The people of Kashmir after understanding the utility of newspapers demanded to the Maharaja the permission for publishing newspapers. But their continued requests were not heeded by the Maharaja for a long time; on the other hand the people were getting restless and were studying the newspapers which were published from other states. After some time, the rulers of the valley also banned the penetration of newspapers in the valley so the people of the valley began to think in terms of publishing newspapers in the valley. They repeatedly requested to the Maharaja for publication of the newspapers in the valley which was ultimately corroborated. But at the same time produced such an environment in which the growth of the healthy press was very difficult. The journalists were not given the freedom to express freely their opinion; rather they were subjected to various restrictions which hampered the progress of journalism in the Kashmir region. Those editors who highlighted the realties were put behind the bars, so most of the editors concealed the reality for escaping the scourge of the brutal rule. This situation continued for twenty-four years.
Due to the repeated requests of people Maharaja Ranbir Singh established “Vidya Bilas” in 1858. In the inception it was meant for publishing the entire literature of “Darul Tarjuma” which was established earlier for translating the existing literature of the period. The repeated requests of people finally fructified and the first newspaper of the valley “BidyaBilas” was published from Jammu. It was an official newspaper and it was published in 1866. Its first editor was Pundit GoopiNathGurtu. It was published in Urdu and Nagri. This newspaper could not meet the day to day requirements of the people, on the other hand the journalists of Kashmir who had seen the activities of journalism in other parts of India especially Lahore and Punjab were keen to establish press in the valley free from government control. The journalists after being dissatisfied with the attitude of Maharaja who did not granted them the right to publish newspapers in the valley approached Lahore, Sialkot, and Punjab etc. and issued newspapers from there. These newspapers were often compiled in Kashmir but were subsequently sent to Lahore for publication. In this regard the efforts of Pundit Salgram Salik and Her Gopal Khasta are praiseworthy. They did a great job in this regard and helped in the publication of newspapers from Lahore. They initially sought permission from Maharaja but when their requests were not accepted they started newspapers from Lahore and Punjab. Besides them there were a number of Kashmiri Pundits who had formed different associations there, also published newspapers from there for securing their self-interests. Pundit Gopi Nath Gurtu who was the first editor of “BidyaBilas” went to Lahore after the restrictions were imposed on the publication of “Bidya Bilas” and he issued from there “AkberAam” in association with his son Bal Krishna Gurtu. It was a weekly newspaper in its inception but was converted into a daily newspaper in 1881. This newspaper continued till 1938. One more important newspaper of Kashmiri Pundits was “Minask Kashmir” it was also published from Lahore. Pundit her Gopal Khasta issued “Khaar Khawa Kashmir” in 1882. It was a weekly newspaper. In this epoch the two brothers Salgram salik and Her Gopal Khasta were living in Kashmir but due to their political and religious activities they were banished from the valley. They issued this newspaper for criticising the Government of Maharaja. But this could not survive for long and was stopped in one year.
Pundit Her GopalKhasta also issued a weekly newspaper “Ravi Benazeer” from Lahore. In addition to this he issued “public news”. One more important newspaper which was published from Lahore was “Rafeeqi Hindustan”. It was started in 1885 and information related to Kashmir was published in this newspaper.
The race of journalism in Kashmir was started by the Kashmiri Pundits who were the educated section of society. They started journalism in Kashmir for their self-interests. They highlighted only those issues which specially benefited their own kinsmen.
Lukh Raj Saraf who was also was the journalist of the age. He requested to the Maharaja in 1921 for establishing press in the valley but his request was not entertained by the Maharaja. But he continued his efforts and again requested to the Maharaja in 1922, but his requests did not again bore fruits. Finally, in 1924, his requests were accepted and he was permitted to publish the newspaper. He issued the second newspaper of the state “Ranbir”. This was the second newspaper of the state but the first of the sought in which the writers expressed their opinion without hesitation. “Ranbir” was started on 24 June 1924, from Jammu region. He has also written his autobiography “Fifty years Azaya Journalism”. Saraf has given details about his carrier of journalism in it.
In the initial issues of “Ranbir” educational progress, social welfare, and freedom from rural debt were the main themes to be discussed. The newspaper was usually started with the following verses.
In this newspaper different issues were discussed including local problems. The poetry of the period was also given space. The writers of the newspaper included LalaHense Raj Wakeel, Sardar Budh Singh, Pundit Her Kishen lal Jeeb and Sayid Zulifiqar Ali etc. Ranbir for the first time continued for six years and stopped in 1930, when it published news with regard to the imprisonment of Mahatma Gandhi who was the leading freedom fighter of India at that time. Saraf who was the first editor of “Ranbir” went to Lahore after it was stopped. He published from there “Amur” in association with Pundit Gang Nath Sharma and LalaShabir. This newspaper also stopped after some time and they joined hands with SameelPuri and issued in collaboration “Masheer” in which information relating to Kashmir was published.
Saraf had gained good reputation as a journalist and it was because of his efforts that the “Jammu and Kashmir journalists association” was formed in 1943. He was also selected for representing the Indian journalists in the first worldwide journalist conference. In 1964, he became the member of Indian federation of working journalist conference. In 1966, he completed fifty years as a journalist and was awarded golden jubilee for his contribution to the journalism. He also issued “Rattan” for entertaining the children. After the publication of “Ranbir” the publication of newspapers started in Jammu. Lal Shiv Ram issued from there “Amur”. In this newspaper the attention of children was drawn by including those topics which entertained them. In addition to this different issues were given space including the day to day happenings of the states. Nar Singh Das Nargis issued “Chand” from there which became famous. One more important newspaper of the age was “Firdous” which was published by KaseSheerwani. Besides these “Gulab”, “Pukar” and “Kashmir Sansar” were also published. In the nearby areas of Mirpur and Punch newspapers were also published.
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