Jammu and Kashmir is celebrating 100th year of Journalism. June 24th, 1924, was the day when the first weekly newspaper ‘Ranbir’ in Urdu published in Jammu and Kashmir. Lala Mulk Raj Saraf established this newspaper as he is called the Father of Journalism of J&K. The meaning of ‘Ranbir’ is ‘the knight of the battlefield.’ Initially, Lala Mulk Raj Saraf had intended to title of the paper as “Pahari” and the press “Dogra Press” but finally the title of the paper was decided as ‘Ranbir’ and this is coincided with the name of the late Maharaja Ranbir Singh, son of Maharaja Gulab Singh, who was the founder of the Jammu and Kashmir State. He is also the father of Maharaja Pratap Singh.
The leading article in the sample issues was titled ‘Righteousness’ in which the significance of the word ‘Ranbir’ was highlighted. A poem was also published in that issue and this was composed by Sayed Zulfiqar Ali Nasim Razvi, who heartily supported the common cause of the Hindus and the Muslims and whatever it would say, would not be word-fencing or prolix. The aim and object of the newspaper ‘Ranbir’ was decided as to promote feelings of loyalty and sympathy between the ruler and his people as well as to publish the interesting, important and latest happenings in the state and the up-to-date main events of the world. Other objectives are to promote feelings of unity and integrity amongst different sections and various classes of the people, to channelise public opinion to beneficial purposes, to place before the ruler the genuine grievances of the people for their proper redressal and to discuss the educational, social, cultural, economic and other conditions in the State.
The Ranbir promoted various causes through news and views, including the elimination of the system of forced labour, which is reminiscent of the barbaric ages, the eradication of corruption, which is destroying many wealthy and affluent families, the elimination of terrorism against the people of the State, particularly in the removal of rural indebtedness, the development of communications technologies, and the adoption of appropriate measures.
Lala Mulk Raj Saraf was born on 8th April, 1894 in Samba and graduated from the Prince of Wales College, Jammu. Thereafter, abandoned a law course at Lahore to start his journalistic career as a sub editor of the famed nationalist newspaper, ‘Bande Matram’ under Lala Lajpat Rai. He was initiated to publish the newspaper as the intuition of social work. He made Mr. Vishav Nath Wadehra as the managing editor of the newspaper. At that time, the political and educational atmosphere was very challenging and the lay foundation of a newspaper was a herculean task and this made Saraf a great national builder. The advertisement rate of Ranbir was an anna and a half per line for the first time and an anna per line subsequently. The first issue of Ranbir contained three pages of advertisements.
The birth of Ranbir was welcomed by several people at that time as renowned story-writer Munshi Prem Chand expressed his great pleasure. The great revolutionary Lala Har Dayal sent his message from Sweden and noted it as a significant event in the history of Indian Press.
As part of his civil disobedience campaign against British India, Mahatma Gandhi started the historic march to Dandi on March 12, 1930, in defiance of the prohibition on salt. It created a huge uproar across the whole country, led to his arrest, and unexpected processions and hartals across the country, including in Jammu. The Ranbir newspaper supporting the freedom fight faced several difficulties when it was prohibited in 1930 because of what was seen to be subversive publicity in relation to Mahatma Gandhi’s detention at the time. Due to its vociferous support of the demand for the state’s admission to India, this daily was once more banned in June 1947. This periodical was crucial in organizing public opposition to Pakistani invasion.
Lala Mulk Raj Saraf also published the famous Urdu journal for Children named ‘Rattan’. His work extended beyond the realm of journalism; he used his position as a journalist to get access to the state’s socio-political formation during and after independence. Interestingly, from January 27, 1941, the last page of the Ranbir was published in Hindi to cater to the Hindi-knowing people. This initiative was not encouraged by the public, thereafter the Hindi supplement had to be given up. From August 30, 1943, the Ranbir had begun to be published twice a week.
Lala Mulk Raj Saraf promoted the prohibition of forced labour, the reduction of agricultural indebtedness, and the elimination of corruption through his means of communication, his periodical Weekly Ranbir, which subsequently developed into a daily newspaper. As we go back into the history, we learn that on March 22, 1921, Lala Mulk Raj Saraf first wrote to Maharaja Pratap Singh to request his approval to start a newspaper and a printing press. Lala Mulk obtained the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s approval for the first newspaper after through a number of phases over the course of more than three years. Maharaja Pratap Singh gave rupees 100 annually while Sir Raja Hari Singh gave rupees fifty annually for these pioneer enterprises. In addition to the editorial and other features that are typically included in a weekly newspaper, the first 12-page edition also included writings by Lala Pandit Har Kishan, Hans Raj Vakil, and Sardar Budh Singh Lal Habib, Syed Zu-ul-Fikar Ali Nasim Razvi, Maulvi Mohd Zain-ul-Abdin Kohi Samahanavi, Pandit Ram Saran Das, and Dr. Barkat Ram are some of the individuals mentioned. The final day of Ranbir’s operation was May 18, 1950.
Sakshi Chaurasia is a student of P.G. Diploma in Digital Media and Dr. Vinit Kumar Jha Utpal is the Assistant Professor at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Jammu.