The father of journalism in Kashmir.
BY ER.SHAFI AHMAD
Longer nose, typical for the person who is supposed to have enough one to have ,in journalistic language, nose for news ; impressive head holding a big brain badly needed as required for making Khazir think over the banks of Wular and to churn out the typical , interesting and powerful Khazir Sochta hai column which kept its audience captive as if a lasso was thrown to hold them tethered. As Khazir kept thinking treasure of words flowed down like a mountain stream making ear soothing voices ,the calligraphers spread the pearls on the pages and when it reached the readers in the form of a newspaper page it gave them something to relish, enjoy its intrinsic meaning and ,of course, appreciate the targeted onslaught on the people in the line of fire.
Face readers believe ‘People with large and wide eyes are likely to have a broad mind and are willing to accept different viewpoints. They will also be keen to help other people. Such persons are most likely to be blessed with artistic talents. However, others may take advantage of the people with large and wide eyes as they maintain honesty in relationships. And the analysis of face readers comes true in case of Khwaja sahib. The great man was blessed one and happened to be helpful particularly to the young pen wielders.
His wide eyes were an important feature for keeping an eye on the politics, dubious politicians and the unscrupulous bureaucrats . His spread out ears were an asset for the profession he worked in as using the Urdu jargon ‘even walls have ears ‘these are needed badly to keep them well entrenched in the walls for listening about bigger political secrets and the sounds of the tumbling skeletons from the cupboards. The special feature of his face were the thick moustaches which in all cases have been considered enough to show off one’s authority on work and workers.
That is what was Khwaja Sana Ullah Bhat donning the majestic Karakuli Cap and longer shoulder level hair cut, the father of Journalism in Kashmir. He started as a hawker cum editor of the newspaper Aftab, did not hesitate to work himself in all capacities . He rose from nothing to own the paper ,the grandeur associated with this Urdu daily .And is still regarded as the virtuous and trustworthy . He introduced himself and his paper to the general public, groomed aspiring youngsters as journalists, pushed raw pen pushers into prominence . But for his dictatorial attitude this all would not materialize. And as they say dictators in governance are a hated lot but in pen wielding jobs , some dictating guides are must ……….and a bit of arrogance pays dividends.
And Kh. SanaUllah Bhat proved the mettle!
“Armaghan e Kaashmar is a small anthology created by new faces in fiction who shine on the horizon of Urdu literature and hold the promise for future. The future of Urdu literature is glued to these youngsters and if their present day quest and desire remains intact it will be a sure shot that they will light up the sky of Urdu literature in Kashmir. And will be counted among those who added up the treasure of Urdu literature with their writings. I pray to God He bestows them with courage and success in their honest endavours. “ This is the foreword penned for the anthology compiled by young author Dr.Bashir Gaash who had presented it to the doyen of journalism in Kashmir ,who after going through had suggested it be titled as Armaghan e Kashmar instead of its original title Armaghan e Shabab. The keen interest shown in encouraging the group of young authors was his usual chore as he believed if youth of today is patted on the back they will be shining lights of tomorrow .
Young Urdu writer and editor Urdu Sheeraza (JK Cultural Academy) Salim Salik opines as follows , “To what extent he loved the young generation one can figure out from the above message. Khwaja Sahib offered the young writers a platform in the daily Aftab which was instrumental in bringing forth a big chunk of writers .The time and space was important and fertile young Turks experimented in fresher trends and gradients quenching their literary thirst. The new phenomenon stirred the literary impasse here and with pages of Aftab at their disposal a larger group of writers came forward and many among have earned a name on the national level. But we can’t forget those who at the time with their literary zest turned the scenario into a literary hub that one can’t but call it the golden period of literature. “
The man behind the collection of material and compilation of the anthology has been author Bashir Gaash who recollects the whole episode and Khwaja Sahib in the following words , “ I have been a great lover of Khwaja sahib, not only an admirer. He was a very good critic, and a visionary. He had strong hold on fiction, non-fiction and on poetry.
He was the God-father of Urdu literature in J&K. He was unique, and I am unsure if anyone in near future can reach his calibre.
When I recollect those days (when Armughan was conceived) in 1975, I can’t but mention a vital name – Yaseen Firdausi – who had a small bookshop near the Lalded Hospital. He published the book and bore all the expenses. Had he not sponsored the anthology it would remain a dream. May God bestow him with Jannah.”
