Hero, Their Hero - The War Goes On
Come August and its raining functions
in the country on Freedom Struggle. And why not, the
struggle had embedded the Hindus & Muslims, Privileged & Poor, Badshahs
& Beggars and Dignitaries & Commoners alike, so beautifully that the
world is still wondering how
Urdu Media : Suffering in silence
The history of India's Independence
will be incomplete without the mention of the role played by Urdu
poets/journalists. Unfortunately, not much attention has been given
to the subject except research and discussions in academic and
Urdu's identity , at least in India, revolves around romance and
poetry. With the passing away of a number of luminaries in the last
few decades the glorious chapter of Urdu poetry/journalism and its
role in the freedom struggle has disappeared without even being
While interest in personalities like Ghalib, Zauq, Meer and other
Urdu poets has always been there (some believe it has even
increased) the valour and sacrifices of people like Maulvi Mohammed
Baqar, Muneer Shikohabadi, Munshi Sajjad Hussain and Brij Narayan
Chakbast are hardly heard and remembered.
Some personalities like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Hasrat Mohani,
Mohammed Ali and others are remembered more for their political
activities that overshadows the work they did with the pen. Their
prominence and fame had a lot to do with the fact that their
publications were loved by the masses that catapulted them in the
Another name that comes to mind is that of Abdul Qaiyum Ansari in
Bihar. He was editor of Urdu weekly “Al-Islah” (The Reform) and an
Urdu monthly “Musawat” (Equality) in the pre-independence days. He
also started the Momin movement to work for the betterment of
backward Muslims and vehemently opposed Partition.
Maulvi Mohammed Baqar the editor of Urdu Akhbar was a contemporary
of Ghalib. Baqar had taken upon himself to keep up the morale of the
Delhi citizens and keep people informed.
Candid and fortright in his comments and reports, the British very
soon realised the harm he was doing to their interest. William
Dalrymple's The Last Mughal gives a vivid picture of the man and his
mission. Maulvi Baqar's Urdu Akhbar was not a mouthpiece for the
rebels, but like any nationalist of the time he opposed the
Britishers. Under the most trying circumstances, Baqar continued to
bring out his paper and earned the ire of the Britishers.
Baqar was shot dead after the Britishers took over Delhi for helping
the rebels. A young Mohammed Hussain Azad who also used to help his
father in bringing out the Urdu Akhbar managed to escape. Jamaluddin
the editor of Sadiqul Akhbar was sentenced to three year's
imprisonment for aiding the rebels.
Muneer Shikohabadi, a poet based in Farrukhabad was arrested,
tortured and sent to the Andamans for his nationalist views and
fanning anti-British opinion. Not much is known about Shikohabadi
and he has been reduced to a footnote in the annals of history.
However, his poems give an account of the situation in North India.
Heavy penalty was imposed on Gulshan-i-Naubahar and every step was
taken by the British to suppress the growing menace of such Urdu
As the government of the day responded quickly and forcefully
against the unyielding Urdu press some revolutionaries started
printing newspapers outside India. The Committee for Promotion of
Urdu appointed by the Government of India in 1972 pointed out some
of those newspapers: Aina-i-Saudagari, London (1887);
Tarjuman-e-Shauq, Constantinople, (1878); Sultan-ul-Akhbar, Turkey
(1880); Hindustan, London (1884); ; Hurriyat, Tashkent (1914);
Talwar, Berlin (1910); Hindustani, San Francisco (1914); Yad-e-Watan,
New York, (1923).
The committee also mentioned Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh and Maulana
Obaidullah Sindhi who 'used Urdu for the propagataion of their ideas
and produced a rich volume of political literature'.
The Awadh Punch, started under the editorship of Munshi Sajjad
Hussain in 1877, took Urdu satire to new levels. It poked fun at the
British administration and joined cause with the Congress. Using
humour it also worked to forge Hindu-Muslim unity.
Chakbast (pic left), a Kashmiri Brahmin died when he was only in his
40s. A lawyer by profession he was a gifted poet and writer. His
hilarious poem 'Lord Curzon Se Ek Jhapat' describes a fictitious
conversation between Chakbast and Lord Curzon. A daring and fearless
piece of work, 'Lord Curzon Se Ek Jahpat' was well ahead of its
The Mumbai-based popular Urdu daily Inquilab was founded by Abdul
Hamid Ansari in 1938. A staunch Congressman, Ansari's newspaper
espoused nationalist causes. After Partition, Jinnah invited him to
Pakistan. However, Ansari refused and continued with his work in
This is just a short list and dozens of such names can be drawn up.
The current Urdu newspapers, fighting against all odds, can learn a
lesson or two from them.
Danish Khan is a
journalist currently based in London.
He maintains a blog
titled as The World of Urdu