Mohammad-ud-din Fauq: Remembering first journalist of Kashmir

The invention of paper and printing press were landmarks in the development of human civilization.  In course of time press occupied a very important place in socio-political life of people and came to be regarded as the fourth estate.  In India vernacular press came up with the spread of education and by and large this press became the mouth piece of people’s grievances. Moreover, the vernacular press did not command any prestige under the challenging circumstances of 19th and early20th century.  It was only a man of great fortitude and perseverance who could think of editing or running a vernacular newspaper.  Mohammad-ud- Din Fauq, the first journalist of Kashmir had all these virtues in ample measure. His ancestors belonged to one of the Dar family of Soebug Kashmir and later one branch of them settled at village Hardusheva in Sopore. It was from here that Fauq   left for Lahore in search of sustenance. When Fauq started his career as a journalist in the last quarter of 19th century, it was indeed a difficult opening in those days because the political climate of the country was not conducive to the growth of this profession of journalism. Besides those days Journalism was comparatively a new field of activity. But Fauq  possessed  a great courage of conviction, scholarly bent of mind and intelligence that stood him in good stead, first as an editor and then as editor-proprietor of the several Kashmiri newspapers in Lahore.

By then Lahore was one of the most important centers of socio-political activities and vernacular press had already been launched there when Fauq choose journalism as his career.  Before joining the staff of newspaper ‘Paisa’, Mohammad-ud-din-Fauq served the permit and excise department of Jammu and Kashmir state for few months.  This occasion brought him face to face with the problems of Jammu and Kashmir State. It is not clear in what capacity Mohamed-ud-din-Fauq joined the staff of ‘Paisa Akhbar’ in first instance.  However, before taking up the job of journalist, Fauq studied journalism in the training school, which was run by the management of newspaper ‘Paisa’in Lahore.  Babu Dina Nath Hafiz Abadi who according to Fauq was an excellent journalist of Punjab those days was his class fellow at the training school. The other contemporaries of Fauq at the training school were Abdul Rauuf Khan, Mirza Ali Hussain, Babu Jaigopal and Mir Jalib Dehlvi.

In 1901 Fauq launched his own newspaper named ‘Pinja-i-Faulad’ (steel cloves) with the idea of exposing the pathetic condition of Kashmirees under Dogra Raj. Initially Fauq’s Uncle Munshi Ghulam Mohamed Khadim and his brother Babu Rahim Baksh contributed articles on Kashmir to this paper.  In 1902 Miyan John Mohammad Ganai started “Kashmiri ‘Gazette’ under the editorship of Mohamed-ud-din-Fauq.  It was a monthly journal and its purpose was to cater to the requirements of Kashmiri people within and outside Kashmir.  The Kashmiri Gazette came to an end with the death of John Mohammad Ganai in 1905.  However, in 1904 Fauq and his associates had already launched Kashmiri Magazine and its circulation was in and outside Kashmir on a large scale.

In 1906 Fauq approached Raja Amar Singh for permission to launch a paper and press in Kashmir but the permission to issue a paper in Kashmir was refused.  In 1909 Kashmiri Anjuman which had already been in existence, was renamed as the ‘Muslim Conference’.  Dr.Sir Mohammad Iqbal became the General Secretary of this association. Baboo Haider Mohamad Marhoom also worked as Secretary of this Association.  Fauq himself was its joint Secretary. He started Kashmiri Magazine initially on monthly basis but after finding a very encouraging response it was issued on weekly basis in 1913 and it continued to be issued till 1939. Commenting on the working of this journal ‘Fauq’ himself says that in the beginning he was in doubt whether he would be able to issue it on weekly basis. He had an encouraging response of reading public with him and a very enthusiastic and dear friend of ‘Fauq’ from Jammu worked as honorary editor for the magazine and this was definitely a positive inspiration to ‘Fauq’ himself. In course of time the sphere of circulation of Kashmiri Magazine reached to about two thousand and eight hundred (2800).  Fauq says that any event that was published in this paper would create a commotion in Jammu, Punch, Kashmir, Gilgit and Ladakh and there would be a lot of excitement in official circles of Jammu and Kashmir State. Among the clientele of Fauq’s magazine were such eminent people as Maharaja Partap Singh, Sir Raja Amar Singh, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, Sir Raja Baldev Singh, and Raja Sukh Dev Singh.  Apart from these members of aristocracy, the ministers of state, residents of Kashmir, Special assistant residents of Punch and British Joint Commissioner of Ladakh too were regular subscribers to this magazine.

