My memories of Greater Kashmir

It was a deep commitment which made Greater Kashmir really great



Finishing my post-graduation in Kashmiri language and literature, I had developed fantasy for the job of a teacher with some college. A year before, I had begun my casual tryst with journalism when a lovable friend Jauhar Qudoosi wanted me to help him edit and publish Takbeer-e-Nav. My name as Associate Editor made me familiar with some important men in Police and civil administration. 
Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, Ghulam Abbas, made me understand how important and noble the profession of journalism was. A man of letters, he was one among those who attended the function when Greater Kashmir was launched as Kashmir’s first weekly in English language. The second issue carried Mr Abbas’ letter of appreciation to the publisher-editor Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo. 
Five years later, when GK surfaced as a daily, I, like many of my colleagues, ignored it as an ephemeral act of adventure. One day we sat to mark 200 mistakes on the three of its four grotesquely laid out pages. 
Fayaz had a deep passion for cigarettes but that never made him indolent. He would drive his green colour Maruti-800 all the way to Delhi. Next day, we would find him deliver a truckload of newsprint in Srinagar. Hard work didn’t make him tire. When, in the following years, he graduated to greatness, literally, it never made him proud or arrogant. He kept his organisation’s morale high in the worst of his times. 
In the firs ten years, GK expanded into a 12-page presentable newspaper. I often felt that the editor had little control over the content. Notwithstanding its quantitative growth, GK retained the label of a `mouthpiece' for the Kashmiri separatists and militants. Living in a shell of ideology, it had hardly any access to the news. The copy would go to the print at 9.00 p.m. 
When it missed the news, it complained on the front page that the government was “selectively doling out information to a Jammu-based daily”. Not once in my 13-year-long service as the Srinagar bureau chief of that ‘Jammu-based newspaper’---Daily Excelsior---did I see information being “doled out” to the paper. I enjoyed monopoly over the news---almost all the scoops---for my hard work. I lost it to GK only when it began taking the things seriously and working beyond midnight. Had it been working in 1999, as it does today, I have no doubt that breaking the Kargil War for the world [May 12, 1999] would not have been my scoop. 
Being ideologically poles apart, Daily Excelsior and Greater Kashmir experienced a love-hate relationship. In retaliation to a dig, GK’s principal contributor Naeem Akhtar coined the title of ‘Kanakmandi Times’ for the daily I worked with. Being a government employee, he used to write under assumed names----which GK itself exposed the day Mr Akhtar became a Member of Legislative Council. 
Mr Akhtar, now an esteemed friend, wrote in his Sunday article that Daily Excelsior was “known for official leaks and plants”. I perceived it as a signal to the non-state actors that everybody associated with the daily was “part of the Indian war machinery” and thus deserved to be eliminated. My reaction next day was admittedly belligerent. In my front page piece ‘All the ghost writers in Farooq’s sarkar’, I reported how a senior KAS officer  had been left free enough to endanger the lives of independent and professional journalists. It was the first time when our world learned who was Ahmad Kamal, Sattar Wagay, Basharat Saroor and Iffat Khan. 
Fayaz didn’t have an iota of a complaint. He hugged me with a disarming smile and pointed toward the long path of future. Years later, I found him to be the happiest of my colleagues over my joining The Hindu. Mr Akhtar was no less elated. 
Just a decade back, I remember how I frowned on finding my friend Parvaiz Dewan’s article in the GK. “What made you stoop to this level?” I asked Dewan, then Secretary of Tourism with J&K Government and now Secretary Tourism in Government of India. He was the first to tell me that GK had all the potential to grow into a perfect newspaper of the national standard. Dewan had a better vision than his classmate Maneka Gandhi. When she was in Srinagar as a Minister to inaugurate a centre for the physically challenged at Bemina, two of GK’s articles put her on ambers. “I don’t know who the hell has allotted this seditious title”, she remarked. A few years later, I found Maneka’s articles on organic farming specially written for the GK. 
With its editions in Jammu, GK has now grown into a pan-J&K newspaper. It’s sense of innovation and modernity, selection of news and variety of content, representing almost all diverse sections of opinion, have added to its credibility perhaps more than its pages. With fairly balanced reporting on the minorities, the developments in Jammu and Ladakh, the hot burning issues like the spurious drug scam, governance and accountability, GK’s team of editors and a brilliant brigade of reporters have finally made it something that one could not afford to miss. 
(Ahmed Ali Fayyaz is senior assistant editor and Jammu and Kashmir bureau chief with ‘The Hindu’)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 May 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 May 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 15 May 2013 00:00:00 IST

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