Strong Voice, Stronger Character

Muhammad Ali Jinnah had written to Allah Rakha Sagar about the latter’s newspaper:

“I remain extremely busy. However, sometimes, I find time to go through the articles of the Javaid. The newspaper, it seems, perceives the problems faced by the qaum (community). This is the reason why people like it.  And that has made it the most popular newspaper of Jammu.”

The letter appeared in the Javaid on January 4, 1944, and a few months later, the government declared it a C-grade newspaper.

Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, the editor of the Hamdard did not subscribe to Sagar’s ideology. Sagar was a staunch supporter of the Muslim Conference and held Bazaz responsible for the creation of the National Conference.

But, notwithstanding these differences, Bazaz responded to the government decision in his editorial on March 29, 1945:

“We do not subscribe to the ideology of the Javaid. But we must admit that it is an influential paper in contemporary Jammu and Kashmir. We firmly believe that this newspaper highlights the problems of Muslims in a bold and effective manner. No other newspaper can do that. Its articles are very serious and thought provoking. It is highly unfortunate that the Javaid has been listed amongst C-grade papers.”

Sagar had roots in a Bhat family in Bijbehara, Kashmir. His ancestors had migrated to Jammu and settled in the Urdu Bazar, now called Rajinder Bazar. The family prospered and purchased most shops in the commercial centre.

Sagar started taking part in politics and became the closet aide of Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas. He was to Abbas what Maulana Masoodi was to Sheikh Abdullah. It is believed that most of Sheikh Abdullah’s speeches were written by Maulana Masoodi, and those of Abbas by Allah Rakha Sagar.

Sagar was elected to the Praja Sabha unopposed on the Muslim Conference ticket from Jammu (Khas) in April 1938, the victory speaking volumes about his popularity. After the win, he helped Chaudhry Abbas in his election campaign.

He had supported the conversion of the Muslim Conference into the National Conference and even delivered a speech in its favour during the party’s Pathar Masjid session. But later, he went back to the Muslim Conference for reasons he disclosed in an interview to Muhammad Yusuf Teng in Rawalpindi on March 1, 1983 (Hamara Adab – Shakhsiyaat Number, Vol. 3, published by the Cultural Academy in 1986-87).

“All of us, including Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad and Maulana Masoodi, were against the creation of the National Conference, but the only person who opposed it in the Working Committee meeting was Moulvi Abdullah Vakil.

But, Sheikh Sahib and his supporters presented strong arguments in favour of the conversion. Sheikh Sahib and his supporters, especially Prem Nath Bazaz, would tell us that all citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and not necessarily (only) Muslims were the victims. They would tell us about the miserable plight of the Jammu Dalits.

They also told us that if the movement continued from the Muslim Conference platform, the Maharaja and Hindus outside Jammu and Kashmir would treat it as a Muslim rebellion against a Hindu ruler.”

Sagar also told Teng about Bakhshi’s and Masoodi’s betrayal:

“Not withstanding their silence in the Working Committee meeting, they made me revolt against the conversion and assured me of their full co-operation. I suggested taking the issue to the provincial committees. Sheikh Abdullah was scared of it and put the issue to vote in the Working Committee. To my dismay, I found Bakhshi and Masoodi voting in favour of the conversion.”

In the same interview, Sagar said:

“We thought that the change would remain confined to the state. We had decided that the Congress and the Muslim League would have no relation with the National Conference, but later we saw Sheikh Abdullah dancing to the tunes of Nehru. He did not like the Jammu leaders and backed out of his promise of making Abbas the president of the organization.”

Sagar attended the annual session of the Muslim Conference at the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, and the same evening he was arrested along with Chaudhry Abbas and Agha Showkat Ali from a houseboat.

In 1948, he and other leaders of the Muslim Conference were externed.

After arrest, Sagar had been sent to the Kathua Jail. One day he saw prison staffers cleaning his dingy cell, and on inquiring, was told that the state’s Prime Minister (Sheikh Abdullah) was scheduled to visit. Sagar refused to meet him. Later, he was deported through Suchetgarh. He could not even take back the files of his newspaper, the Javaid, along.

In 1964, when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah visited Pakistan, Sagar did not meet him. He had received an invitation to attend the reception, but he did not go. Sheikh Sahib’s procession passed through Sagar’s lane, but he did not even bother to look out of the window. (ibid.)

The person who highlighted the sufferings of the people of Jammu and Kashmir had withdrawn during his last days. He had confined himself to his room. No visitor was allowed to meet him. He did not even meet some of his relatives. When Sagar finally passed away, nobody in Kashmir knew that death had stifled another strong voice.