In an area of Eighty four thousand (84,000) Sq. miles and having forty lakhs of inhabitants, Kashmiri magazine was one of the few papers in early 20th century that conveyed the feeling of Kashmiris to the officials and rulers of the state.  Apart from public the officials also attached a great importance to the views expressed in this paper. It shows that Fauq was a fearless and a frank journalist.  He was in the front rank of Urdu journalists of his time.  Whenever, Alama Brij Mohan Dataria ‘Kaafi’ Dehelvi has made a mention of Urdu newspapers and their editors in pre-Independent India , he has made a pointed reference to Mohammad-ud-Din-Fauq acknowledging his services in the field of journalism. He mentions Fauq as the last editor of Akhbar-i- Kohinoor also. These details subsequently appeared in the Urdu journal published in Hyderabad, Deccan.  The journal ‘Muaurif of Oct. 1942 published in Azimgarh, carried the list of eminent journalists of India and Fauq’s name figures there as well among the first few.

Mohammad-ud-Din-Fauq also started Akhbari-Kashmir-i-Lahore’. The services that his ‘Akhbari-Kashmir-i-Lahore’ including Jammu, Kashmir and Punch Gazette rendered to Kashmiris have been highlighted by the ‘Presidents’ of all India Muslim Conference, in their speeches on their annual gatherings.  Not only the Kashmiris and Muslims of Punch but all the non-Muslims have also acknowledged the services rendered by this paper.  It was published in Lahore.  A very significant feature of this paper was that it did not lose sight of socio-cultural problems of Kashmir. This paper carried special features on the education, social reforms, famine conditions and other problems of the people. It was during this period that Fauq articulated the necessity of having a University in Kashmir for Kashmiris. Fauq encouraged the institution of the charity for meeting the expenses incurred in connection with the award of scholarship to deserving Kashmiri students and other relief works in Kashmir. Fauq made a second bid to secure permission from Jammu and Kashmir State to issue a paper from within the state itself but as usual the state officials refused the permission.

As a journalist Mohammad-ud-Din Fauq while practicing journalism found conditions very difficult during the first three decades of twentieth century. However, in the twenties of twentieth century the paper that he edited seemed to have drawn a lot of sustenance from advertisements.  Fauq was an enlightened journalist who tried to keep himself abreast of educational defects and developments also.  He also reported on the political developments, taking place in different parts of the country.  Fauq was always wide-awake to all the developments in Kashmir and as a conscientious journalist he gathered the information through his contacts and also from English dailies in order to cater to the news conscious readers of Urdu papers.  This shows his calibre as a journalist and as a man curious for information and facts. He spent most of his career as a journalist and in this capacity he was fully apprised of the developments through, whatever means of communication was available to journalist of those days. Although Fauq was also a Historian and Poet of great eminence but I am not touching those aspects of his personality here.

Fauq’s services in the field of journalism are very significant. Lala Mulkraj Saraf, the leading journalist who is also regarded as the doyen in the field of journalism in State of Jammu and Kashmir, acknowledges Fauq with a deep sense of gratitude, and admits the fact that he was inspired by Fauq. Lala Mulk Raj Saraf says, “Once or twice he wrote for the Kashmiri magazine published from Lahore, the editor and Proprietor of that was the renowned literaturer, poet and Historian Maulvi Mohammad-ud-Din-Fauq with whom I had very friendly and contemporaneous connections in the later years.” All this bears a witness to the fact that Mohammad-ud-Din-Fauq was unparalleled journalist of his time. Jammu and Kashmir State is highly indebted to Mohammad-ud-Din-Fauq as the pioneer of journalism in the State.

(The writer hails from Hangugund village of Kokernag, presently heads the Chair of Indian Studies at Tbilisi State University, Georgia)