Jinnah and the Muslim press

By Aqeel-uz-zafar Khan

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah with the Editorial Staff of Dawn

The Press in India had played a pivotal role in the emancipation of the Sub-continent from the foreign yoke. It became the most effective instrument utilised for publicity by the authorities as well as by the private agencies to achieve their objectives. It played a vital role for the politicians to project and propagate their views, the newspapers courageously taught and trained thousands of young men to realise their responsibilities and participate in the struggle for independence.

With every day break, the newspapers delivered a message reminding the educated Indians about their national obligations, motivating them to endeavour individually and collectively for the liberation of their country. The print media created an understanding, awakening and co-operation among the different sections of society, united the people on a single platform to struggle for the achievement of common cause.

It goes without saying that the writers, editors and proprietors of newspapers made immense sacrifices for the sacred cause of independence. They developed the spirit of agitation against the British rule stirred the Sub-continent to rise against the imperialism and its colonialism. The Muslim press participated in the freedom movement more energetically than the Hindu press. The Muslim newspapers vocalised the national and religious sentiments, which continued to clash with the British government. Consequently, the Muslim press often faced seditious charges leading to the prosecution of the press and editors.

The Al-Helal of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Comrade and Hamdard edited by Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar and the Zamindar, printed and published by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan etc played a conspicuous role in stimulating the political sentiments. They were fined and punished for their so called seditious writings.

Like his great contemporaries Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a staunch supporter of freedom of press. It is interesting to note that his political career began with the press legislation. Soon after his election as member of the Imperial Legislative Council in 1910, he was confronted with the Press Act, tabled by the Law Member of the government in the very first session of the Council. He criticised the provisions of the Act, however, it was passed in the Council with majority votes. Commenting after words in his speech, he observed that:

"The Press Act was most unwelcome measure from its very inception. It has been characterised as a serious menace to the freedom of press in India, but the harsh manner in which it is enforced has roused the strongest opposition and created great discontent."

The year 1937 was a turning point in the history of Indian politics. Elections were held in British India and Congress ministries were formed in seven provinces. Intoxicated by power the Congress adopted antagonistic attitude towards the Muslims, and rejected the proposal of co-operation and coalition offered by MA Jinnah. The Hindus press started misleading propaganda against the Muslim League and its leader projecting him a communal statesman, his statements were distorted, and news of his activities were either ignored or given little space. Under the circumstances the need of a first class Muslim organ was badly felt. The existing Muslim press was insufficient to counteract the Congress propaganda. Realising the pressing problem, Jinnah issued a appeal for funds on June 7, 1937, stating that: " It is also necessary to have an Independent Press for giving advanced political views to Musalmans by publishing a weekly or daily paper both in English and Urdu, in order to counteract false and malicious propaganda which is carried on in different places by the prejudicial and interested parties in India."

In 1938, Urdu weekly 'Manshoor' edited by Syed Hasan Riaz appeared from Delhi as an organ of All India Muslim League. The Manshoor published reports about League's activities and current political affairs. Its circulation was limited to the Urdu readers however, it proved to be a successful venture for the AIML.

In 1939, Muslim League established a Propaganda and Press Fund and Jinnah appealed to the Muslims to " contribute generously to the Press Propaganda Fund". To collect funds he toured Ahmadabad, Bantva, Dhoraji, Kathiawar and other rich Muslim principalities of Gujrat. He was showered with the money by the Muslims and during his tour collected Rs 1,50,000. The highest contribution was made by Sir Adamji Dawood who denoted Rs 20,000 for the Press Fund.

In 1941, the weekly Dawn was appeared from Dehli as an organ of the Muslim League. At this occasion, Jinnah appealed to the Muslims on October 26, 1941, stating that:

"I am glad that at last an English weekly, the Dawn, is founded and established in Dehli, the capital city of India, which is at present the nerve centre of all political activities. Describing the objects of the weekly, he informed:

"The Dawn will mirror faithfully the views of Muslim India and the All India Muslim League in all its activities: economic, educational and social and more particularly political, throughout the country fearlessly and independently and while its policy will be, no doubt mainly to advocate and champion the cause of the Musalmans and the policy and programme of the All India Muslim League, it will not neglect the cause and welfare of the peoples of this Sub-continent generally".

