Journalism in Kashmir started under an unbending environment of oppression and peremptory enforced upon this beautiful vale by the Dogra autocracy, with an illegal consent of the British Crown. 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 curb press in Kashmir. Due to the oppressive nature of the Dogra State, many Kashmiris had migrated to Punjab, which proved to be a lucrative safe haven for Kashmiris and also provided a free environment for expression of their grievances.
Many Kashmiri Muslims living in Punjab and particularly 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, it was named Panja-e-Faulad (Claws of Steel) and began publishing in 1901. His ancestors belonged to a Dar family of Soebug (Kashmir) who had settled at village Hardusheva in Sopore. Although Fauq took to Journalism in the last decade of the 19th century by his engagement with ‘Paisa Akhbar’ in Lahore, he constantly made efforts to run his own newspapers. Fauq’s Panja-e-Faulad by its name and inception epitomizes the iron-fist rule of the Dogra rulers. Through this newspaper, Fauq exposed the autocratic and communal nature of the Dogra regime. Panja-e-Faulad closed down in 1906.
Fauq also edited a monthly named Kashmir Gazette, which was started by one named Mian Jan Muhammad Ganai in 1899, and which ceased to publish in 1905. Fauq also worked in a monthly named Kashmiri Makhzan that was started by Khwaja Kamaluddin. Fauq was appointed as the assistant editor of this newspaper. This newspaper was started for the moral and religious teaching of Kashmiris living in Punjab.
In 1906, he started Kashmiri Magazine on a monthly basis. Kashmiri Magazine attracted a large number of readers and people from all walks of life read and appreciated its content, even the Maharaja had subscribed to it. With growing readership, the circulation of Kashmiri Magazine reached about two thousand and eight hundred, any news published in the Magazine would create tumult and excitement among the people in Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh and Poonch. In 1913, Fauq changed Kashmiri Magazine to Akhbar-e-Kashmiri, and this newspaper wrote on the historical, political and social issues of Kashmir. Akhbar-e-Kashmiri with its writings infused a new spirit in Kashmiris. It stopped publishing in 1933. Besides, he had launched a new newspaper Tarikat in 1914 and a journal Nizam in February 1919, he also brought out Rahnuma-e-Kashmir. Allama Brij Mohan Dataria ‘Kaafi” Dahelvi has also mentioned Fauq as the last Editor of another news¬paper, the Akhbar-e-Kohinoor.
Fauq was also the first person to raise a voice in support for the freedom of press in Kashmir. In 1905 he made a written application to Raja Amar Singh that he may be granted permission to publish a newspaper from Kashmir. The request was turned down by then Maharaja with a strict direction that no such application may be entertained in the future. Fauq’s efforts as a journalist cannot be ignored, neither can they be undermined. He dedicated his life to the cause of Kashmir as a Journalist.
The most important and recognized contribution of Fauq is his work in the field of Historiography. He possessed a definite sense of history and a considerable comprehension of the socio-political scenario of his times and those of the past. He remains unmatched both in his times and the present. His arduous efforts to find out the origins of Kashmiri castes, tribes, groups, dynasties are simply commendable. Perhaps books like Tareekh- e-Aqwaam-e-Kashmir (The History of the People of Kashmir), Tareekh-e-Aqwaam e Poonch (The History of the People of Poonch), Tareekh-e-Aqwaam-e-Jammu (The History of the People of Jammu), Tareekh-e-Aqwaam-e-Ladakh-wa-Gilgit (The History of the People of Ladakh and Gilgit), Mukammal Tareekh-e-Kashmir etc are the greatest of contributions which Fauq has made to the people of Kashmir and their history.
Fauq was also a poet of his times. In 1890’s, he came in contact with Allama Iqbal and Daag Dahelvi and started to mature his poetic instincts. The central theme of Fauq’s poetry was Kashmir, his poetry described its beauty and oppression since the commencement of the Dogra Raj. His poetry also covered the socio-economic, political, cultural and natural problems. Fauq’s poetic compositions are stuffed with a call to the Kashmiri’s to wake-up from their deep slumber, ignorance and illiteracy and realize their glorious past. He wanted Kashmiri’s to build the qualities of courage and tenacity, to which his poetry
bears a testimony.
The most interesting part of his personality is that Fauq was associated and influenced by Allama Iqbal to an all-out level. Fauq’s poetry and journalistic activities clearly indicate that he took Iqbal as an ideologue and a spiritual mentor. Seeing Fauq’s dedication to the cause of Kashmiris, Allama Iqbal gave him the title ‘Mujadid e Kashamara’, meaning ‘The reformist of Kashmir and its people’. It would be imperative to mention here that Fauq was an important part of Iqbal’s Kashmir cause as he used to continuously inform Allama Iqbal on Kashmir. As such, no moment of his life went without the mentioning of Iqbal.
According to Professor Dr. Rattan Lal Hangloo, ‘Fauq wrote 112 books’ on different subjects. He was an active member of the socio-political scenario of his times. It really astonishes one’s mind after going through this 20th century legendary icon that why has Fauq been so much ignored and left behind the curtains of time, even though he wrote so much on Kashmir and its people.
The author has also written a book exploring the life and works of Muhammad Din Fauq, his profession as a journalist and an ethnographer. He has attempted to deal with Fauq’s political associations and as a consequence, his activities, which triggered a stream of activism in the political discourse of Kashmir. The effects and the remnants of which can be felt even today. An enhanced and deep study is still required to do justice with the stature of Muhammad-din-Fauq, who gave so much to Kashmir and its people.