the organisation will not affect its functioning, and I sense that its intent remains intact, even if the intended approach has differed from mine for a while.”

Pahwa’s statement was a crisp 743 words. A significantly condensed version of his 3,000-word first draft—a long, detailed list of disagreements with IFF and its members. One that never saw the light of day.

To the trustees of IFF, including board members, the resignations didn’t come as a surprise.

There had been murmurs. And most of them had known this for a while. Witnessed it first hand. The chasm. The discomfort of being together in a room, on a call. Yet they tried, for one last time. For old time’s sake. Let’s get together. All eight of us on the board. Jonnalagadda. Pahwa. Gupta. Rachita Taneja. Raman Cheema. Aravind RS. Karthik Balakrishnan. Rohin Dharmakumar*. Let’s all meet in Bengaluru. Bury our disagreements, formally accept the resignations and then make Gupta’s appointment official. Grab some lunch after that, and then go our separate ways.

Aravind, who had moved to Singapore almost 16 months back, led the conversation. With more than a month’s notice, sometime in July, he alerted the group, I’ll be travelling to India in August. How about all of us meet then? Anytime between 25th to 30th of the month. Works?

Everyone started tweaking their schedule around the dates. Gupta and Cheema said they’d be happy to fly down from New Delhi. Jonnalagadda said he could book a conference room at WeWork in Embassy Golf Links. Taneja said she’d be in Bengaluru and glad to catch up. After much back and forth, almost everyone agreed to meet at around 11 AM on 29 August. A Wednesday.

The same morning, everyone woke up to the two resignations. But a date is a date, so they showed up.

Everyone, except for Pahwa and Dharmakumar.


Ashish K. Mishra

Ashish edits and writes stories at The Ken. Across subjects. In his last assignment, he was a Deputy Editor at Mint, a financial daily published by HT Media. At the paper, he wrote long, deeply reported feature stories. His earlier assignments: Forbes India magazine and The Economic Times. Born in Kolkata. Studied in New Delhi – B.Com from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. Works out of anywhere, where there is a good story to be told.

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