The essence of his daily column is explained by Salik as under .’The sweetness of language and freshness of the theme kept the readers attracted . To delve upon the daily happenings in the prose was Khwaja Sahib’s daily routine. Though few more journalists and writers tried to follow the path but Khwaja’s literary acumen was unmatched. Fikr Tounswi with his Pyaz kay Chilkay wiped the tears of people so did Khwaja sahib created laughter on the banks of Wular.“
Eminent columnist and educationist Dr.Jauhar Qudussi in one of his write ups highlights the importance of Literary editions of the daily Aftab. He opines ,” Aftab , for a long time published literary editions in its Sunday sections. In these young poets and writers from the state, particularly the valley, got published. Scanning the older files of Aftab proves that the then new comers and now established names got introduced through publications in Aftab and few more local papers. We should not hesitate to credit the Aftab that it included local young writers in its Sunday and literary editions publishing short stories , poetry and literary sketches. This provided a link for the common readers to the literary pages of the paper.”
Dr.Bashir Gaash the compiler of Armaghan e Kashmar has a word of gratitude towards Kh. Sahib when he writes, “In the valley of gemologists there is no dearth but they tend to buy such jewels where they require lesser work .Why should someone pick raw stones ? And waste time on trimming , set them right and present to the world. In such a situation these raw diamonds fall in the hands of thrift sellers and whenever there is an auction the asking price is very low……………editor Aftab Kh Sana Ullah Bhat is the only genuine buyer in such market who accepts un-mended jewels bestows them the glitter and leaves them for auction.”
Some of the youngsters who rose steps of success under Khwaja Sahib’s guidance have fond memories of his valuable encouragement of theirs and contribution to the profession. One such person is acclaimed author Khalid Bashir . His analysis follows , “ The contribution of Khawaja Sahab in the promotion of Urdu journalism in Kashmir is unparalleled. In many ways, he performed the leading role. The home delivery of newspapers in Kashmir is his contribution. Before him, hawking was unknown here. He engaged runners and thus laid the foundation of an organized system of transmission of news in the Valley. He also played the pioneering role in engaging full-time news reporters and staffers .
Another milestone achieved by Khawaja Sahib was the introduction of the offset printing in the Valley, in fact, the State, and thus making the content more interesting and attractive by visual support. Before this, the newspapers in Kashmir, as also in Jammu, were published through the hackneyed and outdated Litho printing process. It served as a very pleasant development in the promotion of Urdu journalism in Kashmir. Burning with the desire and urge to take Urdu journalism in the Valley out of its primitive mode, he made yet another singular contribution by subscribing to the Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI) news services, introducing to his readers the latest news and happenings across the globe. The two news services had an arrangement with global newsgathering agencies like Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse, etc. which brought readers closer to the international news scene.
The Aftab was responsible for making Noor Muhammad Tarraki, Babrak Karmal, Najib Ullah, Sibgatullah Mujadidi, Gulbadeen Hikmatyar, Ahmad Shah Masood, Abdur Rashid Dostam et el. household names in Kashmir. Alongside the Stinger missiles fired by the mujahideen on the Soviet troops, the Aftab was regularly pounding them with Harpoons of written words.”
“The late Khwaja Shib was fully aware about the rules of journalism. To bring out the newspaper regularly for fifty years may or may not be a record but speaks of the determination and steadfastness .”says well known author Abdullah Khawar.
Post Script : Journalist Reyaz Quraishi travels down the memory lane to bring one interesting episode to fore.
“I have had the honour to work in Aftab under the auspices of late kh.Sanuallah after proper interview by him way back in 1979 for a very short period. There I met Yousuf Jameel and Tahir Mohi u Din. I cherish the days when tea was served along with butter pasted bagel( tchochwour) at exactly 11:30am. Winter had crept in Kashmir and Harrisa as usual had exhibited its sweet and warm face on the shops ,luring the chilled people to embrace it. On a fine rainy day, khawja sahib asked me to write some thing on Harrisa Cuisine. I wrote with pen quivering in my right hand but not the ideas. Finally ,I put my write up on his table and then after sometime he beckoned me to come to his table and asked me to write the beginning of the my write up without making any corrections in the body of the write up.. He dictated that the world and the Cosmas was created in seven days quoting Ayah Sab-As Samawat-i-Wa-al-Arz and then made me to write the biblical chronology of seven days (week)., starting from Saturday and ending on Sunday, the day creator took rest…forgot to tell that the paper was Sunday edition . After inserting the dictated note in the body stitching it properly that gave the write up cohesiveness, khaja sahib called a calligrapher sitting inside a nearby room and told him to copy it.. My joy new no bounds and I feel the warmth of that joy this time while jotting down my observations.”
Er.Shafi Ahmad is a columnist and can be reached at email@example.com