Dawn and Manshoor contributed a great deal in the propagation of the policy of the AIML and projecting the pronouncements of MA Jinnah. Within a short time their circulation was increased and the League's official version about the political issues was communicated to the members of AIML and Muslim readers all over India regularly. Dawn was converted into a daily newspaper in October 1942, while the Manshoor was published as a daily from December 35, 1944, the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In his massage about Manshoor, Jinnah appreciated its contribution as:

"The services which it has rendered as a weekly to the Musalmans and particularly the Muslim League during the past few years of its existence are considerable and I hope that it will continue its task of serving the Muslim public and advocating their national cause with redoubled vigour. I need not to emphasise the desirability of every Muslim doing his bit in strengthening the Muslim Press".

Jinnah entrusted the management of Dawn and Manshoor to Liaquat Ali Khan and appointed him the Director. In his letter to Liaquat Ali Khan, dated August 2, 1944, he clarified his position as follows:

"I wish therefore that you will inform all concerned that the sole proprietor of Dawn and Manshoor is myself, entirely owning the name, goodwill, properties, assets and other effects of these two papers and that your position therefore was benami in that you conducted business for me and on my behalf signing as 'proprietor'. As such only I am entitled to all profits accruing to the business of these papers and responsible for its liabilities".

Besides the Leagues' organs, Dawn and Manshoor Jinnah extended his support to the Muslim press whole-heartedly. When a newspaper or a periodical asked for his massage, he readily responded to it desiring its support to the cause of Muslim India. The Star of India, owned by the Isphani Family and published from Calcutta was a great admirer of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and propagated his views in the Eastern India. Jinnah was much impressed by the style and expression of the newspaper. In his massage to the editor dated November 13, 1938, he praised the paper stating that:

"Your paper has rendered the greatest service to the All India Muslim League not only in the Bengal but in other Provinces for which I publicly thank you. In my opinion every educated Musalman who has the welfare of his community at heart should subscribe to your paper as it only gives the Muslim news of various provinces but in some of your leaders you have advocated and championed the cause of the Musalmans and upheld the policy and programme of the League in a masterly manner".

Another newspaper the "Morning News", appeared from Calcutta in 1943, also supported and publicised the policy and programme of AIML. The paper, in its write-ups, news and editorials explained and expounded the ideology of Pakistan, which was owned by Khwaja Nooruddin, a member of Nawab of Dacca family, the Morning News survived till 1953 at Dacca.

Besides, the English newspapers and periodicals, the Urdu press contributed most significantly in spreading and consolidating the ideology of Pakistan in the heart of Muslims. It was the Urdu press, which counteracted Congress propaganda at every stage during the struggle for Pakistan. The Muslim press inculcated a burning zeal among the Muslims to fight for the achievement of the ideological state of Pakistan.

Anjam and Jang from Delhi, Zamindar, Nawa-e-Waqat, Inqilab and Ehsan from Lahore, Asar-e-Jadeed from Calcutta and numerous other newspapers participated in enhancing the spirit of Muslim nationalism. The vernacular press also contributed its share in the struggle for independence.

Besides the individual newspapers the AIML established the Department of Publicity and Information under Qazi Muhammad Isa to collaborate with the Muslim authors to contribute books, pamphlets and leaflets about the Pakistan movement. The department produced substantial literature during the election campaign of 1945-1946.

At the threshold of independence, Jinnah addressed the Bombay Provincial Muslim Journalist Association on March 12, 1947. In his speech he pronounced his views about the responsibilities of press concisely. Referring to the profession of journalism, he said:

"You have great power. You can guide and misguide people. You can make or mar the biggest personality. The power of the press is really great, but you must remember that this power, which you are wielding, is a trust. Look upon it as a great trust and remember that you are guiding honestly and sincerely the progress and welfare of your nation. At the same time I expect you to be completely fearless." Jinnah said that he welcomed criticism. "If I go wrong, or for that matter, the League goes wrong in any direction of its policy or programme, I want you to criticise it honestly as its friend, in fact, as one whose heart is beating with the Muslim nation."

(The author is ex-Senior Research Fellow, Quaid-i-Azam Academy, Karachi.)

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