Srinagar: Journalists were harassed, humiliated, manhandled, arrested, abducted and even killed during the past twenty-five years. While the world took note of the persecution of the scribes of Kashmir, a noted journalist, Prem Nath Bazaz’s bullet wound went un-noticed. A wounded Bazaz was taken into custody, detained for five years.
Bazaz paid a heavy price for his political stand. The Muslims hated him and the Pandits did not love him. His friends betrayed him and the government persecuted him and finally exiled him. Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, a great son of Kashmir was punished for his uncompromising stand on Kashmir. He was a staunch advocate of independent Kashmir and unlike his colleagues did not mortgage his conscience. However, joining Janata Party in 1977, is, perhaps the only grey patch in his long and illustrious political career.
The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah held Bazaz in high esteem. During an interview for Hamdard with renowned journalist JN Sathu in 1944 at Srinagar, the Quaid said: “People like Prem Nath Bazaz and others can bring the Kashmiri Pandits into mainstream politics and activate them to fight against autocratic Doghra rule.” (Interview with JN Sathu on July 4, 1997). This was an acknowledgement of Bazaz’s capabilities by Jinnah. Perhaps Jinnah did not know that the Pandits hated Bazaz for his political beliefs.
Prem Nath Bazaz is believed to have engineered conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference. The Muslim Conference workers believe that he published a pamphlet in mid 30s and conferred the title of `Kashmir ka Gandhi’ on Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. This publication went to Sheikh’s head and he started behaving and thinking like Gandhi. This culminated into conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference in 1939.
But before condemning Bazaz for influencing the `tallest’ leader of Kashmir, one must dig deep into history. The facts narrate an entirely different story. Soon after the birth of National Conference Bazaz and Sheikh Abdullah, who jointly owned the Hamdard, parted ways. Bazaz became Sheikh’s `worst enemy’. He wrote against Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference. An editorial written by Bazaz on June 10, 1947 merits special mention here. It reads: “The Hindus do not like National Conference. However, some Hindus have joined it not because they love it but for the hatred it has exhibited against Muslims of India. The inclusion of a handful of Hindus in National Conference does not make it a representative of the minorities. The Hindus and Sikhs praise National Conference in public because they believe that it is working against the interests of Muslims…….” (SIC).
Such a bold comment could not come from a person who hijacked the movement in 1938. Veteran journalist, JN Sathu was a great admirer of Bazaz. When asked about his role in the birth of National Conference during the interview quoted above, Sathu said: “No, Prem Nath Bazaz did not persuade Sheikh Abdullah to convert Muslim Conference into National Conference. Those who say so were prostrating before their Delhi lords when Bazaz was suffering in a Delhi prison.”
On April 11, 1947 Prem Nath Bazaz was shot at. Two persons Ghulam Ahmad Mir and Muhammad Sultan Najar were taken into custody. However, when Sheikh Abdullah became the emergency administrator, the court acquitted both of them.
Bazaz was arrested by the emergency administration on October 21, 1947. Later he was exiled.
Bazaz had eyes on the future of Kashmir. His quote from his History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir (page 721) published in March 1952 proves it. He mentions that the youth of Kashmir would be forced to take up guns if their wishes are not fulfilled. The youth of Kashmir proved him right after three decades.
After assuming power after the infamous 1975 accord, Sher-e-Kashmir called on Bazaz at his Delhi residence. According to Bazaz’s relatives, he carried a basket of Kashmiri brinjals for Bazaz. “Sher-e-Kashmir called Bazaz. Will you come down, or shall I come to you,” he said. Bazaz came down. They shared some moments and Sher-e-Kashmir apologized for persecuting him.
Bazaz breathed his last during the night intervening July 5/6, 1984.