Monday, November 1, 1999

Two Courageous Journalists

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad-48

Two Courageous Journalists
By Narendra Luther

We have talked about a cross-section of Muslims who had the courage to oppose the razakars in the Hyderabad of 1940’s. Mention must be made of two prominent journalists who voiced their opposition boldly.

Qazi Abdul Gaffar

One of them was Qazi Muhammad Abdul Gaffar. He was born in a well-to-do family of Muradabad in UP in 1889. His ancestors were qazis under the Mughals. In 1857, for giving refuge to a Mughal prince his grand father was executed and his property was confiscated. Later, he was exonerated posthumously and the property was restored to the family.
Abdul Gaffar’s father was in the good books of the British and was awarded the title of Khan Bahadur. However, Abdul Gaffar did not like the British. After his studies, he took a job but fell out with his British superior and left it. Thereafter he took up import and export work but lost money in it. He then turned to journalism. In 1931 he came to Hyderabad and started an Urdu daily Payam. It was a progressive paper and was opposed both to the prevalent feudal system and the communalism of the Ittehad Party. Because of that he earned the enmity of the reactionary and communal elements in the State. But he remained steadfast in his views.
When Sir Mirza Ismail became the Prime Minister of Hyderabad in 1947, Qazi Abdul Gaffar was appointed Director of Information. But after the exit o Sir Mirza, he lost that job.

Warning to [Nizam]

He left Hyderabad in 1947. At the time of his departure, he wrote a letter to the Nizam running into in to twenty-one foolscap pages. In that he warned the Nizam against what he called the ‘dictatorship of the political charlatans’ who, under the guise of protecting the rights of their co-religionists were in fact trying to establish a Fascist domination over the Nizam. They were exploiting the Nizam as a pawn in their game of power politics. He said that his corrupt bureaucracy, was aligned with communal elements. Everything happening had the alleged backing and support of the Nizam. He recalled that he had pleaded with him for a fair and just government, but in vain. If the Nizam favoured one community, the Qazi warned, it would lead to civil war. Nothing less than responsible government could save the Nizam’s position .His refusal to do so would ‘mean utter disregard of public welfare’.
Referring to the fire-eating leader of the razakars, Kasim Razvi, he charged that his ‘constant provocation drenched in angry threats and dripping with humiliating ridicule and contempt has served as nothing else could have done to rouse the complaisant Hindu...The Hindu majority of the State has been goaded into action by constant pinpricks and reckless shouting of the Majlis leaders, who encouraged by Your Exalted Highness’s support and much advertised patronage and the deplorable inactivity of the Government, have gone too far to recede.’ He deplored the treatment meted out successively to Sir Akbar Hydari, the Nawab of Chhattari, and Sir Mirza Ismail. He prophesied ‘that the final outcome of the negotiations is not going to be much different from what Sir Mirza envisages.’
He concluded his forceful and brilliant analysis by advising the Nizam to adopt ‘the self-evident maxim that no ruler can rule without the support of the public opinion representing the majority of his subjects’.
It is easy to guess what would have happened to the author of such a letter if he were still in Hyderabad. But by the time the letter was delivered to the Nizam the redoubtable journalist was out of his reach. The Nizam fretted and fumed, but paid no heed to the contents of the letter. The consequence of that is now a part of history.

Shoebullah Khan

Amongst the journalists who did honour to their calling, and even went to the extent of laying down in his life for the cause that he espoused, was a young handsome journalist.
Shoebullah Khan, born in Hyderabad in 1920, was a fierce opponent of communal fanaticism. He had worked successively in the Urdu Taj weekly and the Rayyat daily, both of which were banned for championing the cause of responsible government in Hyderabad. He then started a daily, the Imroz through which he exposed the atrocities of the razakars and the police. Through his bold writings, he maintained the tempo of popular struggle against the government. He thus earned the ire of the Ittehad Party and the Razakars. In a speech on 19 August 1948 Kasim Razvi warned that any hand raised against the honour of Muslims would be cut off. Defying that threat, on 21 August 1948, Shoeb wrote an editorial criticizing the stand of the Ittehad and advocating the accession of the State with India. That night, when he and his brother-in-law, Isamil Khan were going home after work, some razakars accosted them. While two men engaged Shoebullah in conversation, another shot Shoebullah from behind with a revolver. Ismail was attacked with swords. Shoeb fell on the ground. Then, as if in fulfillment of Razvi’s threat, Shoebullah’s right hand was cut off.
That was the last great offering made in the struggle for the accession of Hyderabad to India. Less than a month later, Hyderabad became a part of India.
Till recently, his death anniversary was observed as the Martyr’s Day. But now he is forgotten.

Gaffar’s Frustration

Gaffar returned to Hyderabad after the Police Action. He then saw that the erstwhile underdogs had become got the upper hand. Some of them turned upon not only the earlier perpetrators of excesses but also on some innocent members of the minority community. They now sought protection. Some fled to safer places, and some migrated to Pakistan. Qazi Abdul Gaffar and Pandit Sunder Lal toured the State and conducted an inquiry into the alleged excesses committed against the minority community. Their report was submitted to the Government of India.
Qazi Abdul Gaffar expired in 1956 at Aligarh. None of his male offspring survived. Of his two daughters, one Fatima and her husband Alam Ali Khan, in their seventies, stay in Banjara Hills. Their three children are in Canada.
It is a different world today.

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