Remembering a star
It's exactly a year since Khwaja Sahab left us
TRIBUTE BY DR. JAVID IQBAL
Last year, when Khawaja Sonnaullah Bhat left for his heavenly abode, I had captioned it as ‘Ek Chirag Tha Na Raha’ in his institutionalized ‘Aftab’ a daily, which occupied the pride of place in valley’s journalistic fraternity for long and retains its flavour still, in spite of educated class opting for English. And English or Urdu, it might be stated without fear of contradiction that ‘Aftab’ of Khawaja Sahib stimulated the growth of journalistic activity, in fact it may take largely the credit of the high standards of journalism in Kashmir of 21st century. So those who called him ‘Aftab-i-Suhafat’ were not going overboard. It was a title largely deserved.
I did not have the privilege of getting close to the doyen of journalism in Kashmir, Khawaja Sonnaullah Bhat which would remain a matter of regret. The historic Lal Chowk, as for much else was the center of Khawaja Sahib’s activities. Around Lal Chowk moved the wheels of Kashmir’s politics, journalism; in fact the entire ambit of intellectual life. Khawaja Sahab had to be in it, he went much beyond. He became a part of it. And there were others? Mr. Gh. Muhammad Sofi Sahib, another star on journalistic horizon, who passed away days before Khawaja Sahib, was comparatively junior to him. In our younger days, during sixties, Sofi Sahab was a constant visitor to ‘Kashmir Valley’ restaurant adjacent to ‘Diamond Motor Service’ in the Chowk, where we would spend hours with him. ‘Diamond Motor Service’ was the abode of ‘Plebiscite Front’ as one of its proprietors Haji Muhammad Subhan was a close associate of Sheikh Abdullah. Associated with ‘Diamond, though not as business associates, but as political buddies were Bhat brothers of Basant Bagh-Gh.Muhammad and Ali Muhammad Out of jail, they would make a huge presence in ‘Diamond’ and take an evening stroll with Haji Sahab. Bhat brothers, it was rumored were repositories of many a secret. Many political moves would be hatched in their Basant Bagh abode; it was widely believed. The place was frequented by political dignitaries of all hues. A fling of stairs would take you to ‘Orion Hotel’ where we would often join Mr. Ab. Ghani Lone, the martyred leader. Up the road, in the coffee house; Shamim Ahmad Shamim would sit like Raja Inder amongst his fans; I was one of them.
Those were sweet times of peace and tranquility and one of the pillars of social milieu was Khwaja Sonnaullah Bhat. Khawaja Sahab would often drop in these political hubs of Lal Chowk; however being an elder, he would not mix with us. We would remain in awe of him. My close friend-Nazir Ahmad Bhat, a scion of Basant Bagh Bhat family, presently the editor of oldest paper of Srinagar ‘Khidmat’ would often recount with misty eyes, the early days of Khawaja Sonnaullah Bhat. After his return from across the border, Khawaja Sahab was the proprietor, printer, publisher, editor and distributor of ‘Aftab’. Nazir attests having seen him distributing his one page paper. Across Pir Panchal, Ved Bhasin was in same straits; it is reported, he got a single page printed, but never bowed. Who says, we are a poor state with human resources, as rich as these doyens. Add to this galaxy Mr. Shamim and Mr. Sofi and imagine the richness.
Khwaja Sahab crossed the border, as did K.H.Khursheed and Gh. Nabi Gilkar. What transpired across is as sad a tale as what transpired on this side; even sadder. Sadder perhaps, as many crossed to seek solace; however ethnic barriers were as tough to cross, as the religious ones, hence the heaven was not quite the heaven, thought to be! Close association with Muhammad Ali Jinnah failed to translate into love for his State, in case of Khurshid, he was his secretary failed. He was crowned the ‘Head of State’ Sadr of Pakistan administered Kashmir. To his regret, the state didn’t exist, the crown, he was supposed to wear, he found on the head of a ‘Joint Secretary’ of Kashmir Affairs ministry of Pakistan Government! Others, who took turns to be the head of the state or the executive, had a similar experience; there was nothing for them to execute.
Khwaja Sahab plunged into journalism, but not of yellow variety. He meant business, the business that was not acceptable. Mr. Hafizullah, a Kashmiri lawyer pleaded his case. There was substance in it, a substance, which was not acceptable to the unsubstantiated. Extra-judicial measures were employed; he was handed over to Major Shah of Pakistani army. As ‘Aftab’ reports, he was interrogated for ten days and then with two of his associates, he was pushed to this side on the night of 7th/8th March, 1957. His two associates were Amir-ud-Din Marazi of Do-ab-Gah and a Soporian Khwaja Wali Muhammad Adel. On this side, too, they were interrogated, first by the Indian army and then Kashmir police.
On this side Abdullah, the loin had been caged. And many others with him were interned. Within month and a half, Khwaja Sahab, in June 1957 took the only trail, he knew. The ‘Aftab’ on horizon started warming hearts and putting a lasting imprint on minds. Soon we had Khazar thinking on the banks of Wular Lake. How impressive remained the title ‘Khazar Soachta Hai Wular Kay Kinaray’? Ask, Gh. Nabi Azad, who claims to have had a copy faxed of the page, to wherever he would be, at the particular period of time. The lesser mortal, poor me, living abroad, unable to bear the expenses of a faxed copy daily like Mr. Azad would request friends and relatives to stuff the letters with as many copies as the poor envelope would accommodate! There were others, who would put in a similar request. This was one love, we, the Kashmiris would share in operation theaters and wards. Of course ‘Aiana’ of Shamim Ahmad Shamim would add spice. It was to be the ardent duty of anyone going back home on a vacation to get copies of Aftab and Aiana and cartoons of Bashir Ahmad Bashir.
In journalistic assessment of Khwaja Sahab, he had multiple pros with no noticeable cons. Where he scored over everyone else was political satire, which was the essence of his masterpiece ‘‘Khazar Suchta Hai Wular Kay Kinaray’. I remember, once he put in some of Kashmiri’s political characters as Nikita Rasidov (Bakshi Rashid) Moseou Kichlov (Gh. Ahmad Kachloo) and Comrade Shabgada (Muhammad Shaban Gada) the last two were the associates of Bakshi Rashid, the NC Gen. Secretary in Bakshi era. This was the line up to receive Khrushchev and Bulganin, the Russian leaders, on their Kashmir visit in mid-fifties.
A month before Khawaja Sahib left us, one of my write-ups in ‘Aftab’ appeared exactly where Khazar thought for half a century. I was thrilled, the thrill soon changed to remorse, as he was reported to be going further away from us. My association with ‘Aftab’ continues. My first love was always Urdu, that too continues. Alas! With a dwindling readership, I took on the English print media. I had hoped the acquaintance would provide the chance to get associated with Khwaja Sahab, fate decided otherwise:
‘Khuda Rahmat Kunad Een Aashiqan-e-Paak Teenat Ra’!
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
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Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 25 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST
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