The legacy of such journalists has inspired the new generations to take up the mantle of journalism. It is not easy to be a journalist in here, but it is worthwhile to tell a story.
Here are 7 Kashmiri Journalists You Must Know.
1: Munshi Muhammad Din Fauq
Till 1924, no newspaper was allowed to be published as The Press Regulations Act of Jammu and Kashmir gave unlimited powers to the Dogra regime to control the press in Kashmir. Many Kashmiri Muslims living in Lahore made relentless efforts to help Kashmiris against the Dogra oppression. One amongst them was Munshi Muhammad Din Fauq, who became the first Kashmiri to start a newspaper named Panja-e-Faulad (Claw of Steel) in 1901. Through this newspaper Fauq exposed the autocratic and communal nature of the Dogra regime. He was also a historian and a poet.
According to Professor Dr. Rattan Lal Hangloo, Fauq wrote 112 books on different subjects.
2: Yusuf Jameel Shah
Born on Mar 3, 1958, Yusuf Jameel Shah became a household name in Kashmir during the dreaded 90s. He is widely respected for his non-partisan coverage of Kashmir. Threatened, abducted and attacked, he has survived 6 attacks in addition to couple of kidnappings. The sixth and the last attack on Sep 7, 1995 in which a burqa-clad woman brought a parcel bomb to his office, killed his colleague Mushtaq Ali and injured him and another photographer Habibullah Naqash.
Jameel says the attack was planned to shut a voice that was speaking truth. “I know the attack was carried out by Army through Ikhwanis. They had exhausted all other ways, threats, offers, and what not. They wanted to kill me. When I survived they pressurised BBC to throw me out.” he says.
Mehraj-ud-Din, the first photo-journalist of Kashmi,r during his time at the English daily Kashmir Times was the first to know about the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. How? Well, if one picked up the phone in the office and listened carefully, they could hear murmurs of wireless feed of the local police control room. Meraj-ud-din says he has seen so much violence that it doesn’t move him anymore. Two incidents, he says, were mainly responsible for this desensitisation: the Gawakadal massacre on January 20, 1990 and the firing on Maulvi Farooq’s funeral procession in May the same year.
In a interview with Rediff, he said: “When I reached Gawakadal all I could see were the dead. I saw bodies of children, bodies of women, bodies of men…” Meraj-ud-din reminisces. “Later they brought the dead to the police compound. I saw them again. There I cried. I shouted, screamed. Don’t do this to the people! That day I saw everything.” That was the last time he cried. “I can’t cry now,” he says, “Mere rishtedaar bhi marte mere aakhon me aasau nahi aate (Even when my relatives die tears don’t come to my eyes). My friend died. I didn’t cry.”
4: Khawaja Sonaullah Bhat
Khawaja Sonaullah Bhat started his career in journalism in 1952 from a weekly ‘Kashmir’ in Azad Kashmir. He started the daily ‘Aftab’ in 1957. Fully devoted to his professional life and his daily, Bhat, popularly known as ‘Khawaja sahib’, introduced the street sale of newspapers.
He had also authored a number of books. Bhat was the first to use offset printing technology in Kashmir. He also introduced Kashmir to photo-journalism and home delivery. The news and other content in the Aftab enjoyed the highest credibility among readers, it was banned by Governor Jagmohan over the coverage of the massacres in 1990 . The ban was overturned by the courts after ten days. Sonaullah Bhat was often threatened by rebel outfits, agencies and the Indian forces alike. His offices were frequently raided and his house was burned down in August 1993.
He passed away on Nov 25, 2009.
5: Prem Nath Bazaz
Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, a veteran journalist was the owner of daily newspaper Hamdard. He was also a freedom fighter and founder of Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Front. Bazaz paid a heavy price for his political stand. The Muslims hated him and the Pandits did not love him. His friends betrayed him and the government persecuted him, he was jailed for 5 years and finally exiled. Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, a great son of Kashmir was punished for his uncompromising stand on Kashmir. He was a staunch advocate of independent Kashmir. He has written many books on Kashmir.
Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz died in exile on July 5, 1984.
6: Aasia Jeelani
Born on the 9th of February 1974, Aasia, a trained journalist left her internship in Delhi in 2001 to go back home to Kashmir and give a voice to those who were struggling in her own land. She took up work with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and gave up her dream of the high life as a journalist in Delhi to resonate the voice of those who were suffering in Jammu. She worked to empower women who had suffered due to the loss of male family members at the hands of the occupational forces through economic help, and the stories she heard touched her deeply. These very stories inspired her to begin a news letter –Voices Unheard– through which she shared the stories of suffering women in Kashmir with the rest of the world.
She breathed her last breath on the 20th of April 2004 when the car she was travelling in drove over a landmine and the vehicle was ripped apart by the strength of the explosion.
7: Qaiser Mirza
A household name in the 90s, Qaiser was famous for their impartial and unbiased reporting of the events which had left strong impressions in the minds of the people. Arthur Max (AP bureau chief at New Delhi) with whom he had worked very intimately during Hazratbal siege was immense impressed by him. He always commended his professionalism, objectivity and integrity. Equally, Arthur always had a word of appreciation for him for accuracy and impartiality in his reports. His bureau Chiefs in the Voice of America (VOA) Peter Henlien, Michael Drudge and Jim Temple all had an appreciation for his news gathering. He had hundreds of thousands of listeners in the valley and outside who admired him for his detailed and meticulous situation reports.
Qaisar Mirza passed away on April 13, 2002 at a very young age. He died in a tragic road accident in New Delhi.